Belleville City Councillor Wants to Clamp Down on Payday Loan Stores

You can name Belleville as the next Ontario municipality that wants to rein in the payday loan industry.

During the municipality’s planning advisory meeting, City Councillor Paul Carr made it clear that he wants to crack down on payday loan businesses in Belleville. Carr asked city officials on Monday if there were any tools at the city’s disposal that could help restrict or limit the reach of payday loans.

Speaking during the meeting, Carr noted that he is unaware if there are any zoning bylaws or rules within the planning act that can prevent the “proliferation” of payday loan businesses in Belleville.

“I don’t know if they’re are any tools available but I would like to at least have a staff report to see what’s out there,” said Carr. “I think it’s something we need to be aware of. Obviously we can’t eliminate them, but I think we need to do our part.”

Carr alluded to one important target area for lenders to open up payday loan stores: North Front Street.

He pointed to North Front Street as a key target area for payday locations.

“If you go down North Front Street, there are three within, probably, a 10-block radius of each other,” he said. “To me that seems a bit excessive and predatory in nature. I’m exploring if we can restrict them at our level.”

Rod Bovay, the city’s director of engineering, conceded that there isn’t a whole lot that city hall can do, even if you comb over the rule books. The reason why, Bovay averred, is that payday loan businesses are similar to any other kind of commercial enterprise. Ultimately, according to Bovay, it’s up to Ontario. We may not like the service they provide or that they offer personal loans for bad credit but it’s their right to do so.

Nevertheless, Bovay confirmed that city staff will take a look at planning legislation to determine if there is any way that Belleville can regulate payday loan enterprises and the number of locations they can open in the city. The city staff will report back to the committee in the next couple of months.

This comes one month after a Thunder Bay official proposed regulating the payday loan industry.

Shelby Ch’ng, Northwood city councillor, announced that she plans to submit a resolution that would require payday loan businesses to apply signage that highlights the equivalent annual interest rate for the fees they charge borrowers for the loans.

Ch’ng argues that the paucity of financial literacy is the primary reason why many of her constituents get into pecuniary trouble. She likened it to the concerns she regularly hears about property tax hikes.

Moreover, the Thunder Bay official also wants to restrict or limit where payday loan businesses can open stores. She says that she doesn’t want payday loan stores located in places where the most vulnerable people visit, such as neighborhoods that have casinos, homeless shelters and schools.

Ostensibly, this is part of a province-wide crackdown of the short-term, high-interest loan niche.