New Report: Evaluating the distribution of community development capital to low-income communities

Community Investment

When it comes to improving upward mobility for Black Memphians, a persistent challenge is having access to strong financial capital and advisory support from the industry. The Memphis Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Network has been bringing financial and housing institutions together with community members for nearly a decade to make access to these resources more accessible to neighborhoods that need them the most. Led by four organizations (Communities Unlimited, Hope Credit Union, River City Capital Investment, and United Housing) the CDFI Network has sought to bring more capital investment to the city to develop housing and businesses where traditional lenders have left financial gaps.

To support the CDFI Network’s mission, JP Morgan Chase awarded a three-year, $3 million Partnerships for Raising Opportunities (PRO Neighborhoods) grant in Memphis at the end of 2019. Prioritizing low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods, the program includes:

● Annual competition and peer learning for CDFIs that address complex community challenges by aligning talent, technology and balance sheets;

● Innovative housing financing models, to increase or preserve affordable housing and connect LMI individuals to resources that drive economic mobility; and

● Research and data analysis that informs local planning and investment decision-making.

Innovate Memphis has served as an evaluator for the PRO Neighborhoods program since that time, capturing quantitative analysis of funding allocations as well as qualitative data on service providers’ experiences. Our latest white paper focuses on activities from the 2022 fiscal year and highlights how the program has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, a larger portion of remaining funding is now going toward home improvement and business loans, and the share of female and minority borrowers has increased for many financial products offered. CDFI Network members also expressed interest in improving referral processes and technology to support clients’ holistic needs and a desire to collaborate more frequently to protect clients from predatory lending. Special thanks to Jessica Buttermore, Jennie Doss and Austin Harrison for their contributions to this 2022 CDFI White Paper.

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