Community financing network launched

The Opportunity Finance Network, a $4 billion Philadelphia-based network of 167 financial institutions, announced a multi-pronged campaign to funnel private capital into underserved communities.

The group laid out five strategies for harnessing private dollars to strengthen communities.

In 2006, the network plans to launch a pilot program called Fair Mortgage Lending, a “responsible” sub-prime lending program designed to compete with predatory lenders.

It expects the effort to originate at least $1 billion in mortgages a year within four years.

The network also plans to invest almost $100 million over the next three years in protecting affordable manufactured-housing units owned by low- and moderate-income people by reducing speculative sales of mobile-home parks.

In response to 9/11 and the Gulf Coast hurricanes, the group says it is working with a “major national business group” to create a loan fund for victims of natural terrorist-related disasters.

This spring, the group plans to launch a National Opportunity Investor Council, headed by Ned Gramlich, former Federal Reserve Governor, to convene capital sources, including banks, philanthropies, faith-based investors and the Opportunity Network.

And in March, the network will convene a group of policy specialists to craft a bipartisan “Opportunity Agenda for the 21st Century” designed to update community development policy.

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