The Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund has a deal for you: lend money to help build affordable housing, and get a 3 percent return on your investment — better than many other financial institutions are offering these days.
The loan fund made that pitch as it celebrated its 20th anniversary with a bus tour for investors Wednesday morning of some of the properties their money helped secure. On board were Kathy Barnes and Terry Floyd (pictured above) of People’s United Bank, which sponsored the bus and is one of eight banks than make loans to the fund. Pictured behind them is an individual investor, Normand Methot.
The bus left from Fair Haven and was scheduled to visit 22 sites in New Haven in several neighborhoods. But the fund’s first and only executive director, Carla Weil (pictured), explained that when the fund was set up by Downtown Cooperative Ministry, an interfaith group now called Interfaith Cooperative Ministries, the mandate was broader than just the city.
“They decided it should be ‘Greater New Haven’ because from the beginning the opinion was that affordable housing is an issue for every town. It’s not New Haven’s job to take care of affordable housing everywhere, and what’s affordable differs from place to place.” So the fund has projects in several neighboring towns, as far away as Madison, Middletown and the Naugatuck Valley.
The tour included a diversity of projects: supportive housing, homeless shelter, owner-occupied single family housing and rental units. For example, the fund made a $270,000 loan to acquire the former Immanuel Baptist homeless shelter at 645 Grand Ave. (pictured, and now called Emergency Shelter Management Services).
Over 20 years the fund has loaned $43 million to build more than 2,000 units of affordable housing, mostly in New Haven but also in several surrounding towns. Recently, it also began making cash-flow loans and capital improvement loans to non-profits serving the low-income community. The fund does not make loans to individual investors to build low-income housing.
Weil explained there are two lending pools. One is the community pool with $3 million, which includes investments by 37 individuals. “Right now we’re paying up to three percent [interest], which is better than you can get on your bank account,” she said, chuckling. The other is the bank pool, to which eight banks offer lines of credit for a total of $6.8 million. That’s for bigger loans – -the biggest is $2.4 million to renovate the Hannah Gray Home at 235 Dixwell Avenue (pictured).
The tour also included the Orchard Street Townhouses (pictured), for which the Beulahland Development Corporation received $740,000 for pre-development and construction financing of 20 affordable townhouse homeownership units.
Raquel Santiago-Martinez (pictured), the fund’s director of lending, said that in many cases after the loan fund has helped a developer build or renovate quality housing, the neighbors tend to pay more attention to their properties as well, expanding the fund’s influence even more.