LISC has never, in 35 years of work, invested more in the future of low-income communities than it did in 2015. President & CEO Michael Rubinger begins his last year at LISC’s helm with a look at the organization's historic $1.3 billion in support for efforts that help Americans prosper.
By most any financial or program standard, 2015 was an exceptionally productive year for LISC, our affiliates and the hundreds of communities that we serve throughout the United States. Our total program activity for the year – measured by equity investments, loans and grants – reached $1.3 billion, the largest volume in our 35-year history.
While this level of investment is impressive, what’s even more powerful is the impact of these dollars on the urban and rural places where we work.
For instance, we financed more than 21,000 affordable homes and apartments, making 2015 a record year for our housing investment program. While we are certainly proud of this achievement, it is particularly gratifying at a time when housing affordability has become such a pressing concern in so many communities throughout the country.
Our lending program, which supports the revitalization work of our local community-based partner organizations, was also strong, exceeding $200 million for the first time in our history and surpassing by nearly 20 percent our previous record in the pre-recession year of 2006. Just as importantly, the performance of our loan portfolio, measured by delinquencies, defaults and write-offs, was stronger than it has ever been. Simply put, what these high-performing loans produce is more housing, schools, supermarkets, health centers, theaters and child care facilities for residents in low-income neighborhoods nationwide.
With total investment of $970 million in 90 affordable housing developments, LISC’s subsidiary, the National Equity Fund, had by far its strongest year ever. Last year, LISC’s other major affiliate, the New Markets Support Company, received a $70 million allocation of federal New Markets Tax Credits. With a total of $900 million, LISC is the largest urban-focused recipient and investor of these credits in the history of this federal program.
In 2015, we also opened our 80th Financial Opportunity Center (FOC). Located in 32 cities, these FOCs served 25,000 individuals with programs ranging from job placement to financial coaching to improving credit scores. The bottom line is that 72 percent of the clients assisted by these centers improved their net income, a meaningful outcome as we all struggle to close the income inequality gap. LISC also received a new three-year grant from the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) to expand and deepen our work in skills training, bringing the total SIF investment in our FOCs to $32 million.
In a year when issues of safety, justice and equity were in the headlines almost daily, LISC was also at the forefront of local and national efforts to chart positive pathways forward. As a signal of its confidence in our approach, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded LISC a new competitive grant to broaden our work as the principal technical assistance provider for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program. DOJ has now invested $6.5 million in LISC to assist 53 cities in developing crime reduction strategies for some of the country’s most challenged neighborhoods.
We also expanded our focus on health last year. Through our $100 million Healthy Futures Fund, LISC financed five federally qualified health centers creating the capacity to serve 96,000 individuals and producing more than 400 units of housing with enhanced access to health services. Towards the end of 2015, we announced the creation of a second $100 million investment round for the fund.
And finally, we funded five cities to participate in our emerging Creative Placemaking program, which utilizes arts and cultural activities as a driver of neighborhood revitalization. With a built-in research component, this inaugural effort is intended as a pilot for a substantially expanded program in future years.
All of that helped LISC finish the year financially healthier than at any time in the past 15 years, with more than $260 million in net assets. Having a strong balance sheet permits us to borrow and lend capital, initiate new and untested program ideas and weather difficult economic times as we did in 2008.
These examples provide compelling evidence that our work is robust, comprehensive, and above all, has impact. They are indicative, too, of our continuing efforts not only to grow what we’re already doing, but to innovate and broaden our reach in pursuit of our mission to revitalize low-income communities by strengthening opportunities for all Americans to prosper.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Rubinger, President & CEO, LISC
Michael has been at the forefront of community development for 40 years. With a reach that extends from the stoops of troubled neighborhoods to Wall Street and the White House, he has worked to create innovative programs, assemble capital, steer policy and lead sustainable change so that even the most distressed parts of the country can become good places for families to live.