Feb. 11, 2015 – 2014 was a pivotal year for the N.C. Community Development Initiative and its local partners. A weak economic recovery threatened the state’s most vulnerable communities and the organizations that serve them.
“Our work has become more important than ever, so we’ve had to become even more resourceful and innovative to sustain our own operations and continue providing vital services to our communities,” said Initiative President and CEO Tara Kenchen.
Leading private and foundation investors stepped up to provide grants and investments for the Initiative’s work. Among them were long-time funders Z. Smith Reynolds and BB&T, as well as PNC Bank, State Farm, Wells Fargo, AT&T and Triangle Community Foundation.
“In 2014, we focused on two key areas – preserving the valuable assets our community partners have built over many years, particularly, affordable housing and commercial developments in low-income areas, and helping these organizations develop new business models to sustain their operations and programs,” Kenchen said.
“In 2015, we’ll expand that work and convene our partners to focus on innovation – how to develop, test and implement new, replicable strategies for generating economic growth across the state,” she said. “Job creation will be a priority. Without high-quality jobs that pay a living wage, families cannot sustain themselves and build a secure future.”
Financial investments create local opportunity
The Initiative and its certified community development financial institution subsidiary, Initiative Capital, made more than $12 million in financial investments in 2014 that supported local housing, job-creation and service initiatives, and sector sustainability.
Loans for housing and commercial developments. Initiative Capital approved $1.6 million in loans in 2014 to finance key community projects:
- A loan to 510 nano, a green technology company, will build a seven-acre 1.4 megawatt solar farm in Northampton County that will generate clean energy and create jobs both during and after construction.
- Loans to Cape Fear Regional (Wilmington) and Kingdom (Spring Lake) community development corporations to buy and renovate vacant properties as affordable rental homes address a critical shortage. A 2012 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and N.C. Housing Coalition revealed there are only 33 affordable rental homes available for every 100 low-income renters.
- A loan to the Center for Community Action provided capital that helped the organization remain in operation, providing vital health services and an ex-offender job reentry program in Robeson County, one of the state’s poorest.
- A loan approved in 2014, scheduled to close in 2015, will help Unity Builders acquire and renovate a 39-unit multi-family development to provide more affordable housing in High Point.
Acquiring affordable home loan portfolios. Initiative Capital purchased $9.5 million in syndicated loan interests from BB&T Bank, PNC Bank and Wells Fargo that are financing 6,014 units of affordable rental housing. The purchase frees bank capital that can be used to finance more affordable rental housing, and interest on the loans provides a revenue stream to fund the Initiative’s work.
Grants for community development. The Initiative provided $360,000 in grants to 17 North Carolina nonprofits to help them implement strategic plans designed to spark economic growth and job creation in their communities.
- Provided counseling to more than 30,000 low-income people in financial literacy, foreclosure prevention, homeownership and nutrition.
- Assisted more than 400 business people with training, access to capital and incubator services.
- Provided training and technical assistance to more than 250 local farmers, supporting sustainable agriculture in their communities.
- Developed 90 new housing units and managed more than 1,500 affordable rental units.
Reclaiming foreclosed homes. Initiative Capital continued helping communities transform foreclosed properties into high-quality, energy-efficient affordable homes through its participation in the federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The program provides a revolving line of credit the Initiative can use to make loans to community organizations to acquire and rehabilitate foreclosed properties and sell at affordable prices to low-income families.
At year end, Initiative Capital had more than $2.1 million in loans outstanding to five community organizations to renovate and sell 14 housing units to low-income families. Among them was a loan to the N.C. Indian Housing Authority in Fayetteville, which has completed nine home renovations. One sold in July to Wayne and Helen Hunt, a deaf couple who struggled to purchase a home in the past.
Since beginning the program in 2009, Initiative Capital has helped finance the rehabilitation of 44 foreclosed properties around the state.
Local partners get assist with sustainability
Six N.C. community development organizations received expert advice on how to make more strategic use of $20 million in real estate assets thanks to an Initiative-funded study completed in 2014.
The Initiative contracted with the UNC School of Government to examine the real estate assets held by the nonprofits and recommend ways of maximizing their value to provide greater revenue to sustain their operations and better serve their communities.
Many of the assets – affordable housing developments, commercial developments and land, and community facilities located in economically distressed areas – are at risk in the aftermath of the Great Recession and cuts in state support for community economic development. Losing these assets would strike a severe blow to the low-income families served by these developments and the economy in those areas.
Researchers found ways to get more value from at least 80 acres of real estate. The Initiative is now working with the nonprofits to determine how best to implement the recommendations.
Programs develop sector leaders
Two programs in 2014 focused on developing leaders who understand the unique challenges low-income communities face and provide innovative leadership to solve them.
- The Initiative provided a $65,000 grant to the American Indian Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to create and launch its inaugural Native Leadership Institute. The Native Leadership Institute is the only culturally tailored leadership training program in the state for current and emerging Native leaders who are interested in sharpening their leadership skills, expanding their networks, and fostering unity across all tribes and Indian communities in North Carolina.
- The Initiative also offered its seventh Youth Leadership Program for rising seniors, a program designed to train the next generation of leaders, funded in part by AT&T. Students complete intensive internships in community economic development organizations in their hometowns and gather four times for forums that focus on leadership skills and understanding community issues.