Cincinnati Development Fund earns $1.5M federal grant

The Cincinnati Development Fund has been a financial resource for affordable housing development in the city's neighborhoods for 23 years. And that long track record of helping spur development -- and redevelopment -- in some of Cincinnati's underserved areas recently earned the CDF a $1.5 million federal grant to support its mission.

The grant comes from the U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI). The CDFI awarded $142,302,667 to 155 community development financial institutions -- like CDF -- nationwide. CDF received $750,000 from the fund in 2010, making this year's award a very pleasant surprise, says CDF president and CEO Jeanne Golliher.

"We were really expecting something along the lines of what we got last year," she says.

The $1.5 million sum is the maximum any single organization could receive from the CDFI. Golliher credits CDF's long-standing role in the community as reason for the high award.

"We're really in touch," she says. "We know where the needs are."

A main focus of CDF's efforts, she explains, are smaller developers -- sometimes individual homeowners, sometimes development companies focusing on one or two buildings -- who wish to revitalize property in parts of the city suffering from high foreclosure and vacancy rates. The smaller developers fit a niche that complements larger development organizations, such as the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), which is in the midst of redeveloping a large portion of Over-the-Rhine. Golliher refers to many of CDF's borrowers as "urban pioneers:" people willing to be early redevelopers in areas that have yet to see widespread revitalization.

"We've had so much activity with our small loan program," she says. "There are a lot of cases where people want to buy and fix up a building on their own, and they come to us."

Golliher says her team is in the process of planning how to best use the grant funds. Some of it may be used as matching funds for $3.3 million in low-interest funding CDF has requested from the U.S. Treasury to help fund small business development in the city.  She plans to present a proposal for how the funds will be used at CDF's August board meeting. In the meantime, she says she and her team are thrilled by this recent show of federal support.

"I think it speaks to our track record," she says.

By Matt Cunningham

Follow Matt on Twitter @cunningcontent

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