Sunday, October 15, 2000

New money for needy on way

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT A new financial tool to aid Northern Kentucky river cities in core area residential and commercial development and housing assistance for low- income residents will be available early next year thanks to Southbank Partners.

        Working through a South bank Partners subsidiary known as The Southbank Fund Inc., the cities will have between $3 million and $5 million in loan money available for a variety of development needs to revitalize housing in the core areas.

        Wally Pagan, president of Southbank Partners — a con sortium of business and government leaders working to increase development in the river cities — said the funds to provide the loans can come from banks or corporations, but most likely from banks.

        “We are not a for-profit bank,” Mr. Pagan said, ex plaining that the Southbank Fund Inc. will operate as a federally certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). “The banks will make deposits in certificates of deposit, at a lower than market rate. We can then lend the money to the cities at a lower rate.”

        He said that although the participating banks may not realize the same return they would on a normal loan, working through a CDFI provides them with federal community reinvestment credits, showing they are making loans in targeted low-income census tracts as required by federal regulations.

        Bob Brewster, executive director of Brighton Center, the area's largest organization providing assistance to low-income residents, said the CDFI program will be a tremendous asset to cities such as Newport, Bellevue, Dayton and Ludlow.

        “We look to CDFI to help families or individuals who can't get a conventional loan,” Mr. Brewster said. “These are people we work with all the time, people who perhaps have a bankruptcy on their record because of a medical emergency. In most cases they couldn't get a bank loan, but they can obtain a loan through the CDFI.”

        He said some of the CDFI money will go to build affordable housing in the river cities, but it could also help someone set up an economic development loan through the CDFI for a new or rebuilding business.

        “Cities could also use CDFI funds to buy property for a developer to build low-income housing, or to create jobs for low-income people,” he said. “This is a great tool we have in place to help low-income families.

        “What we did in our applications was have our consultants interview staffs in the cities, as well as a few focus groups of residents and members of the banking community,” Mr. Pagan said. “We know the product is needed in the river cities.”

        Although about 60 percent of the money will be earmarked for low-income loans, funds also will be available for other types of loans.

        Southbank recently received a $48,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Treasury CDFI fund, enabling the Southbank Fund to develop guidelines for lending, train staff, provide consulting and buy computer hardware and software.

        “We'll probably hire a part-time manager, and if things progress as we anticipate, we'll have a full-time manager to run the lending operation,” Mr. Pagan said.

        Newport City Manager Phil Ciafardini said there is “no question this will open up some funding sources we would otherwise not have available to us.”

        “Cities like Newport, Bellevue and Dayton, which are not federal entitlement cities, will now have additional funds to help businesses and residential development. And Covington, which is an entitlement city, can augment a number of programs they already have in place.”

        Cities with more than 50,000 population receive federal entitlement funds through Community Development Block Grants and home funds. Although Covington officially is no longer listed at more than 50,000 population, it was grandfathered in as an entitlement city because it previously met that figure.

        Mr. Brewster, who is a member of the Southbank board, said Brighton Center assisted Southbank officials in writing the CDFI applications and will use its resources and experience to train low-income people in homeownership before they apply for CDFI loans.


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