In America today, a child’s ZIP code is one of the most powerful predictors of her future life — her health, her education and her longevity. At the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), we believe that all people — no matter where they live — should have the opportunity to be healthy and achieve their full potential. Yet income inequality is higher than at any time since the Great Depression and greater than in any other country in the industrialized world.
Thirty-five years ago, LIIF established its North Star: poverty alleviation through access to housing. Since then, we’ve broadened our efforts, guided by evidence that locally driven, holistic community development works best to move the needle on poverty. We have deployed $2.5 billion in 29 states to projects increasing opportunity for more than 2 million people.
Today, we are in the midst of another wave of thinking — one that is taking a more serious look at how an equity lens must be applied to our work. Our country is built on systems that created unequal access to capital. It’s our responsibility as a community development financial institution (CDFI), born of the Civil Rights movement, to examine these systemic injustices and ensure our investments further access to opportunities for the people who have been left behind.
Social Justice and Equity
This year, LIIF established an employee-driven working group to help us bring a sharpened focus to our social justice efforts and develop a racial equity action plan. We are in the midst of asking ourselves the hard questions about how our work and our organization must evolve to more fully embrace an equity agenda.
We continue to be inspired by the Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) which has advanced the work of six U.S. regions to shape capital deployment through locally driven approaches. Recent SPARCC efforts ranged from funding soccer fields at transit sites in Atlanta to influencing inclusive policy in Chicago and advocating for renter’s rights in Denver. SPARCC’s three lenses — racial equity, climate resilience and health — continue to inform our investment practice.
LIIF also sees our early care and education (ECE) work as core to our efforts to address inequality. We know that providing access to quality education from birth to five is one of the best investments in a person’s life, a family’s household financial success and our nation’s future prosperity. In the past year, we appointed a national director to lead this work and grew our programmatic efforts to better serve these mostly women-and minority-owned ECE small businesses.
Financial Strength & Leadership
Innovative capitalization strategies and a strong financial position enable us to unlock even more impact to communities. This year marked the successful launch of our first public debt offering, a $100 million Sustainability Bond issuance, which was 10 times oversubscribed. For the first time, we were rated by S&P, receiving an A- investment grade rating. Our net assets continued to grow and, once again, we received the highest possible rating for impact and financial strength from Aeris™, a third-party rating organization for CDFIs.
Meanwhile, LIIF has seen some of its most significant leadership transitions over the last year and half. After more than a decade at LIIF, Kimberly Latimer-Nelligan was promoted to the role of President, where she will implement LIIF’s strategy, grow the business and continue to oversee lending and programs. We also welcomed a new Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer and Board members. Carol Redmond Naughton, the President of Purpose Built Communities and longtime Board member, is our new Board Chair.
The Road Ahead
Despite great changes, we have continued to provide flexible, impactful capital and advance new initiatives. This speaks both to the strength of LIIF’s business and our bright and dedicated staff.
2019 marked a year of substantial investment in planning for LIIF’s future. Through a new strategic planning process, we have been interrogating our impact thesis to better understand how our work holds up to advancing justice.
We’re excited to work alongside our partners in the public sector, philanthropy, development and finance to invest in equitable community development along the way. While the task at hand is great, we are bolstered by our peers, funders and a bright North Star.
Daniel A. Nissenbaum
Board Chair, FY19
Carol Redmond Naughton
Board Chair, FY20
Read more stories of community impact in our 2019 Impact Report.