Financing Community Change
Last spring, the School of Architecture’s Department of Urban and Environmental Planning hosted nationally known community finance expert, Mark Pinsky, for a series of sessions and classes that included students from two planning classes, Housing and Community Development and the Neighborhood Planning Studio, as well as students from the Darden Graduate School of Business. Pinsky, who recently stepped down as President of Opportunities Finance Network, was part of the original team that drafted the federal policy to establish the Community Development Finance Fund and is an ardent supporter of the organization’s Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) that work locally and regionally. CDFIs are private firms, such as banks, credit unions, loan funds, and venture capital providers that work to align capital with financial, social, and political justice goals. According to Associate Professor Suzanne Morse Moomaw, CDFIs have played a key role in helping low-income individuals and communities join the economic mainstream by delivering affordable lending to establish schools, start businesses, and build health clinics and affordable housing. Pinsky’s sessions introduced students to how CDFIs work, their financial structure, and their potential impact. Students generated ideas of ways that CDFIs could link local financial resources to areas of community change that interested them most such as building grocery stores in food desert neighborhoods and improving schools.