An advocacy group for the poor protested yesterday the city's decision to contribute $3 million toward construction of a parking garage that would be used by employees of CitiFinancial, a consumer lending company that recently agreed to keep its work force downtown if the city helped provide parking.
Glenn Scott, campaigns manager for ACORN - the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - told the Board of Estimates that a company bought last year by CitiFinancial has a history of providing high-interest home loans in low-income neighborhoods.
That company, Associates First Capital Corp., a Texas-based mortgage company, has been accused by national consumer groups and federal regulators of engaging in predatory lending practices.
Scott asked city officials to gain assurances from CitiFinancial that it would not prey on low-income homeowners. Despite ACORN's protest, the Board of Estimates approved the $3 million appropriation for the garage.
Mayor Martin O'Malley said CitiFinancial has assured him -in conversations and in a letter - that it is addressing some of ACORN's concerns. Efforts to reach CitiFinancial's attorneys were unsuccessful yesterday.
The $3 million approved yesterday is a state grant that Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced this month. It will be used to offset the approximately $15 million cost of the 13-story, 519-space garage.
CitiFinancial plans to add 500 workers at its St. Paul Place offices. The company agreed to keep its operations downtown after negotiating an incentive package with M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp. That package includes city-backed loans to allow CitiFinancial to expand its offices and the promise of about 275 parking spaces.