WASHINGTON - Banks have invested nearly $514 million in Boston's minority and low-income neighborhoods, vastly exceeding promises they made five years ago.
The investments included $346 million in mortgages to low-income and moderate-income residents, $147 million to develop affordable housing, and $15 million to open eight branches, three loan production offices, and 47 automated teller machines.
The Massachusetts Community and Banking Council released the figures last week to commemorate the fifth anniversary of a deal that ended strife between banks and the community.
The 1990 agreement established the council, which serves as a forum for activists and bankers. It also led Massachusetts financial institutions to pledge more than $400 million in loans and investments to low-income areas.
Bankers and community activists said the Boston success should serve as a model for other cities.
"This is so significant that it really ought to be looked at by the rest of the country," said Robert T. Fichter, senior vice president at the Massachusetts Bankers Association.
Banks are vying for business from low-income residents, he said.
"That is a factor that hasn't occurred elsewhere," he said. "You have actual competition for lower-income, minority, and migrant communities."
Other cities should have no problem copying the Boston model, said Robert G. Brogna, community reinvestment officer at Shawmut Bank Massachusetts.
"It is just a question of people coming together in a nonadversarial situation and making sure everyone understands the needs of the population," he said.
The success could even have a legislative impact if more cities adopt similar programs. It one day could render the Community Reinvestment Act moot, said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
"This study and this project move us a step forward," said Mr. Taylor, who helped negotiate the 1990 deal. "What it does is it gets more bankers on-line to understand that CRA lending can be done safely, soundly, and profitably."
Not everyone is on board. Bruce Marks, executive director of the Union Neighborhood Assistance Corp., said the results are laudable. But he said banks wouldn't have met their commitments if groups like his hadn't kept the pressure on for the last half decade.
Bankers and activists began the reinvestment program after racial and economic tensions rocked Boston in 1989 and 1990. Community activists had staged several protests and had conducted studies showing bank bias. They also had protested several bank mergers.
During this tumultuous period, the MBA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston held three forums to learn what the community wanted.
"There was a good deal of anger on the community side and a good deal of confusion of the bankers side, because we didn't realize there was such a problem," Mr. Fichter said.
Bankers and activists continued to meet, leading to creation of the council and the lending commitments.