2011 Midwest Regional Meeting
On February 10, OFN held its Midwest Regional Meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. OFN and its four Chicago-based Members—Chicago Community Loan Fund, Chicago Community Ventures, Community Investment Corporation, and IFF—organized a day-long meeting centered on networking and peer learning. A good part of the day was spent with the 14 participating CDFIs talking about their markets, products, successes, and continuing challenges in today’s economy.
Wisconsin-based Forward Community Investments reported that they and several other nonprofit facilities CDFIs in the upper Midwest have launched a lenders’ circle that holds regular conference calls focused on underwriting and measuring impact. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago reported that their 18 housing counselors continue to spend 90 percent of their time on foreclosure-related issues and expressed concern that funders are shifting their focus and support away from foreclosure when it remains a critical issue in low-income communities. Community Investment Corporation is working with the City of Chicago to reassemble some of the 250 multi-family rental buildings that were illegally sold as condos during the housing boom. CIC is also working with banks, buying their nonperforming mortgage portfolios and managing the foreclosure process for the banks. Chicago Community Loan Fund has created a new position to focus on sustainability and encouraged attendees to visit its green finance gateway, www.greenaffordable.org. IFF, which finances social service and other nonprofits in five Midwestern states, is using the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to benefit 15 of its social service agency clients: IFF purchases properties, rehabs them to the agencies’ specifications, then sells them to the agencies for use as group homes, supportive housing properties, and other residential programs. Northern Initiatives reports that they are using the ACCION Texas online loan application and underwriting service in their 49-county market in Michigan and Wisconsin. Calvert has sold $230 million of its Community Investment Notes; in 2010, sales were brisk, reaching $1 million per week. ACCION Chicago and others reported that they have attracted new sources of capital but that a significant portion of the new funds come with geographic or other restrictions that make it harder to use. Community Plus Federal Credit Union, a 57-year old institution that only recently received a low-income designation from its regulator and CDFI certification from the CDFI Fund, attended an OFN regional meeting for the first time to learn all it can about the CDFI field and the CDFIs in its region.
OFN President and CEO Mark Pinsky gave a report on OFN covering policy, OFN’s strategic plan, the 2011 Wells Fargo Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance, OFN’s work with Goldman Sachs to build the capacity of CDFI small business lenders, and the work OFN is doing on the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program.
Bill Testa, Vice President and Director of Regional Programs at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, gave a sobering presentation on the economy, with a focus on the Midwest economy. View Bill’s presentation, complete with many informative graphs on national and regional economic trends.
Finally, Jose Cerda of IFF gave a presentation and led a lively discussion on policy that focused on the Midwest states’ prominent representation on key Congressional Committees, particularly the Senate Banking Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, and the CDFI Fund’s Appropriations Subcommittees in the House and Senate.