LISC: Investing in underinvested communities

September 12, 2023

Founded in 1982 in the South Bronx with one office, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is now a national network with a holistic approach to improving communities with programs encompassing housing, education, health, justice, and economic development, among others. LISC was launched to serve as a community development intermediary, with the know-how and resources to connect public and private resources with underinvested communities and the organizations and people working to improve them. 

The role played by an intermediary is not always readily understood, but it’s definitely clear that LISC is very effective at vetting, selecting, and directing resources to transformational projects, programs, and initiatives helping underserved communities. Nationally, to date, the organization has attracted and advanced approximately $29.7 billion in investments, leading to $82 billion in development, tailored to the specific needs of the hundreds of urban and rural communities that LISC serves. It is this outstanding capacity and valuable impact that has led Mizuho, and its predecessor banks, to forge an enduring, effective, and multifaceted relationship with LISC resulting in Mizuho’s current standing as one of LISC’s all-time top lenders. 

“While we promote an overall platform of investing in disinvested communities, elevating populations that have been marginalized, and bringing capital to places lacking economic equity, the approach is different depending on the area we serve,” said Valerie White, Senior Executive Director of LISC in New York State. “For example, our programs in Buffalo and Syracuse are different than those in New York City, so we tailor our execution to the specific market in terms of investing in capital, resources, and talent.” 

The organization is meticulous in finding and funding those projects with the most promise, led by individuals with thoughtful business plans. “We do an analysis based on our credit risk tolerance criteria, which is set fully out in our term sheets, and select the loans to champion to our national LISC committee,” said Valerie. “That is where I put my credit analysis hat on, assessing which are creditworthy enough to move forward for consideration. While we are strict in our selection, once we make a decision, we back it fully. That is why our capital is generally patient capital and it's important to have the relationships with banks like Mizuho, who appreciate the long-term nature of our initiatives.”

In addition to loan capital, Mizuho has also provided LISC with grant support, most recently supporting LISC NYC’s Developers of Color Training Program. It furthers the work of the LISC to increase the capacity and access of real estate developers of color to develop affordable housing projects in New York City. 

“These developers are worthy of a chance to move from subcontractor to the prime contractor,” said Valerie. “They, in turn, end up developing community infrastructure and affordable housing in their communities, recruiting and training people from those communities to work on the projects, and help close the racial wealth gap that creates opportunity for the next generation for social mobility. It’s a flywheel effect. It’s just a matter of getting the flywheel started.”  

Recently Mizuho provided grants in support of LISC NY’s Two Shades of Green program which introduces sustainable, healthy, and cost-effective measures into existing affordable housing.

If you are interested in finding out more about LISC NY, or to donate money or time, please contact them at [email protected].

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