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August 14, 2014
Wisconsin CDFI Wins 2014 NEXT Seed Capital Award
    by Robert Kropp

Impact Seven, a nonprofit community development financial institution, wins the unrestricted $100,000 grant for its program for preserving affordable housing in multifamily rental units in rural Wisconsin.

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a national network of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), announced today that Impact Seven, a Wisconsin-based CDFI, is the recipient of the 2014 NEXT Seed Capital Award.

Awarded annually since 2012, this year's award consists of a $100,000 unrestricted grant to a CDFI for an innovative strategy for expanding housing opportunities in low-income communities. Impact Seven received this year's award “for the potential to scale its innovative financing product to preserve small, multifamily rental properties in rural Wisconsin,” according to OFN. “This unique program will preserve affordable housing financed originally through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Section 515 Loan Program. The USDA preservation incentives will expire on thousands of properties across the U.S. over the next few years, and Impact Seven’s pilot in Wisconsin may serve as a model to help solve this issue nationally.”

"Our goal is to preserve small, multifamily rental properties in rural Wisconsin where affordable rental housing is scarce and the demand for it is high,” said Brett Gerber, President and CEO of Impact Seven. ”The initial pilot will preserve and rehabilitate 120 units most at risk for critical neglect or conversion to market rate. By maintaining this aggressive pace, we can preserve as many as 50 percent of Wisconsin’s most needed and viable USDA 515-funded projects by 2020.”

“Impact Seven’s strategy can serve as a model for the thousands of at-risk, rural subsidized housing properties—in Wisconsin and nationally,” said Mark Pinsky, President and CEO of OFN. “The model is replicable and preservation of affordable, rural housing is sorely needed. By scaling this product, Impact Seven and other CDFIs will preserve and provide rural affordable housing and opportunity for all.”

The previous recipients of the NEXT Seed Capital Award were Opportunity Fund, a California-based microfinance organization, for its loan product that allows small business owners to repay their loans directly through credit and debit sales; and Virginia-based Freedom First Federal Credit Union, for its American Dreamer Loan product, which provides Roanoke-based immigrants with financing to apply for US citizenship.

In addition to the NEXT Seed Capital Award, OFN and its partners—including Wells Fargo and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation—have, since 2007, presented the Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance, which annually provide $8.25 million to up to four CDFIs that have distinguished themselves by their efforts to provide financial services in underserved communities. Four nominees for this year's awards were announced in July, and the awardees will be announced at OFN's annual conference in October.


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