As we close out 2021, another year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we take time to reflect on the impact of “staying home”, and how it relates to our work in affordable housing. We know that lower income households have been disproportionately impacted by the lack of a stable place to call home during this pandemic. This has caused ripples through our economy, as well as our healthcare and education systems, as individuals and families struggle to stay healthy and navigate the hurdles of this uncertain time. Our work as affordable housing and economic development advocates has never been more important than it is today.
In 2021, the Advisory Council continued to engage in quarterly Deep Dive Discussions on topics of critical importance, all of which supported the Bank’s broader goal of “Community-Building.” These timely topics covered economic development as well as housing challenges seen throughout our district, including:
- Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Small Businesses: Chicago Community Loan Fund, a member of FHLBank Chicago and a Community First® Fund Partner, led a discussion highlighting the need for capital for small businesses, especially in communities that have been traditionally underbanked or limited in their access to capital. The conversation underscored the critical role of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in pandemic relief and recovery activities.
- Systemic challenges to Minority Homeownership and Wealth Creation: A panel of experts led a group discussion around closing the racial appraisal gap, and supporting financial literacy and homeownership counseling for underserved communities. This discussion ultimately informed the creation of a new FHLBank Chicago voluntary program to support homeownership education and counseling for underserved homebuyers.
- Community-Building: Beyond Affordable Housing: Cedric Thurman, FHLBank Chicago’s Chief Diversity Officer, facilitated discussion around the idea that our affordable housing and community development work supports our broader commitment to community-building. Members of the group discussed the impact on communities of population decline, lack of access to grocery stores, and lack of broadband connectivity. Highlighted was the critical need for partnerships across industries to successfully navigate these issues and strengthen communities.
- Native American Housing and Economic Barriers and Opportunities: A panel, including FHLBank Chicago member Bay Bank, discussed the critical need for affordable housing and economic development among Native American communities across Wisconsin and Illinois, including those located on tribal lands as well as in other rural or urban areas.
In 2022, the Advisory Council will continue its quarterly Deep Dive Discussions on these and other topics of critical importance in our district. Our goal will be to continue supporting the Bank’s commitment to community-building.
Jackie L. Newman, Chair
David Porterfield, Vice Chair