Aug 6, 2020

Urban League Announces $5,000,000 Homeownership Initiative

Urban League of Greater Madison President & CEO, Ruben L. Anthony, Jr., announced today that the organization is launching a new $5,000,000 initiative to increase homeownership among Black Madisonians. He was joined in making the announcement by partners in the project including WHEDA Executive Director Joaquin Altoro, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, South Madison Alder Sheri Carter, and other financing partners from National Community Investment Fund, Wells Fargo, and Johnson Bank.

The Urban League is in the process of purchasing between 15 and 17 homes in economically distressed census tracts, performing extensive renovation work on the homes over the next 12 months , and then re-selling them to low and moderate income families seeking to become first-time homeowners. The Urban League will offer a no-down payment, interest-only program with a saving and wealth building component plus other favorable terms and benefits including ongoing homeownership readiness training and individualized financial empowerment counseling.

The project will utilize the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program as the financing mechanism. The tax credits are being allocated by National Community Investment Fund (NCIF), a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) headquartered in Chicago, but investing in low and moderate income communities all across the country.

Saurabh Narain, NCIF’s President & CEO, explained that “this is an innovative use of the NMTC program, which has traditionally been used for commercial and mixed-use projects. We want this to be a model that can be scaled and replicated here and across the country – to create wealth and homeownership among minority and African American populations – and the Urban League was a logical partner because of their track record and because they are part of a national network of affiliates that can help us scale this model.”

Another innovative and important component of the project will be a partnership with Operation Fresh Start (OFS). OFS will serve as general contractor on several of the homes, and the ULGM and OFS will collaborate on a construction training project that will teach unemployed and underemployed adults construction skills while working hands-on to rehab these homes.

The Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) will provide nearly $3,500,000 in financing to the project, the City of Madison will invest nearly $200,000 to help further bring down the cost to families, and Wells Fargo Bank will provide the remaining $1,500,000 in financing.

“WHEDA is excited to team up with the Urban League of Greater Madison, the National Community Investment Fund, City of Madison and Wells Fargo on this innovative path forward to finance affordable homeownership here in Madison,” said WHEDA CEO Joaquín Altoro. “WHEDA previously partnered with the Urban League and City of Madison to launch a ground-breaking program supported by Low Income Housing Tax (LIHTC) credits that enabled some 50 families earning below 60% of the area median income to transition from renting to homeownership while building more than $2.5 million in equity. This new collaboration goes one step further by providing hardworking families with the opportunity to move directly into these refurbished homes as owners. We look forward to the potential of extending this model – and its associated revitalization benefits – to other Wisconsin communities.”

The City of Madison will provide some additional critical funding to help bring down the final cost for the home buyer. “The City is proud to expand our multi-faceted partnership with the Urban League,” said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “We invest in the Urban League’s academic and career development programming for youth, we invest in the Urban League’s job training for adults, and the next logical extension of this partnership is to support the long-term family stability that comes through homeownership.”

The City’s investment in the project will come through TIF financing focused on development in the Park Street corridor. “This partnership also contributes to our goal of preventing gentrification and displacement as South Madison undergoes rapid re-development,” said Rhodes-Conway.

The Urban League of Greater Madison is also excited that the project includes a brand new partnership with Wells Fargo. Senior VP and Northeast Deal Team Manager, Scott Pinover, noted that “Wells Fargo is proud to be part of this impactful home ownership program. Home ownership is the largest source of wealth for most citizens of the United States, yet many African-American residents of the Madison area have not been able to participate in this wealth builder, as demonstrated by the current average homeownership rate of 17% among the African-American community. The Urban League’s homeownership initiative will guide low income minority families through the home purchase and ownership process, ultimately enabling these families to build wealth and stability, lifting these families out of poverty. Wells Fargo looks forward to helping make a difference through this great initiative.”

“This project will have an impact far beyond the 15 to 17 homes that will be re-developed,” said Anthony. “ULGM will be filling a void for a culturally competent homeownership counseling and training program in the region where currently only one certified HUD-homeownership agency exists. We’ll also be adding to our housing development infrastructure so that we are prepared to deliver more units of affordable housing in the future to help address the crisis of homeownership disparities and the shortage of affordable rental properties in our community.”

Other partners, which have played a crucial role in bringing this project from vision to fruition include:

· Hope Community Capital, which provided technical expertise to guide the Urban League through the intricacies of New Markets Tax Credit financing.

· Johnson Bank which is providing interim financing to allow ULGM to acquire homes prior to the availability of the NMTC funds.

· 3BK Indoor and Outdoor Renovations, Aldo Designs, and Restoration Brothers which will handle some of the renovation work.

· 40 Acre Realty and Capital Real Estate which have been helping with the search for eligible, affordable homes.

· Dozens of others, including the ULGM’s 2.0 Committee which have provided extensive expertise and guidance in program design.

Anthony also noted that “ULGM is still calling on others in the community to help make this project a success. We need to identify more affordable homes to purchase – especially in South Madison; we’re seeking discounted and in-kind supplies and materials to help keep costs down so that homes are as affordable as possible; and, of course, we’re looking for families motivated to become home owners. Contact us if you can help!”

For Further Information:

Dr. Ruben Anthony