|Fast Auto Loans, 7345 Little River Turnpike, Annandale.|
The proposed ordinance, developed by Fairfax County zoning staff at the request of supervisors Jeff McKay (Lee) and Gerry Hyland (Mount Vernon), says title and payday lenders would only be allowed as by-right projects in commercial areas zoned C-7 and C-8 and would have to be in a shopping center as opposed to a stand-alone building.
Zoning staff recommends these so-called “alternative lending institutions” not be permitted in commercial revitalization districts because they would have “negative economic impacts on revitalization efforts.”
The measure has strong support among the supervisors and could be approved by the end of the year.
Predatory lenders target poor and desperate people, who often don’t understand what they are signing. Some charge interest rates as high as 268 percent. According to a report on WUSA 9, more than 38,000 people in Virginia defaulted on title loans last year and more than 19,000 of them had their car repossessed.
“Virginia has become the predatory lending capital of the United States,” charges the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring. Maryland and the District of Columbia have tougher laws, and Virginia allows out-of-state people to get title loans here.
The proposed Fairfax County zoning ordinance also would prohibit car title and payday lenders in shopping centers adjacent to or across from land developed with any public use, place of worship, child care center, private school, or athletic fields. These lenders would not be permitted within 5,280 feet from another title or payday lender, and their operating hours would be limited to 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
The ordinance would not affect existing lenders, however, as the county cannot legally force a business to shut down.
Herring and Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th District) have called for state action to curb predatory lending. The two spoke at a news conference Sept. 11 where they suggested several steps that can be taken at the state level, including capping interest rates at 36 percent and prohibiting these lenders “within a certain radius of their targets, such as military bases or casinos.”