Tag: Our Region Your Investment

Update on Our Region, Your Investment Initiative

By Gretchen Greiner-Lott
Vice President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

WRAG, with Enterprise Community Loan Fund, launched the Our Region, Your Investment initiative in 2016 in an effort to bring new capital to the region’s growing housing affordability crisis. This was a first of its kind targeted initiative for both WRAG and the Loan Fund. Since then, we have accomplished a great deal:

  • Surpassed our fundraising goal – twice!
  • Raised over $12 million in investments
  • Preserved or produced over 650 (and counting) housing units around the region
  • Featured in an in-depth Social Return on Investment report, published in November 2017
  • Invited to participated in the Urban Institute’s impact investing project, resulting in a May 2018 report that included Our Region, Your Investment
  • Helped to bring new investors to the impact investing space and now hosts the WIIN (WRAG’s Impact Investors Network)

Recently, Enterprise Community Loan Fund received an issuer credit rating of AA- from S&P Global Ratings. This now allows them to look into providing a greater array of investment options to a wider range of investors, which could enhance their ability to raise investment capital and increase their impact in financing affordable homes and community facilities. As a result, they are no longer offering their Community Impact Note on which the Our Region, Your Investment initiative was based.

This means that:

  • New sales and renewals of the Note will not take place
  • Interest on existing Notes will continue to accrue and payments of interest will be remitted when due
  • 100% of existing Notes remain fully invested in the community and delivering impact

Although this initiative has ended, WRAG’s dedication to addressing housing affordability in our region remains a priority. We will explore ways to continue bringing new capital to this region’s housing challenge – or any other new roles we can play.

We are excited for what the future holds and look forward to keeping you posted on our next steps.

Making a Direct Social Impact in the Community

The Our Region, Your Investment initiative is going strong. Within its first seven months, it surpassed the original goal of $5 million in investments. Since January of 2016, almost $12 million has been invested in the initiative by foundations, banks, nonprofits, and individuals. And all of these investment dollars have been deployed in projects around the region.

Recently, the initiative hit a different milestone – its first ever return investor. So we asked Nancie Suzuki, executive director of the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, to tell us why the Foundation initially decided to invest and what brought them back to the table – with more resources – to support Our Region, Your Investment a second time.
– Gretchen Greiner-Lott, Vice President of WRAG

Prof Pic SmallBy: Nancie Suzuki
Executive Director
Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation

The Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation made our first investment with WRAG’s Our Region, Your Investment initiative about one year ago when our board agreed to start moving a portion of the investment portfolio into the impact investing space. We came across the opportunity after spending about a year researching possible investments and finding that there were not a lot of options in the D.C. region. The journey was a difficult one, and we wanted to find something that would have direct social impact in our community.

It took us a year to change our investment policy and then to invest in Environmental Social Governance (ESG) funds. However, to make deep impact, the Foundation wanted to invest in options that were local and in line with our mission. Furthermore, as a small staff, it was a challenge for us to do the due diligence to find a trustworthy investment.

The Foundation’s mission is to help uplift communities, and we believe that affordable housing is an important part of that mission. Our Region, Your Investment was a great fit for our first direct impact investment. Although we trust WRAG, we started out small with a $100,000 investment to ensure we were being fiscally responsible (since we invested it as a mission related investment). A year later, the investment met its financial obligations and exceeded our expectations in social impact. The number of affordable homes saved in the D.C. region since our investment is over 450, but there is still so much need. Therefore, we recently invested an additional $750,000. This is the kind of opportunity that allows foundations like ours – with small staffs and limited resources – to have a direct impact in our community.

Join us on October 24th at 12 pm for WRAG’s Impact Investor Network (WIIN). This session, hosted at WRAG, will be the first in a series of informal brown bag lunch gatherings that will provide an opportunity to learn and share with your colleagues about local impact investing opportunities, challenges, best practices and available resources. At this first meeting, Nancie Suzuki will be on hand to share more with us about the Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation’s journey to identify the right local impact investment opportunity.  

What will happen to the District’s Chinatown residents?

GENTRIFICATION | In 2013, a filmmaker documented the plight of Chinese senior citizens living in an apartment building in DC’s rapidly changing Chinatown. Four years later, the small population of Chinese residents left are in danger of losing their homes. (GGWash, 6/19)

A lot of senior citizens in Chinatown live in apartment buildings called the Wah Luck House and Museum Square. Most of the seniors are on fixed incomes, use Section 8 vouchers, and most have a limited ability to speak, read, and write English. Also, none has any intention of leaving, even as the owners of their buildings threaten to demolish their homes and replace them with luxury condos and commercial development. Residents are often unaware of things like neighborhood meetings, and language barriers prevent many from participating.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITYOur Region, Your Investment, a joint initiative between WRAG and Enterprise Community Loan Fund that has raised nearly $12 million in impact investments to date, has financed its fifth affordable housing deal, which will preserve the affordability of 202 homes in Wards 7 and 8 in the District.

Gretchen Greiner-Lott, WRAG’s vice president says, “WRAG is very excited about the success and impact that Our Region, Your Investment is having on housing affordability in our region. Check out this update and read about the five projects that have been supported by investments made thus far.”

RACIAL EQUITY | Did you miss our event, Reimagining Racial Equity through Participatory Grantmaking? Philip Walsh, executive director of Maine Initiatives, a public, community-based foundation focused on progressive causes, joined us to discuss their radically participatory process to connect community to grantmaking and why they believe bringing non-traditional voices to the table is critical to the success of racial justice work. Watch it here.

PHILANTHROPY | A new report finds that high net-worth donors of color are engaged in philanthropy, but aren’t visible as members of organized donor networks. (Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 6/11)

LGBTQCollecting LGBT Census Data Is ‘Essential’ To Federal Agency, Document Shows (NPR, 6/20)

LITERACY | An Anacostia radio station is trying to bring a bookstore east of the river, where there are none. (DCist, 6/19)

CHILDREN & YOUTH | This nonprofit is providing packs of personal items to children and youth in the Greater Washington area who are either entering or leaving foster care. (WBJ, 6/19)

EDUCATION | Teachers at the District’s Cesar Chavez Prep Middle School have voted to unionize. (WAMU, 6/16)

In case you were wondering how Spider-Man or Wonder Woman would look if they were created with balloons

– Kendra

Preventing “transit-induced gentrification” across the region

HOUSING | With the forthcoming Purple Line in suburban Maryland, and the new Silver Line in Northern Virginia, jurisdictions are trying to keep residents from being priced out of newly desirable locations by working to create affordable housing close to transit lines. (WaPo, 11/29)

The issue, which some experts call “transit-induced gentrification,” is gaining new attention in Montgomery and other once auto-centric suburbs building light-rail and rapid bus lines to revitalize older areas, attract younger workers, and help an increasing number of lower-income residents reach jobs. Focusing growth around transit stations has become the way many inner suburbs plan to thrive without adding to the sprawl that has left them drowning in traffic.
“Being able to have affordable, reliable and safe transit is critical for a lot of communities, particularly low-income communities because they need that option,” said David Bowers, of the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. “But we need policymakers and leaders to be much more intentional about preserving affordable housing along those corridors.”

Related: Housing affordability in the Greater Washington region is a major priority of WRAG. WRAG is a co-convener of the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group, a collection of more than a dozen public and private sector regional leaders (including David Bowers and Michelle Krocker of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, both quoted in the story above) that is working to elevate the visibility of, and broaden support for bold, thoughtful, and collaborative solutions for the housing affordability challenge across the region.

Also related: And, on December 1, WRAG and Enterprise Community Loan Fund are hosting a webinar on the Our Region, Your Investment initiative, through which local residents, foundations, nonprofits, and banks are coming to the table to invest in affordable homes. Register here.

– The DC Council next week will vote on a revised parental leave bill that would give both parents 11 weeks of paid time off after a birth or adoption. If the bill passes, it would be among the most generous family leave policies in the country. (WAMU, 11/28)

Maps of where our region’s jobs are, what types of jobs they are, and what they pay (GGW, 11/28)

ARTS | Impact investing has made its way to the field of arts and social change. (NY Times, 11/25)

NONPROFITS | The National Council of Nonprofits looks at the impact of the 2016 election on the work of nonprofit organizations.

– Don’t forget: It’s #GivingTuesday! When you’re done reading the Daily, go support the region’s nonprofit community!

– The Hitachi Foundation has announced plans to close in December 2016 with three final gifts.

DC folks: get out and about this weekend and check out the latest murals around the city.

– Rebekah

We Did It!

By Gretchen Greiner-Lott
Vice President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

We did it! Our Region, Your Investment has surpassed its $5 million goal!

That’s right. Since Enterprise Community Loan Fund and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers officially launched this impact investing initiative earlier this year, we’ve talked with and presented to regional grantmakers, community members, and local stakeholders about this investment opportunity. The results? Not only foundations, but nonprofit organizations, banks, and local residents have invested almost $7 million in this initiative to preserve and produce affordable housing around the region.

What does this mean? Loans have been made to a variety of projects like Clarendon Court in Arlington that will preserve 103 affordable homes in this prime spot in Northern Virginia within blocks of a metro station. Fifty-nine apartments at Fort Steven Place in DC will be updated and improved to meet green building standards, resulting in healthier homes and reduced utility bills for families. The bottom line is that residents will stay in their homes and their communities and will not be overburdened by the cost of their housing.

The need is massive and more projects are in the pipeline; so we can’t stop now. This isn’t a final report. This is a celebratory update.

Passing the $5 million milestone – and by so much – is a testament to what can be done when our community pulls together around an issue that impacts so many families in our region. Won’t you join us?

If you would like to learn more about how you and your organization can earn money on an investment to address the Greater Washington region’s housing crisis, please contact Gretchen Greiner-Lott, WRAG’s Vice President, at greiner-lott@washingtongrantmakers.org or 202-939-3433 to schedule a meeting or presentation. In addition, Enterprise and WRAG will host several webinars this fall. Please watch the WRAG calendar for dates and details.

New report closely examines racial and ethnic incarceration disparities in each state

A new report examines the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics state-by-state, finds three contributing factors to the racial and ethnic disparities in those rates, and makes some recommendations for reform. (Sentencing Project, 6/14)

Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities. Since the majority of people in prison are sentenced at the state level rather than the federal level, it is critical to understand the variation in racial and ethnic composition across states, and the policies and the day-to-day practices that contribute to this variance. Incarceration creates a host of collateral consequences that include restricted employment prospects, housing instability, family disruption, stigma, and disenfranchisement.

Related: In the most recently released video of WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series, James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, discussed mass incarceration and how structural racism, white privilege, and implicit bias collide within the criminal justice system.

OUR REGION, YOUR INVESTMENT | Our Region, Your Investment is gaining traction with local investors, with a recent $500,000 investment from the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation. Says Joshua Bernstein, president of the foundation (Daily, 6/16):

The Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation is working to address the deficit in housing affordability in the D.C. area. An investment in the Enterprise Community Impact Note aligns our investment strategy with our mission and leverages our impact.  We are grateful for the opportunity that Our Region, Your Investment has created to invest funds in ways that promote additional investment in housing solutions.

COMMUNITY/LGBT/PHILANTHROPY | Following the recent tragedy in Orlando, a number of WRAG members have organized efforts to provide support to victims and their families or share valuable resources with those serving LGBT communities. Wells Fargo has announced a donation of $300,000 toward victims and community recovery through the OneOrlando fund, set up by the City of Orlando and administered by the Central Florida Foundation. The Council on Foundations has shared a resource guide created by Funders for LGBTQ Issues featuring Orlando’s local LGBTQ social profit organizations and fundraising efforts for the victims, and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region has also shared resources for those who want to help.

EDUCATION/DISCRIMINATION/VIRGINIA | Students at Alexandria’s public schools are bringing to light what they describe as “excessive, discriminatory and reckless approach[es] to discipline” from the school system. Today, The Kojo Nnamdi Show explores those claims and the research that supports their argument. (WaPo, 6/3 and WAMU, 6/16)

Related: On Thursday, July 7, the third installment of WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series (supported by The Omega Foundation and the Tiger Woods Foundation) tackles the topic of racial and gender disparities in school discipline, with Professor Anne Gregory of Rutgers University. WRAG members can click here to register.

ARTS/CULTURE African American Museum prepares for ‘a mini-inauguration’ (WaPo, 6/15)

PUBLIC HEALTHGun Violence ‘A Public Health Crisis,’ American Medical Association Says (NPR, 6/14)

Going back to school is tough at any age, but imagine going back to the 10th grade at age 68! This grandfather shows us it’s never too late.

– Ciara

Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation Invests $500,000 for Affordable Homes in Greater Washington Region

Our Region, Your Investment Gets Traction with Local Investors

Since its launch in January, Our Region, Your Investment has been presented to community members and local stakeholders as an investment opportunity to end the housing crisis in the Greater Washington region. Recent news coverage has featured our leadership in addressing the region’s housing crisis, and research has stated that a lack of affordable housing threatens our region’s economic competitiveness. Our Region, Your Investment provides an actionable step that concerned citizens and organizations can take to be part of the solution.

So far, individuals, nonprofit organizations, and foundations have made investments to provide affordable homes in the region. The most recent investment came from the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, which invested $500,000 to further the impact we are already having.

The Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation is working to address the deficit in housing affordability in the D.C. area. An investment in the Enterprise Community Impact Note aligns our investment strategy with our mission and leverages our impact.  We are grateful for the opportunity that Our Region, Your Investment has created to invest funds in ways that promote additional investment in housing solutions.

Joshua Bernstein, President, Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation

Along with other investments, this money is hard at work supporting projects such as Fort Stevens Place in Washington, D.C. and Clarendon Court in Arlington, VA. Combined, these investments have ensured that 160 families are not forced to leave our community due to unhealthy living conditions and/or unaffordable rents.

If you are interested in making an investment that provides a blended social and financial return, contact Rachel Reilly Carroll and visit the Impact Note webpage to learn more about Our Region, Your Investment!

Disclosure: The Enterprise Community Impact Note is offered by Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. It is guaranteed by Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. The Enterprise Community Impact Note is not FDIC or SIPC insured and is only available in states where authorized. This brochure is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of an offer to buy these securities. The offering is made only by the prospectus, which can only be delivered by eligible employees of Enterprise Community Loan Fund, and should be read before investing. WRAG is not affiliated with Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Inc. or Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. WRAG is not offering to sell nor soliciting an offer to buy these securities. WRAG is not providing advice, receiving compensation, or making any suitability determinations in respect to you.

Do we need an X Prize to address affording housing in high-cost areas? Yes!

by Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

My father owned a small real estate business. He used to say that real estate was the best investment because you could live in it, borrow against it, or rent it out. I learned this lesson about asset building as a child. And still today, home ownership continues to be the largest investment that most people make. The asset of a home is one of the enduring symbols of having achieved the American dream. Those who own a home are rewarded through tax credits unavailable to non-home owners. The owned home is the source of funds that allows many people to send their children to college, and while all the votes aren’t in yet regarding the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, the home seems to be how some will support their retirement.

Yet far too many people are financially unable to purchase a home – this core to asset building. So, I am a bit surprised when those of us committed to social justice reform aren’t focused more on home ownership. I wanted to find out why. I talked with bankers, developers, and housing advocates. “The federal government used to subsidize the development of affordable houses,” one banker told me. “When they stopped, building these properties wasn’t practical.”  “What about condos?” I asked when a developer told me that land was just too expensive in our region. “We can’t depend on lower-income people being able to pay the condo fee,” was his response. No matter where I asked, roadblocks were the answer.

I refuse to believe that the American ingenuity that led to inventing the automobile, putting the first human on the moon, and building the internet can’t solve this problem. It just takes smart people focused on smart new solutions. What would happen if experts on land use joined with architects and builders, housing policy wonks, financiers, and community organizers to figure out how to produce affordable houses for low-income people in the Greater Washington region? What would it take to get people from various disciplines to actually come together? It has to be more than the basic principle of creating diverse housing stock to meet the housing needs of diverse income brackets. That reason hasn’t worked so far. What would catalyze such a conversation?

I think it would take an X Prize.

I believe that the simple act of enabling affordable home ownership in the Greater Washington region has to be seen as a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, and that a large sum of money has to be put on the table for an innovative team to solve it. We like to celebrate the number of people with advanced degrees who live in our region. We talk a lot about our knowledge economy. Nineteen institutions of higher learning are located here. And, I recently attended a meeting at which this region was touted as being more entrepreneurial than Silicon Valley based on the number of new ventures birthed here. We have the knowledge and we have the need. We can be a model for the country. Our problem is not unique.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this need rests within a larger sphere of need for affordable housing, including more affordable rental units. In fact, WRAG is already working to try to address it. But even housing advocates, were stunned to learn from an Urban Institute study last year that “not a single county in the United States has enough affordable housing for all of its extremely low-income renters.” Here in the Greater Washington region, where rental costs are soaring, we knew this reality. But certainly, we thought, someone, somewhere, had figured this out. No one has.

What a tremendous boost for the country it would be for the affordable housing challenge, both home ownership and the production and preservation of affordable rental units, to be solved right here in the nation’s capital.

Who will incentivize this work? Who can fund an X Prize? Philanthropy can.

Efforts to shed light on housing affordability in the region and beyond

Over the past six months, Leadership Greater Washington, in partnership with WRAG, has hosted a thought-leadership series on housing affordability. Last week’s session on regional solutions featured the Roadmap for Our Region’s Economic Future, the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group, and WRAG’s Our Region, Your Investment initiative – all efforts in which WRAG is very involved. The Washington Post published a story on the importance of housing affordability to our region and focused specifically on the work of the Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group. (WaPo, 5/28)

[…] a group of local leaders representing government, business and the philanthropic sector is studying whether to propose a “regional compact” in which the Washington area as a whole would commit to addressing runaway housing costs.

If nothing is done, they warn, the problem of overpriced housing will fester until it eventually explodes into a widely recognized crisis — much as the Metro transit system’s problems were ignored for years until they recently triggered a burst of attention.

Gretchen Greiner-Lott, who leads these efforts for WRAG, had this to say of the coverage:

Solving big issues takes collaboration. The Greater Washington Housing Leaders Group is just that – a regional, cross-sector collaboration of committed folks working on the issue. I am so pleased to see our work highlighted in the media.

– A new report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, along with an interactive website supported by JPMorgan Chase, provide a close look at the disparity between rental housing costs and renter income in every jurisdiction in the U.S. In order to be able to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in D.C., one would need to earn $31.21 an hour; $26.53 an hour in Maryland; and $22.44 an hour in Virginia. (NLIHC, 5/25)

– A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examines a decline in federal support for housing aid for families with children. Despite the damaging effects of the Great Recession to many families with children, the share of federal housing assistance that went to those families declined over the last several years. (City Lab, 5/26)

– The Council on Foundations recently named Floyd Mills as its Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This role is a new position “intended to advance the Council’s work to promote inclusiveness as a fundamental operating principal in philanthropic organizations.” (COF, 5/23)

– Trustee, member of the board of directors, and Veterans Liaison for the PwC Charitable Foundation, Frank Guadio, recently sat with The Huffington Post to discuss best practices for collaboration on issues related to veterans. (HuffPo, 5/25)

– An annual ranking by the Trust for the Public Land places D.C. at number three and Arlington at number four on its list of the best U.S. cities for parks. Factors to determine the ranking included: accessibility; amenities; size; and the amount of money spent per resident on parks. (WaPo, 5/26)

– Loudoun County Reportedly the “Happiest” County in America (Washingtonian, 5/31)

A new art exhibit appeals to the procrastinator and/or perfectionist in all of us. 

– Ciara

Assessing a $15 minimum wage

A new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute explores what a $15 minimum wage could mean to workers in the District. A number of local groups remain divided over the long-term impact of raising the minimum wage (WAMU, 5/4):

The organization’s assessment buttresses the arguments made by groups and elected officials pushing the $15 minimum wage: In an area that’s growing increasingly expensive and unequal, giving low-wage workers a pay raise is a needed step towards helping them stay afloat.

But it also marks the start of what is likely to be a spirited debate over the merits of raising the minimum wage, with local business groups standing at the ready to unveil their own studies arguing that while a higher wage may help workers get by, it will also mean that employers either create fewer jobs or [move] to jurisdictions — like Virginia — where the minimum wage remains much lower, at $7.25.

JOBS | WRAG is pleased to announced the launch of our new and improved job board! This service is available to the region’s philanthropic and nonprofit community. Job postings are free for WRAG members and $60 for non-members. As a benefit for using WRAG’s job board, each posting will be included in a weekly roundup of job opportunities right here in the Daily WRAG. For any questions about using the job board, contact Rebekah Seder, seder@washingtongrantmakers.org.

– In their Matters@Hand thought leadership series sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, HAND looks at some of the emerging innovations surrounding the creation of local funding resources for affordable housing in the region, including one that WRAG is involved in (Helping Hands Blog, 5/4):

In our region, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers has teamed up with Enterprise Community Partners to develop a new approach to generating resources to invest in local affordable housing.  Individuals and organizations can invest in the Enterprise Community Impact Note and those investments will be used to help finance the creation of affordable housing. Investors will receive a fixed-rate of return and will also receive regular statements about the social impact of their investments.  The goal of the new fund is to raise at least $5 million to help build affordable housing throughout the region, and will reflect a truly innovative way of raising capital.

Washington City Paper offers a glimpse into D.C.’s low-rent units, where many tenants live in constant fear of losing their homes and must deal with unresponsive landlords who neglect properties. (WCP, 4/29)

– D.C. At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds has introduced a bill aimed at landlords who “purposely neglect their buildings and put their tenants’ health and safety at risk.” (WCP, 5/3)

– Local Initiatives Support Corporation has made a $50 million commitment toward ensuring that residents living in the area surrounding the highly-anticipated 11th Street Bridge Park will not be displaced once it opens. (WaPo, 5/3)

–  Opinion5 Issues Foundations Must Confront to Stay Relevant (Chronicle, 5/3)

– Close Up Shop and Go Elsewhere? A Case Study for Philanthropy on What to Do When We Win (NPQ, 4/29)

– The Initiative for Public Art Reston (IPAR) plans to display bike rack designs as public works of art later this year. IPAR issued a call for artists from the region to submit their designs that reflect five sites in the surrounding area. (Reston Now, 5/2)

Anyone know the number to a really fancy plumber?

– Ciara