Since LISC’s inception, partnerships with local and state government have formed the backbone of the work we do. Across all of our 35 urban markets and rural footprint, we collaborate hand-in-glove with municipalities and county and state agencies to catalyze opportunity for residents, and strengthen and revitalize communities. From partnering on government grants and bonds to managing municipal housing funds to helping shape policy that benefits the financial stability and wellbeing of the people and places we serve, our relationships with local and state agencies have touched nearly every project and initiative we’ve ever taken on.
More and more, LISC looks to push the envelope with these partnerships, identifying and bringing to life strategies that leverage the resources and power of local government in ways that are unexpected and—most important—highly effective. In 2018, we forged dozens of these innovative relationships: We managed municipal funds to preserve and redevelop affordable housing, kindle economic development, and promote home ownership in cities across the country. We conceived a housing voucher program that supports working people in Denver to stabilize their finances and live affordably amid the glut of new, uninhabited luxury buildings in the city’s downtown. And we deployed local government dollars for hurricane recovery in Houston, the rural Southeast, and Puerto Rico, among other affected places.
These collaborations tap LISC’s expertise and nimbleness, and help tackle the shared goals of democratic government and community development. In Chicago, for example, LISC partnered with the City of Chicago on the Micro Market Recovery Program, a smart new approach to stabilizing existing building owners and create new homeowners and renters on key blocks within distressed neighborhoods. As of 2018, the program, with LISC as project manager and fiscal agent, had deployed $10.7 million that helped reoccupy 1,204 vacant buildings (or more than 3,285 units), saved 93 families from foreclosure, and reduced the cost of owning a home for more than 425 families. A DePaul University study found that the Micro Market interventions led to much higher levels of home sales on blocks that once were pocked with vacant houses and lots.
Nearly a third of those Chicago Micro Market funds came from the Illinois Attorney General’s foreclosure settlement with banks, which was earmarked, in part, for “zombie” home renovation (vacant houses caught in foreclosure limbo) and foreclosure-prevention services. The same type of funding innovation was at work in LISC’s New York State Housing Stabilization Fund, which last year deployed the lion’s share of $75 million in settlement funds across more than 90 municipalities, land banks, and nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing developers. LISC devised the system for dispensing this unprecedented pool of money, guiding it into foreclosure prevention programs, code enforcement, renovations, multifamily affordable housing development, and land bank capitalization. LISC also placed 18 AmeriCorps volunteers with local land banks to support the housing stabilization program and provided intensive technical assistance to the grantee municipalities.
The preservation of existing affordable housing is high on the priority lists of many local governments, and LISC’s track record in navigating preservation financing was the catalyst for a number of new partnerships last year. In Detroit, for example, LISC was chosen to manage a total of $125 million in grants and low-cost capital to preserve 10,000 units of unregulated, naturally occurring affordable housing, and to create 2,000 new units.
In Washington D.C., meanwhile, LISC was named to manage the Housing Preservation Fund, part of the city’s strategy to help residents and developers secure buildings and formulate a long-term, sustainable plan to keep hundreds of units affordable in hot neighborhood markets. The first round of the $20 million fund will preserve more than 80 units in rapidly gentrifying parts of the city.
Based on its longtime relationship with and trust in LISC, last year the City of Kalamazoo designated $10 million to LISC to deepen our work in economic development and affordable housing there over the next three to five years. In order to leverage the city’s investment, LISC has committed to matching its funds at a ratio of 2:1.
Twin Cities LISC, for its part, designed and managed the Big Picture Project, a collaboration with the Minneapolis and St. Paul city governments and several philanthropies to safeguard affordable housing options for existing and new residents along the Green Line light rail, which connects the two downtowns. LISC completed the project in 2018, three years ahead of schedule, with 4,820 affordable units preserved (more than 300 over the municipalities’ initial goal).
In every case where LISC steps in to support local governments, we are responding to a pressing need where our expertise can fill a critical gap. In Indianapolis, that has entailed building, in partnership with the state of Indiana and others, a consortium to help state and city governments as well as private, philanthropic, and community stakeholders navigate Indiana’s newly-designated Opportunity Zones. Called the Opportunity Investment Consortium of Indiana, the group has developed an online portal to match impact investors with community development projects, and speed the process of bringing investment to under-resourced census tracts.
For the state of Rhode Island, LISC manages the SNAP Employment and Training program, and this year will be able to connect more than $1.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding to local workforce development programs that support SNAP participants with a range of vocational and training programs as well as financial and wrap-around support services. LISC Rhode Island workforce development initiatives also benefited from a LISC National award of resources from a $4.5 million grant from the Department of Labor that helps provide workforce development and financial stability support for residents facing barriers to employment, specifically those returning from incarceration.