A coalition of neighborhood organizations and Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan Association have signed a "good neighbor" agreement, apparently removing major obstacles to the opening of a new Perpetual branch office at 18th and Columbia Road NW.
In return for Perpetual's agreement to tailor loan policies to help meet the needs of the area's relatively less affluent residents and to take other steps requested by the community, the neighborhood groups say they will forward a letter to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board saying that conditions for withdrawing the opposition to the branch's opening have been met.
"My feeling would be that this should clear most of the obstacles out of the way," said Perpetual president Thomas J. Owen Action by the FHLBB, which must approve the branch opening, has been delayed because of objections from the Adams Morgan Organization and the Adams - Morgan and Mount Pleasant Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
Opponents of the proposed branch contended that Perpetual's record of making loans in the area encouraged renovation at the expense of longterm residents because the savings and loan was not hospitable to loan applications by poorer residents.Perpetual had defended both its record and motives.
The agreement between Perpetual and the community groups, the result of months of negotiations, includes a promise by Perpetual to provide home loans for as much as 90 per cent of the purchase price,a policy expected to make it easier for less affluent families to buy homes in the area, which is changing character rapidly.
Perpetual also agreed to provide "wraparound" loans for both the cost of a home and any necessary reconstruction and to help facilitate loans for cooperative apartment projects. Other features were an agreement to hire bilingual staff for the branch to accommodate the needs of the area's concentration of Spanish - speaking families and to establish a branch advisory committee made up of representatives from the area served by the branch and from Perpetual.
"This is extremely historic," said John Jones, executive director of the Adams Morgan Organization. "This is the first time a community has entered into negotiations led to an agreement which could be a model for other communities across the nation, said Jones. He praised the savings and loan association for its willingness to sit down and negotiate, and attorney John Brown, who represented the community groups, for his work on the agreement.
The objections to the establishment of the branch, Perpetual's 11th, and subsequent negotiations were "born out of great suspicion on the part of the community" that was unwarranted, said Owen. Out of the process, "I think everybody understands each other a lot more," he said.
Perpetual had been surprised by the extent of the opposition, he said. Owen said he had met with community groups as soon as he signed a contract for land in the area and within the 10 days he had to decide whether to go forward with the contract. Hearing no major objections then, he proceeded, he said. Later, opposition "mushroomed."