It’s no secret that the tech sector, and the innovations it sparks, have catalyzed enormous economic growth in our country in recent decades. LISC is committed to ensuring that the people and communities we care about benefit from those innovations and share in the prosperity they generate. To that end, last year we put concerted organizational muscle into forging partnerships with leading tech companies that share our objective. And we supported dozens of workforce development programs that connect people with the skills to land and flourish in tech industries that have a critical need for trained employees.
In 2018, LISC embarked on one of its most important tech partnerships to date: a collaboration with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the San Francisco Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, among others, to launch the Partnership for the Bay’s Future. LISC will manage the Partnership’s Investment Fund—a $500 million initiative to preserve or produce 8,000 units of housing in the Bay Area over the next five to ten years, tackling the region’s acute affordable housing shortage. The Partnership also includes a Policy Fund designed to help jurisdictions share ideas and develop cohesive policies, managed by the San Francisco Foundation. Overall, the Partnership’s approach is centered in “the three P’s”: protecting current residents so they can remain in their homes, preserving affordable housing, and producing more housing across all income levels.
And we’re off to a blazing start; Officially inaugurated earlier this year, the Investment Fund has already raised more than $250 million, making it among the largest funds of its kind in the nation, and signed off on its first transaction—a revolving line of credit to the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, which works with diverse communities in the East Bay to build healthy, vibrant, and safe neighborhoods.
We have also intensified our work with the Catalyst Housing Fund established by Facebook and other organizations in 2016, which we co-manage with Housing Trust Silicon Valley. The fund was endowed with an initial investment of $18.5 million to pursue innovative and scalable ways to increase the construction and protection of affordable housing. Last year, the Fund closed a $4 million loan to St. Francis Center of Redwood City, a faith-based service provider, to support its recent purchase of a 48-unit apartment building in Redwood City that had been purchased in 2016 by a developer who raised rents and displaced the buildings’ long-term low-income residents. St. Francis Center purchased the building last year in order to return the units to those residents in need of affordable housing.
In addition to these large-scale collaborations, our Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) and our Bridges to Career Opportunity program, with a vital $10 million grant from Citi Foundation, are connecting clients with jobs in tech-related enterprises across the country. And they run the gamut. In Boston, for instance, our FOC at Jewish Vocational Services offers a biotechnology STEM pathway, equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed to enroll in biotech and manufacturing certificate programs at Quincy College, which will prepare them for entry-level positions in the high-demand industries.
In Los Angeles, the Youth Policy Institute has developed the Prep for Tech Bridge program, which readies students for careers in networking/IT and software and Web development. And in Pittsburgh, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania is gearing up to link clients to the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, an 8- to 12-month course for aspiring IT professionals. The program includes services for people with barriers to employment, from veterans to those with mental illness or other disabilities to older workers skilling up for new jobs.
And in Detroit, our community partner Focus: HOPE is adding contextualized robotics programming to its existing FOC and Bridges offerings. This program will introduce participants to careers in automation, manufacturing, and IT.
For much of the country, renewable energy—especially solar power—is a critical and growing tech field, with great potential benefits for use in affordable housing and keeping down costs for owners and residents alike.
In San Diego, the FOC at the IRC (International Rescue Committee) has developed a new Bridges program focused on the installation of solar panels—a burgeoning industry in San Diego, where nearly 40% of relevant employers say positions installing and repairing the panels, which pay a strong $17 median wage, are the hardest jobs to fill. To meet this demand, the IRC will partner with GRID Alternatives to provide a comprehensive 300-hour training for its clients, who include refugees, immigrants, and other low-income community members.
Also on the renewable energy front, we have joined forces with inverSOL, a startup making solar-powered generators in Puerto Rico, to combat power loss following natural disasters. Puerto Rico’s rural communities were particularly hard hit by power outages in the months following Hurricane Maria, and many residents still depend on gasoline-fueled generators—which are invariably expensive, dangerous, and not intended for long-term use.
inverSOL has developed an affordable, portable solar generator that can enable households without power to run refrigerators, fans, and laptops. The generators are made in Caguas, Puerto Rico, creating approximately 40 local jobs. Together with our community partner PathStone, we have provided $500,000 in loan capital to inverSOL, with Rural LISC contributing $250,000.