Affordable-housing booster growing

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem office of a national group that supports local nonprofit affordable-housing developers has named a new program director and begun the quiet phase of a drive to raise $2 million.

Those funds, to be matched by the Local Initiatives Support Corp. in New York City, will be used by the local LISC office to strengthen the internal operations of six community development corporations in the city, says Paula J. McCoy, who has been promoted to program director from senior program officer.

Opened in 1999, the local office is one of 35 throughout the United States operated by LISC, which receives grants and loans from big foundations, insurance companies, banks and government agencies.

The local office, which raises its own funds locally from foundations, banks, corporations and individual donors, assists community development corporations with all aspects of their organizational development, says McCoy.

That includes help with fundraising, board governance, financial management, human resources, information systems, asset management, real estate development, training for executive directors, and connections with the community.

The office has provided nearly $900,000 in operating grants and $2.3 million in loans to community development corporations, which in turn have built 42 housing units and are building another 70, developing financing for another 105 and planning another 110.

All that housing has been or will be built in the Happy Hill, Northeast and Southeast areas of Winston-Salem, and the local office also is backing a retail development in an abandoned building on Liberty Street near Piedmont Airport in East Winston-Salem.

Community development corporations typically buy vacant or abandoned property, work with neighborhood groups on plans to redevelop it, and then rehabilitate or construct buildings, and market and resell the property.

Because neighborhoods targeted by community development corporations tend to be run-down and avoided by investors, sometimes for decades, the local LISC office provides acquisition, development and construction loans to kick-start investment by other groups.

Borrowing money, mainly from banks, LISC provides funds to the local office to make those loans.

The Home Ownership Center, a local group formed by local banks, foundations and real estate brokers, provides education and counseling about credit, borrowing and home ownership for potential homebuyers, who can take three months to a year to clean up credit problems and pre-qualify to buy a home, says McCoy.

In addition to applying to banks for mortgage loans, people buying homes from the community development corporations typically receive loans from the city, N.C. Housing Finance Agency or several federal programs that support affordable housing.

“Once we’re in,” McCoy says, “banks feel a little more comfortable and often they partner with us.”

An advisory committee for the local LISC office, chaired by Gerald Church, first vice president in Winston-Salem for Central Carolina Bank, is developing plans for the capital drive, which will kick off its public phase in October.

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