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NWCUF Awards $295,000 in Latest Round of Workforce Housing Grants to Credit Unions
Credit unions throughout the region continue to focus on workforce housing hurdles within their communities, creating products, services, and partnerships that are directly tackling the problem.
To further propel this work, the Northwest Credit Union Foundation has awarded several credit unions with workforce housing project and planning grants in the latest round of funding. It’s the third time the Foundation has distributed grants to Northwest credit unions since launching the initiative in 2018, awarding a total of $685,000 to credit unions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, and directly impacting more than 400 households.
The Foundation awarded $265,000 in project grants this past month to Sound Credit Union, Peninsula Community Federal Credit Union, and to support the Open Doors Loan program, a collaborative effort between Blue Mountain, Connection, Lighthouse, Mint Valley, Olympia, and White River credit unions.
Sound will offer a first-time home buyer down payment assistance program to those who are struggling in a housing market where prices are on the rise, matching the Foundation’s grant dollars – dollar for dollar – doubling its potential impact. The grant will be available for residents across Washington, covering part of their down payment costs, and providing home ownership education as a benefit of the program.
“We were looking for ways to help our lower-income borrowers purchase their first home. We find that often times saving for a down payment and/or closing costs can be a challenge for these borrowers,” said Anna Albertin, VP of Mortgage Lending at Sound. “We believe that if they have had a successful housing payment history they should be given the opportunity to build equity and ownership. We have great relationships with our members, and we pride ourselves in listening to what is most important to them so that we may focus on programs like this to positively impact their lives.”
The collaborative Open Doors security deposit loan program will focus on communities across Washington state, assisting renters with rising rental costs. The project is a cooperative effort between six credit unions, which are replicating a similar program already launched in Portland, where NWCUF is partnering with three credit unions to assist renters, offering a low-rate loan, allowing borrowers to spread out the cost of the security deposit over a period of their lease. As rents have increased significantly throughout Washington state, collaborating with other credit unions to tackle barriers to workforce housing just made sense, said Scott Prior, President and CEO of Connection Credit Union.
“For our credit unions, we see impacts of the rising costs of housing in our communities on a daily basis,” Prior said. “Each of our credit unions have been a part of our communities for 50-, 60-plus years, and as a small credit union, it represented a unique opportunity for us to help in ways we haven’t been able to in the past. These will be low-dollar, labor-intensive loans with a unique opportunity to build a relationship with these members.”
In the city of Shelton and throughout Mason County, Washington, Peninsula Community Federal Credit Union plans to address the rising cost of housing, where the median home value has increased 88% in 20 years. Peninsula will use its grant to develop and deploy the Mason Workforce Homeownership Assistance Program. Funds will provide qualifying homebuyers with a grant of up to 3% of the home’s purchase price, to go toward down payments and closing costs. In the fall of 2018, Peninsula was awarded an NWCUF workforce housing planning grant, which helped the credit union create community partnerships and the Mason County Workforce Housing Collaborative, laying the foundation for the credit union’s down payment assistance grant program.
“The first NWCUF planning grant we received brought together over 100 community stakeholders by kick-starting a Mason County-wide discussion about workforce affordable housing,” said President and CEO, Jim Morrell. “For Peninsula Credit Union, it provided us an opportunity to listen to the community and determine ways we can facilitate and help address these challenges.”
In addition to the project grants, the Foundation awarded Global Credit Union and Canopy Credit Union with planning grants, where the credit unions will organize community assessments and research housing solutions relevant for eastern Washington communities. The 99201 zip code, where both credit unions have branches, is the most economically disadvantaged area in Washington state, where the median income is $26,685 versus the surrounding area, where the median income is much higher at $44,139.
“We are committed to helping our members and community with their housing needs, and we realized we may not have the answer to what those needs are!” said Charlotte Nemec, President and CEO of Canopy Credit Union. “It will take our entire community and our local city leaders to develop lasting solutions. There is high demand and not enough affordable housing. Basic economics are getting in the way.”
NWCUF is dedicated to partnering with credit unions and community groups, convening experts, thought leaders, and philanthropic organizations to address workforce housing hurdles throughout the Northwest.
“Credit unions are leading the charge, launching creative solutions that are getting people into homes that meet their needs,” said NWCUF Executive Director, Sharee Adkins. “Not only are we fortunate to have such dedicated partners in carrying out this work, we are truly fortunate that our Northwest credit unions believe in NWCUF and provide philanthropic support. Mission-aligned investments, including special above-and-beyond contributions from BECU and Salal Credit Unions, made it possible for NWCUF to award these grants for incredible credit union-led projects supporting housing access across Washington State.”
To learn more about the Foundation’s workforce housing initiative, visit NWCUF online.