Lift to Rise, the Low Income Investment Fund, RCAC, Wells Fargo and County of Riverside Housing, Homelessness Prevention and Workforce Solutions partner to support community-driven housing financing model
PALM DESERT, Calif. (Aug. 26, 2021) — Today, We Lift: the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund announced the first trio of projects to receive funding from an innovative community development partnership that brings together local and national actors to stimulate the production of critically needed affordable housing in the region.
We Lift: the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst is a revolving loan fund that was born out of a multi-year effort by more than 50 regional partners through the Housing Collaborative Action Network. The fund will leverage existing public housing resources to attract additional investment capital to propel shovel-ready projects that will create 10,000 additional affordable rental homes in the Coachella Valley by 2028.
While development planning is traditionally driven by a few powerful partners, We Lift: the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund is guided by a Community Advisory Council of regional experts that evaluate a portfolio of affordable housing developments proposed for the region, and determine whether they meet current community needs.
The fund’s pipeline, identified and prioritized by local community partners rather than developers and investors, presents an equitable and scalable model for how to approach community investment that is replicable in other cities.
Principal partners in the fund include Lift to Rise, Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), and Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), with additional support from the County of Riverside Housing, Homelessness Prevention and Workforce Solutions. Together, these partners will pool their resources and work to attract additional investment in the community-driven loan fund.
“The Housing Collaborative Action Network (CAN) worked since 2018 to build a sustainable, community-driven investment vehicle,” Housing CAN Co-Chair Karen Suarez said. “We are proud to be part of a solution to radically increase the supply of affordable housing in the Coachella Valley, a step that would greatly improve the livelihoods of the 20% of households in the Valley that live below the federal poverty line.”
Wells Fargo was the first financial institution to support the We Lift Fund with a $300,000 seed investment, and an additional $60,000 to support core work. “Housing affordability is at crisis levels nationwide. That’s why it’s important that we all come together to provide housing solutions for the Inland Empire community,” said Natasha Mata, Wells Fargo Region Bank President. “With the We Lift Fund, Inland Empire residents will have access to the housing stock and resources that were once unavailable or simply too expensive. We’re committed to ensuring the communities we serve have safe, sustainable and affordable places to live.”
The first three projects to receive capital from the fund with support from Lift to Rise and LIIF are being developed by Coachella Valley Housing Coalition:
- Las Casas Apartments (Coachella, Calif.): A farmworker housing development that will rehabilitate two existing developments encompassing 128 units of affordable housing for households earning 30% to 60% area median income. Amenities include: Community room, tot lots, and a childcare center.
- Vista Sunrise II (Palm Springs, Calif.): A new construction permanent supportive housing development for people with special needs, including those with chronic illness and those who are currently or at-risk of becoming homeless. The development includes 61 units of affordable housing for households earning 30% to 60% area median income. Amenities include: Community room, courtyard and dog park.
- Oasis Villas Community (Thermal, Calif.): A 25-acre, new construction mixed-use project for farmworkers and their families. This will include 160 units of affordable housing for households earning between 30% and 50% of the area median income, a health clinic, and community-serving retail spaces. Amenities include: Community room, pool, tot lots, a soccer field and a basketball court.
“We are able to move these projects forward because financing from the fund features agreeable rates, flexible terms and community input, said Pedro S.G. Rodriguez, interim executive director of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition. “These kinds of loans allow CVHC and other developers to expedite the process to develop as many units of affordable housing as is possible, as we know that the longer it takes to secure the needed financing, the more it drives up costs.”
We Lift: the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund aims to make affordable housing a reality in the region. While the Coachella Valley is a booming destination for tourists and second homeowners, the cost of housing is out of reach for a majority of full-time residents. Median home prices are well over half a million dollars. Recent rent data from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition show that county residents would need to earn more than twice the state minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment at an average of about $1,390 a month. An area that has a plurality of Latino/a residents, people of color in the Coachella Valley are disproportionately affected by rent burden, often earning low wages while working in the Valley’s multi-billion dollar tourism and agriculture economies.
“We Lift: the Coachella Valley Housing Catalyst Fund is introducing a new approach to affordable housing development. This pipeline approach identifies a solution to the historic lack of capital in the region by creating a fund where local developers can access flexible, low-cost capital to get projects developed,” said CEO Heather Vaikona. “We are excited to see so many national and state leaders in the space coming together to support a locally-driven, cooperative model for increasing housing security in the Valley and addressing systemic inequalities in how affordable housing projects are funded.”
“LIIF is proud to be the fund manager and a partner in We Lift: the Coachella Valley Housing Catalyst Fund,” said Kimberly Latimer-Nelligan, President of LIIF. “This work fits squarely with LIIF’s mission of creating communities of opportunity, equity and well-being and our approach to addressing racial equity. We applaud Lift to Rise and the more than 50 organizations who are working on the ground every day to engage the community to provide safe, quality, affordable housing for all of the Coachella Valley’s residents. As our nation works to address and recover from the health and economic fallout of the pandemic, this work is more important than ever, particularly for communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by these issues, such as the Latino population in the valley.”
“RCAC is honored to collaborate with Lift To Rise and other partners on We Lift. Access to affordable capital is critical for increasing affordable housing availability in the Coachella Valley, particularly in rural places,” said Suzanne Anarde, the CEO of RCAC. “We applaud Lift To Rise’s leadership in creating this Fund to provide that affordable capital.”
Jacob Hay at (310) 855-2640 or firstname.lastname@example.org