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Banking on a Community: Start Community Bank aims to make a difference in New Haven

Banking on a Community: Start Community Bank aims to make a difference in New Haven

In a shining moment of civic participation fifteen years ago, hundreds of New Haven-area citizens made their voices heard in opposition to plans for the New Haven Savings Bank to demutualize. Listening to its constituents, the city protested the move, but failed to stop the process from moving forward. Despite this, the city fought for concessions, and what they got in return would instead help foster a mutually-owned community bank.

As part of the settlement with the city, the former New Haven Savings Bank donated $25 million to the First City Fund Corporation (FCFC). With this money, New Haven was able to found the First Community Bank in 2004, later rebranding as the Start Community Bank in 2012. With it came the promise of a mutually-owned bank that works for the community.

Over the course of its time in the city, it has not only served its purpose as a community bank with regular banking products like savings accounts, but also in giving back to the community through financial and social investment in the city. 

Certified for community development back to top

This includes gaining federal recognition as part of the Elm City Resident Card program that helped the city’s undocumented residence gain footing in the community. This group of residents are often victims of violence and theft due to their vulnerability. The card allowed them to open bank accounts — many at Start Community — and overcome barriers in reporting crimes, creating a safer New Haven for all.

Additionally, the bank is a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which attracts private investment into communities like New Haven. By being a participating CDFI, Start Community Bank fosters “the development of affordable housing, the creation of jobs and local businesses, and the expansion of community facilities,” according to literature found on the government website for CDFI organizations.

As part of the responsibility of being a CDFI, the bank has helped many in the community avoid foreclosure through the ROOF program, a partnership with Yale University. The bank won Bank Enterprise Awards for its work as a catalyst of economic growth from 2012 to 2014.

The Bank Enterprise Award, won on the legs of the ROOF program and the Elm City Resident Card, is a sign of Start Community Bank’s larger mission, one that was mandated fifteen years ago when the residents of New Haven demanded a community bank: serve the community. It is part of their vision as a bank: “You Thrive. We Thrive.”