What do LISC, Enterprise, NFF and CSH Have in Common with the Dodo? Nothing. (Part IV of VI)

The Dodo hangs with Alice in Wonderland. LISC, Enterprise, CSH and NFF are not building affordable housing there.

Dear reader, as part of a special report for Shelterforce I sat down with the heads of four of the largest community development intermediaries in the country and asked a simple question:  Are you still relevant?

This six part series looks at the evolution of their role in the community development sector and their strategies for the future.

To binge-read the full reportclick here.

Click on the following links to read Part IPart II or Part III.


Part IV – The Capital Behind the Capital

“You can’t preserve the social safety net with just one kind of capital,” says Antony Bugg-Levine. Intellectual capital, political capital, social capital—it’s no surprise these are all playing a growing role in the lives of both intermediaries and CDCs. But these days it’s not just about kicking out new ideas and products. Increasingly intermediaries are in the business of building new “open source” networks designed to increase access to a wealth of best practices tucked away in corners of the sector.

Green building – just one of the areas where intermediaries are developing consulting expertise.

For instance, each of the four intermediaries has developed a consulting capacity constructed upon existing internal expertise. Green building, health care facilities, arts and economic development, HUD contract management, board development, financial operations—active engagements exist in all these categories. And this work is not limited to CDCs either, as clients now include public agencies, foundations, even corporate partners.

What’s more, while some of the consulting consists of fairly bread-and-butter, one-off engagements, more and more of it is about addressing the needs of a whole sub-sector or cohort. Refining the process can save a substantial amount of cash, heartache, and brain drain. Can loan application procedures be streamlined so that processing them is more efficient? You betcha. Can certain entities or uses be pre-approved, requiring only a cursory credit review to proceed with closing? Even better. Can we train all the service providers in your community to access the tools and utilize the new process? Absolutely.

Policy incentives are built first, then program follows.

This evolution inverts the traditional orthodoxy of building policy around programs. More and more, we’re seeing programs built around policy. For instance, when Enterprise launched its Enterprise Green Communities criteria in 2004, it immediately set to work making those standards public, and having them adopted in state LIHTC award procedures. “We created the carrots that drew resources to the initiative,” Terri Ludwig says. This allowed Enterprise to deploy other green building loan products and, in the process, learn heaps more about evolving market needs and design consulting activities it hopes will be revenue generating.

Stay tuned – your Man About Town is publishing all six parts of this series over the week.  

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Next up: Part V – Staying the Same = Change