2/28/2006

BankFIRST Grants 9 Loans for Affordable Homes in Winter Park

Winter Park, Fla – BankFIRST, a Winter Park based community bank, recently introduced its “Socially Responsible Banking” program, which has already produced an enthusiastic response and impressive results that are positively impacting the Central Florida area.

Socially Responsible Banking (SRB) is the first banking program in Florida that guarantees depositors' funds will be invested locally to support community needs, specifically in the areas of affordable housing, downtown development, conservation, education and support for non-profit and faith-based organizations. The program is guided by a 16-member Community Advisory Council comprised of business and community leaders who help refer socially responsible loan candidates and conduct an annual review of the SRB program. Initially launched in the Winter Park area where the bank is headquartered, BankFIRST intends to expand the SRB program to select other communities that it serves.

As one of the SRB program's first endeavors, the City of Winter Park, the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, and BankFIRST, have partnered to establish affordable housing for low and moderate-income families. Thanks to these efforts, ten brand new homes in the heart of Winter Park's West Side will always be affordable.

“Our goals for SRB are beginning to come to fruition, as demonstrated by the initiative for affordable housing with the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust,” said BankFIRST President and CEO, Donald J. McGowan. “I am pleased to say that the first homeowners have recently moved into their brand new homes in the Canton Park neighborhood, in response to our collaboration with the Land Trust and the City of Winter Park.”

Denise Chatman, one of the first residents to move in, describes the satisfaction of homeownership, “It has always been my dream to have a home of my own, for my family and my kids. I can't thank everyone involved enough for their help in making our dream a reality.”

The City of Winter Park transferred ownership of the ten lots and houses, built through donations from local architects and homebuilders, to the newly created Hannibal Square Community Land Trust (HSLT). The HSLT is comprised of members of the Westside community, Winter Park, and housing professionals. The HSLT will retain ownership of the land, and the homeowners have purchased the homes and pay a nominal fee to the HSLT for a ground lease. BankFIRST is providing financing to the new homeowners on very favorable terms in synergy with the bank's Socially Responsible Banking program.

“To see this project from infancy to completion has been an absolute joy,” said Winter Park City Commissioner Barbara DeVane. “This project further establishes Winter Park as a community of good neighbors, where families can settle down.”

BankFIRST is headquartered at 1031 West Morse Blvd. in Winter Park, and has branch offices in Apopka, Clermont, Eustis, Goldenrod, Sanford and Winter Garden. BankFIRST has assets of more than $300 million and was founded as a community owned commercial bank in 1989.