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News / Clark County News

Community Foundation launches loan program to help nonprofits build affordable housing

Money will help with pre-development costs to ease housing crisis

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 13, 2024, 4:41pm
4 Photos
The Pacific apartment building was completed with help from a loan from the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, who recently held their annual luncheon. Community Foundation President Matt Morton said he hopes the organization can build more accessible housing for underserved communities through its new initiative.
The Pacific apartment building was completed with help from a loan from the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, who recently held their annual luncheon. Community Foundation President Matt Morton said he hopes the organization can build more accessible housing for underserved communities through its new initiative. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

After 40 years of serving the region through local giving, the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington will invest in the community in a new way starting this fall.

The nonprofit’s president, Matt Morton, announced the launch of the Southwest Washington Impact Investment Fund for Transformation at its 40th anniversary celebration last week at ilani.

The SWIIFT initiative is an investment plan that will offer low-interest loans to local nonprofits for large-scale projects. The loans are targeted to help organizations overcome pre-development costs for building affordable housing and fund programs that serve vulnerable communities.

“In our region, one of our biggest gaps is, in fact, access to capital. So being able to fill that gap with philanthropic dollars made sense for us,” Morton said in an interview. “Part of that is activating our nonprofit sector in a way that’s going to meaningfully address things like our housing crisis in Southwest Washington so they can respond to some of those urgent needs that are continuing to grow and grow.”

Loan applications will be available to nonprofits and housing providers in Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties starting in October, spokesman Maury Harris said.

The loan criteria is still being developed, but various committees will guide that process before the official launch, Morton said. Loan amounts will range from $250,000 to $500,000, and the number of loans given out will vary based on applications.

The Community Foundation has already contributed $1.5 million of its discretionary funds toward the new initiative. Now, the organization’s goal is to increase the fund to $5 million through investments and donations from the community.

Building partnerships

The Community Foundation has been building partnerships with local organizations from the beginning. Morton said he hopes the organization can continue fostering those partnerships and build more accessible housing for underserved communities through SWIIFT, as it has done in the past.

In 2020, the Community Foundation partnered with nonprofit Housing Initiative — a subsidiary of Council for the Homeless — to build two affordable housing communities in Vancouver with funds through an existing loan program. The Pacific, 3209 N.E. 78th Ave., and The Meridian, 3200 N.E. 78th Ave., both in central Vancouver, are designated as permanent, supportive housing for people with barriers to renting.

“The loans to Housing Initiative originated from the Homes for Community Living Fund. This sits within what we call our strategic funds, which are charitable dollars that the Community Foundation has discretion over,” Harris said. “One of the funds’ goals is to support affordable housing development, which is why we utilized it to provide these early loans.”

The process for SWIIFT begins with investment. Donors have the option to allocate $25,000 or more from a new or existing charitable fund into the SWIIFT initiative over a five-year period.

Donors can also make a gift of any amount to the initiative with cash and non-cash assets. The money from these investments will go to low-interest loans for nonprofit organizations and housing providers in the region.

From there, the nonprofits can facilitate more services and programs that benefit the community. As loans are repaid over time, that money will be recycled into new loans to continue serving the community.

“These loans will fast-track housing developments and give community organizations the cash flow needed to scale proven programs, both of which allow our region to nimbly address critical issues,” Morton said in a news release. “SWIIFT is more than just a financial tool — it’s a catalyst for social and economic justice.”

Morton, who is from the Squaxin Island Tribe of Puget Sound, ended the anniversary celebration with a story about the Round Dance, a tradition practiced at powwows. He said the dance intentionally builds community, just like the tradition of philanthropy.

“Philanthropy can play a really important and critical role at an early point in projects, and that is exactly what SWIIFT is designed to do,” Morton said.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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