UNC School of Government completes Initiative-funded asset preservation study

Jan. 19, 2015 – North Carolina’s community development organizations have created an impressive portfolio of real estate assets over the past 20 years. They include affordable housing units, commercial real estate and community facilities in some of the state’s most economically distressed areas.

The Great Recession and cuts in public support for the community economic development sector, however, placed many of these assets at risk.

The N.C. Community Development Initiative has begun a long-term project focused on preserving these valuable community assets to both benefit communities and strengthen the balance sheets of the organizations that serve them.

In the first phase of the project, the Initiative partnered with the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to conduct a study that resulted in specific recommendations for preserving and leveraging more than $20 million in underutilized real estate assets owned by six nonprofits across the state.

“The goal of the study was to evaluate the assets the organizations already had at their disposal and to preserve them in a way that maximizes their value and pursues their highest and best use, to benefit both the community and the organization itself,” said Meena Ahuja, senior program officer for the Initiative. “Our hope is that these recommendations will help the organizations see where their strengths lie and capitalize on those, as well as recognize when it’s time to sell an asset in order to pursue a more effective strategy.”

The Initiative identified five diverse nonprofits that agreed to participate in the study. Experts analyzed the assets owned by each organization and whether the management of those assets was increasing the sustainability of the organization. They discovered that the five organizations owned more than 80 acres of real estate assets that were being underutilized.

The Initiative later expanded the project at the request of the City of Sanford to include Brick Capital Community Development Corp. This type of public-private partnership offers an exciting model for expanding and scaling the Initiative’s innovative and rigorous approach to working with community partners and their local stakeholders to facilitate asset preservation.

In the next phase of this project, the Initiative will work directly with the organizations to help them implement the study’s recommendations. The Initiative offers a range of options for assisting local organizations, from serving as a lender of low-cost capital to providing technical assistance to help the organizations execute their plans for these assets. 

The Initiative convened these local partners in January to explore ways the business incubators they operate might be networked to enhance their financial performance and better support business formation and job creation.

Participants in the asset preservation study were:

  • Brick Capital Community Development Corp., Sanford
  • EmPOWERment Inc., Chapel Hill
  • Prosperity Unlimited, Kannapolis
  • Rocky Mount/Edgecombe Community Development Corp., Rocky Mount
  • Wilson Community Improvement Association, Wilson
  • UDI Community Development Corp., Durham

For more information on the study and the Initiative’s technical assistance program, visit http://ncinitiative.org/innovation/technicalassistance or contact Ahuja at 919-835-6006 or mahuja@ncinitiative.org.

The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.

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