Opening remarks from Cheila Fernandez, Chief Operating Officer at Reinvestment Fund, at the Growing Diverse Housing Developers Convening in Atlanta, Georgia
“First of all, I want to say how excited I am to be with you today. I’ve been tracking this project since inception, and definitely did my research for today and I just want to say…y’all are dope! You know, as someone who comes from the communities that I now have the privilege of serving, I know wholeheartedly that poverty requires a beautiful alternative. People need and deserve a thriving community – with access to healthy food, safe places to work and play, and beautiful celebrations of our cultures through art and community activities. And as I learned more about you, it was clear to me that you understand and have working hard to create those solutions. It is why I’m so glad to see each of you today [see your faces today] – you get it – and are a testament to a rising wave of progress. And we are here for it!
At Reinvestment Fund, are committed to building opportunity, wealth, and power in communities of color, and we know that in order to do this, our efforts MUST be community-aligned. Investing in developers of color is a key way to ensure that. In 2022, 46% of our loans and 45% of total dollars went to Black or brown-owned/controlled borrowers. Since 2017, we have invested $61M with black and brown housing developers. We know that the business of investing in our communities is not just ‘nice to do’, it’s smart business, and we stand proud in the gap between the needs of our developers of color and the banking systems that have historically turned its back on our communities.
In our joint effort here as a CDFI with our peer institutions, our goal at Reinvestment Fund has been to provide not only access to flexible capital, but also to our relationships built over the last 35 years of experience in this industry to all of you members of the program. Since program inception, we have originated nearly $19 million of loans to cohort members, with additional projects in the pipeline that will see us work with most, if not all of our GDHD members by year end. In each case, we have been intentional about crafting a thoughtful, flexible structure that enables the project to work, meets GDHD priorities, and maintains credit integrity. For example, since we don’t have an equity product yet, for one transaction, we brokered the introduction to flexible, mission aligned equity partners to support the transaction with meaningful, non-dilutive equity.
We are also inviting cohort members to meetings, convenings, and conferences that helps build their network and provide exposure to their business. Members are planning to attend upcoming conferences like ImpactPHL, an annual convening of funders and impact investors, and will also be able to participate in future panel discussions at influential regional forums like the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum.
So again, I’m so happy to be here with you all and I’m looking forward to meeting you all in person. I hope that in the next two days that we continue to build on the thoughtful, holistic, sustainable approach that you all bring to community development to grow these solutions and create a better, bigger standard for moving our communities from surviving to thriving. Thank you.”