January 12, 2001
Chicago Community Loan Fund Meeting Human Needs
Loans for affordable housing, social service and other projects benefit low- and middle-income
In 1995, a Chicago community development organization was having difficulty in obtaining financing
for a senior rental housing project. The Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF) stepped in when no one
else would, making a $94,000 predevelopment loan. Four years and 11 layers of financing later, a
grand opening was held for 42 affordable rental units for homeless and low-income seniors and
families. Heading into its tenth year of operation, CCLF continues to make a real impact.
"CCLF often provides the
hardest-to-find capital: predevelopment and gap financing," explains Calvin Holmes, CCLF's
Executive Director. "These loans often make the critical difference in getting a project off the
ground," he added.
CCLF's mission is to support to non-profit development organizations
engaged in affordable housing, social service and economic development projects. This support is
given in the form of flexible, low-cost financing as well as through technical assistance. CCLF is
one of a few community development financial institutions in the Chicago area that focus on the
credit needs of non-profit development organizations
Since its establishment in 1991, CCLF
has lent over $6.3 million dollars in 59 different loans. Even more impressive, CCLF loans have
leveraged a whopping $69.4 million in additional capital for projects.
To be eligible for
a CCLF loan, a prospective borrower must prove that the project to be financed benefits community
residents. In addition to affordable housing and social service projects, CCLF loans have been
used in job training, supportive housing, legal aid, environmental advocacy and business incubation
Rather than simply making a loan and hoping for the best, CCLF has developed
what it calls "high-touch" lending, which integrates technical assistance into the application
process and throughout the life of the loan, if needed. This comprehensive support has contributed
to realizing zero loan losses to date.
High-touch lending also contributes to CCLF's
ability to support emerging community development organizations. In 2000 alone, CCLF helped four
small, untried community-based corporations initiate their first neighborhood development real
CCLF's reputation for effectiveness is making its way beyond Chicago.
Last year CCLF was awarded a $1.15 million investment from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's
Community Development Financial Institution Fund. Of the 160 organizations nationwide that applied
for the funding, CCLF was one of 75 to receive federal money. CCLF has matched the funds as
required with contributions from other sources, garnering a total of $2.3 million in additional
The Executive Director attributes CCLF's success to a number of factors,
including its diverse constituency of investors, its highly qualified staff, directors and
committee members, and its responsiveness to the market place. Perhaps none of these is as
important, however, as its commitment to its mission.
"We are not afraid to take on great
risk when a project will facilitate rejuvenation of a distressed community," Holmes firmly
declared. "We are very comfortable working in economically marginal communities and proud of our
ability to do so."
Of the different categories of social investing, community investing is
probably the least glamorous. But its impact is undeniable in neighborhoods where the projects are
being implemented. CCLF has facilitated the creation of over 751 housing units as well as the
creation or retention of 56 jobs. Social investors looking for new investment options might well
consider funds such as CCLF.
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