The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago (FHLBank Chicago) today announced three program offerings designed to address critical affordable housing and community economic development needs in Illinois and Wisconsin. Two new programs target affordable housing development and access, while an enhanced capacity building program will bring needed support to small businesses.
“Our 2022 Targeted Community Lending Plan identified opportunities for additional investment in the diverse communities we serve throughout Illinois and Wisconsin,” said Katie Naftzger, Vice President, Community Investment Officer, FHLBank Chicago. “To improve outcomes and expand access to opportunities for new housing developers, homebuyers, and small businesses, we are bringing new resources to the table. Our three new programs will create lasting impact for individuals and communities and increase scale in the marketplace, from which all FHLBank Chicago member financial institutions will benefit, as well.”
The Community First® Diverse Developer Initiative and the Community First® Housing Counseling Resource Program offer grants and support to bring diverse and underserved developers and homebuyers into the housing market. FHLBank Chicago will also shift its existing Community First® Capacity-Building Grant Program to focus on small businesses in 2022, with the rollout of the new Community First® Accelerate Grants for Small Business. This program will provide flexible grant funds to strengthen small businesses located in Illinois and Wisconsin.
In total, FHLBank Chicago has committed $11.25 million to support these programs for three years (2022-2024). These programs reflect an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and will deliver lasting impact for individual beneficiaries, members, and their communities. Since 1989, FHLBank Chicago has awarded more than $790 million in grants and funds to help provide housing for low- and moderate-income eligible households and to support small businesses. These new programs will broaden that support.
“We continue to innovate and create new programs to address the needs of our members’ communities across Illinois and Wisconsin,” said Michael Ericson, President and CEO of FHLBank Chicago. “These new voluntary programs build on the success of our Affordable Housing Program General Fund, Downpayment Plus®, the Community First® Fund, the Community First® Capacity-Building Grant Program and the Community First® Disaster Relief Program. This is just one more way the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago fulfills its mission to support our members’ community investment activities.”
Community First® Diverse Developer Initiative
The Community First® Diverse Developer Initiative (Diverse Developer Initiative) will provide grant funds to support career/talent development initiatives for diverse developers of affordable housing in Illinois and Wisconsin. This program grew out of discussions with FHLBank Chicago’s Community Investment Advisory Council, a group of industry leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin that informs FHLBank Chicago’s affordable housing and community lending strategy. The Advisory Council’s Racial Equity Working Group identified a critical need for resources to advance diversity and equity within the affordable housing development industry.
“It is inspiring to see the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago not only leading initiatives to support equity and inclusion, but doing so in a creative and intentional manner that is tied to tangible, objective goals and outcomes,” said Kevin Newell, founder and CEO of Royal Capital. “I’m confident that this Diverse Developer Initiative will serve as a playbook for future efforts to increase minority representation in housing development and improve the landscape and trajectory of our communities.”
Eligible beneficiary organizations include, but are not limited to: Diverse development firms seeking to expand expertise; Talent development programs dedicated to increasing diversity within the affordable housing industry; Trade/professional associations that support diverse developers; and Established development firms seeking to offer internship opportunities to diverse developers. Grant funds may be used to support diverse developers in one of three tracks: Internships, Training, or Mission-Driven Investments. The competitive application round for the Diverse Developer Initiative will open Monday, April 4, and close on Friday, May 13.
Community First® Housing Counseling Resource Program
The Community First® Housing Counseling Resource Program (Housing Counseling Resource Program) will provide grants to housing counseling agencies in Illinois and Wisconsin to facilitate expanded service to minority and low- and moderate-income homebuyers. Two FHLBank Chicago housing associates, Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), will administer the Housing Counseling Resource Program on behalf of FHLBank Chicago.
Eligible beneficiary organizations include HUD-approved housing counseling organizations in Illinois and Wisconsin. The organizations can use grant funds for capacity-building activities that expand organizational reach to minority and low- and moderate-income homebuyers, including but not limited to: Marketing and outreach activities; Program staffing (e.g., hiring an additional housing counselor or a bilingual staff person, allocating a percentage of staff time to working in underserved communities, etc.); and Technology upgrades that facilitate expanded service to these underserved populations.
“IHDA is committed to removing barriers and making housing safe, affordable, and stable for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, or income,” said IHDA Executive Director Kristin Faust. “The Housing Counseling Resource Program will provide vital education and resources to assist households that continually think homeownership is out of reach. IHDA is proud to partner with FHLBank Chicago to make the dream of homeownership a reality in communities throughout the state.”
Community First® Accelerate Grants for Small Business
FHLBank Chicago will also roll out the Community First® Accelerate Grants for Small Business (Accelerate Grants) in 2022, as a pivot from its previous Community First® Capacity-Building Grant Program focused on nonprofit community lenders. Accelerate Grants will provide flexible grant funds to strengthen small businesses located in Illinois and Wisconsin. The application round will open on Monday, August 1 and close on Friday, September 9.