Banks in New York City have a new vehicle to help them meet Community Reinvestment Act obligations.

Neighborhood Housing Services has opened a service center in Brooklyn to help first-time homebuyers from predominantly lower-income communities get loans.

Services include: cut-rate financing, loans for closing costs, credit counseling, and insurance advice.

"This is something that essentially has never been done before," said Francine Justa, executive director of the neighborhood group. "The NHS Homeownership Center will truly be a place of one-stop shopping for prospective homebuyers. . . . It is a revolutionary approach to helping people realize their dream of owning a home."

Dime Savings Bank donated the space and $150,000 for renovations. Chase Manhattan Corp. provided $50,000 in start-up funds. Also, 10 banks committed $200,000 each to finance down payments under the program.

"It should generate additional applications, not only for us but for all banks," said Lawrence J. Toal, president and chief operating officer at Dime. "That is what it is all about - getting more people into a position where they have an opportunity to own their own place."

"NHS' new Homeownership Center in Brooklyn is another example of how an organization like NHS can help banks expand access to credit to first-time homebuyers," agreed Mark Willis, president of Chase Community Development Corp.

Since 1982, NHS has helped low-income borrowers get $50 million of financing to rehabilitate or buy nearly 1,700 houses.

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