The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy today launched an initiative to mobilize investment in low-income communities, especially those that have been excluded from access to mainstream financial and wealth-building resources.
The initiative, Accelerating Community Investment (ACI), seeks to create a more fertile environment for philanthropies and other mission-aligned investors to deepen investment in community and economic development, housing, and other areas that benefit society. The initiative will bring public finance officials, impact investors, financial institutions, and communities together to increase the availability of capital in the right place, at the right time and for the right purpose. Accelerating Community Investment includes field research, the creation of mission-oriented investment opportunities, and the convening of a national community of practice.
Supported by the Lincoln Institute and the F.B. Heron Foundation, ACI seeks to bridge the gap between low-income communities and financial markets, foundations, high-net-worth individuals, and other sources of investment and credit.
The initiative seeks to build a network of mission-oriented partners, grounded in community. It will focus on strengthening relationships between Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs), which work closely with people and businesses on the ground, and Development Finance Agencies (DFAs) and Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs), public and private entities that issue bonds and facilitate other types of investment in economic development and affordable housing. At the heart of the three-year initiative is a national community of practice of select leaders from these organizations, who will build partnerships, receive training and technical assistance, and identify new investment opportunities.
More than 1,100 in number, CDFIs provided $9 billion in financing in 2018 for people who are underserved by mainstream banks. Among their customers, 85 percent are people with low incomes and 58 percent are people of color. CDFIs have supported small businesses in times of crises, including the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and several natural disasters. During the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, they outperformed larger financial institutions in lending money to small businesses.
Development Finance Agencies include local or state government entities, as well as nonprofit and private sector organizations, that fund economic development through municipal bonds, direct loans, and other vehicles. In 2018, they issued $25 billion in bonds. Housing Finance Agencies are state-chartered institutions that fund affordable housing through bonds, tax credits, and other methods. Together, they financed more than $37 billion in affordable housing development, rehabilitation, and purchase in 2018, and had access to $53 billion in untapped funds.
“Deepening the skills of public finance practitioners and creating connections with impact investors will help to drive investments that improve the quality of life in underserved communities across the country” said Robert J. "R.J." McGrail senior research fellow for the Lincoln Institute and director of the initiative. “Our development and housing finance partners have not only the capacity to tap large pools of funds, but they and their community partners can also help impact-minded investors place capital and channel it to communities that need it most.”
“Even in communities with effective urban planning and property tax systems, major decisions about land and development are often made based on the wrong criteria. Investment decisions can dramatically improve people’s quality of life and access to opportunity, but not if they’re slavishly predicated on short-term financial returns,” said George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. “That’s why the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy launched Accelerating Community Investment—to build the skills and relationships needed to redirect capital to where it can produce better social, environmental and financial returns.”
“Better integration of development and housing finance and community development strategies that will come from the ACI project can help drive more and better projects on the ground and help embed a focus on economic equality and racial justice in public finance,” said David Wood, director of the Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard Kennedy School. “A community of practice like this one can build capacity for public finance and connect it to private investors, in support of what’s needed to build back from COVID-19.”
Accelerating Community Investment will make use of one of the bedrock tools in municipal finance—private activity bonds, tax-exempt instruments that can be used to fund a number of private sector projects that serve a public purpose such as affordable housing, economic development, access to health care and education, home ownership, and renewable energy. The initiative will also seek to foster the expansion of other financing tools such as direct lending, and to develop new ones.
The initial community of practice is comprised of the following participants.
- California Housing Finance Agency
- California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank
- California Affordable Housing Agency
- Golden State Finance Authority
- Georgia Housing Finance Authority
- Kentucky Housing Corporation
- Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
- Greater Clark Foundation
- Louisiana Economic Development
- Louisiana Housing Corporation
- Finance Authority of New Orleans
- Build Baton Rouge
- Department of Economic & Community Development
- ROC USA
- Maine Municipal Bond Bank
- City of Jackson
- Jackson Redevelopment Authority
- Mississippi Development Authority
- Small Business Capital Fund of Mississippi
- Mississippi Home Corporation
- Montana Housing
- Native American Development Corporation
- NH Housing
- NH Community Development Finance Authority
- NH Business Finance Authority
- New Mexico Mortgage Finance Agency
- New Mexico Economic Development Department
- City of Santa Fe
- New Mexico Impact Investing Collaborative
- New York State Homes & Community Renewal
- New York City Economic Development Corporation
- Ohio Housing Finance Agency
- Port of Cincinnati Development Authority
- Greater Ohio Policy Center
- Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation
- Houston Land Bank
- Washington State Department of Commerce
- Washington State Housing Finance Commission
- Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA)
- Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation
Will Jason is director of communications at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
Photograph: Customers at food trucks in Atlanta, Georgia. Representatives from Georgia, including InvestAtlanta and the Georgia Housing Finance Authority, and 13 other states are participating in the Lincoln Institute's new Accelerating Community Investment Initiative. Credit: BluIz60/iStock Editorial via Getty Images Plus.