Amsterdam considering bank help for prostitutes

AMSTERDAM (Reuters Life!) - Amsterdam city council is turning its attention to a pressing problem for one of the city’s key business sectors -- banking and credit for prostitutes who can’t get accounts from mainstream institutions.

The city’s red light district is famed the world over for its women in tiny windows and even tinier clothing, but despite the trade being legal, many banks shy away from taking the ladies on as customers.

As part of the city’s “Project 1012” to remake the De Wallen neighborhood, which includes the sex district, the city council has been asked to find a way to help bordello owners and sex workers gain more access to banks.

“Up until now, it’s been very difficult for people in the sex industry to get credit with the banks,” a city council spokesman said on Friday.

“For them it is a hazard that they can not get regular credit or help or mortgages or anything from a regular bank.”

The council is expected to come to some sort of conclusion within the next two months on what it might do to help the industry.

It will not, however, establish or sponsor a “sex bank” as reported by a local paper.

“It’s more that we’re going to investigate and talk with bankers and try to set up a system in which they can get a loan or credit,” the spokesman said.

He added the city wants to ensure that prostitution is a “bona fide” industry, and that the “entrepreneurs” who ply the local trade need access to regular bank credit for legitimacy.

Over the long term, under Project 1012 -- named for the area’s postcode -- the city plans to restrict prostitution to a few tightly controlled areas.

It has already bought a number of buildings that formerly housed red light windows and converted them into art galleries or housing.

Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Steve Addison