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Despite Bailout $; Bank Raises Rate On Church Loan

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Carol Cavazos

American banks received billions of dollars in bailout money.  With that in mind, one North Texas pastor wondered why his bank raised the interest rate on his church.

Pastor Steve Solomon, of Riverwalk Fellowship in Haltom City, took out a 20-year loan with JPMorgan Chase to finance the $2.4 million church building.  The church paid a 7 ½-percent interest rate on the loan and had never missed or made any payments late.  After five years of payments Riverwalk had $1 million in equity.

Now here's where things get more complicated.  The original loan had a five-year renewable.  That means, every five years Chase could look at the church books and decide whether or not to raise the interest rate.

Pastor Solomon said, "We've been hit a little by the economy, but not that bad."  So, Solomon said he was surprised last fall, when Chase raised the interest rate to more than 11-percent.  "On a $1.3 million loan, our mortgage payment would go up about $4,000 a month."

Grapevine certified public accountant Wendy Ezell told CBS 11 News, "It's a sign of banks being stressed."  Ezell said despite the bank bailout, banks are cutting off lines of credit or turning them into loans, with much higher monthly payments.  "People who are really credit worthy, that probably should have lines of credit, were called in during the first two months of this year," she explained.  "I've seen time after time where they're calling them [loans] in and cutting their lines of credit off.  I don't know that a bank would admit that to you."

So, how does this scenario fit with the Riverwalk loan problem?  The church had also taken out a $100,000 line of credit.  Ezell thinks banks are still worried about loan defaults and are reducing their risks and dropping liabilities.

"I think they were just telling us, they didn't want our business," said Pastor Solomon.

Chase did give the church time to look for another bank.  In a phone interview with CBS 11, a Chase representative said, "We offered a renewal and they didn't like the renewal. We helped them put together a financial package and gave them two extensions."

Those two, 90-day, extensions did help.  Riverwalk found a credit union to take their loan and will now pay $2,000 less each month than they had been paying with Chase before the interest rate increase.

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