Consumer groups had called [City Attorney David] Feldman’s compromise proposal too weak; he said he preferred tougher restrictions but said those were unlikely to pass the Legislature, would invite a lawsuit, and could force lenders outside city limits, hurting borrowers’ access to credit.
That was the concern for members of the Freedmen’s Town Association who attended Friday’s news conference, one of whom grumbled, “Yes you are,” when Parker said, “We’re not trying to put payday lenders out of business.”
LoneStar Title Loans has given the Freedmen’s Town group almost $300,000 over the last six years, board member John Fenley said.
No one would use payday lenders if banks, nonprofits or churches would offer them low-interest loans, association volunteer Ayanna Mitchell said.
“When they run these industries out of the communities, where are they going to get the money from?” she said. “People are going to get the money they need whether they go to a title lender or they go around the corner and get it from somebody who’s not regulated at all, who, instead of taking your car, will do other things to you.”
I understand the concern about access to credit, but the solution isn’t payday lenders and their usury. The solution is making affordable financing more widely available in places and communities where it currently isn’t. That’s not something the city of Houston can do, but putting a tighter leash on payday lenders is. It’s a matter of consumer protection, and it’s about time we had it in Houston. Payday lenders have a deserved reputation for being predatory, and state laws regulating them, even after a bill was passed in the 2011 session, are notoriously lax. Frankly, if the industry doesn’t like what the cities are doing to curb their excesses and protect their residents, they should have worked with Sen. Wendy Davis, Rep. Tom Craddick, and other members of the Legislature that were trying to pass reasonable reforms instead of impeding and obstructing them every step of the way. I have no sympathy for them at all. The Observer and BOR have more.