Leviticus Leads: Driving Systemic Change
To Our Members and Friends
In the early 60’s my parents bought a Levitt house on Long Island, where I lived until I was 16. Only later, after entering the community development field and reading Crabgrass Frontier, did I know about Levittown’s creation in the mid-40’s. Its initial exclusion of non-white owners, tenants and occupants was something my parents were not aware of. I discovered that my early home, and the neighborhood where I grew up, were physical manifestations of blatantly racist development policies actively facilitated by U.S. housing subsidies.
Racism is harder to see when the history causing its insidious impacts has been hidden or erased. My personal brush with its legacy caused me to understand my own privilege more deeply as a white American. I have benefited from unjust policies of the past, policies that in some cases are still with us.
In 2021 Leviticus’ Board and staff adopted a new, three-year strategic plan. One of the five goals is to “foster racial justice, stability and economic opportunity for BIPOC individuals, families, for-profit developers and small-to-medium sized nonprofit developers.” To help achieve this goal we launched EDREE – Empowering Diverse Real Estate Entrepreneurs – as a three-year $10 million initiative. We updated our mission statement too – you can read it in full on the back cover. In it, we affirm our rootedness in faith and emphasize our work to create opportunities for vulnerable, low-income people – especially those harmed by systemic racial and ethnic discrimination – to thrive and live with dignity.
Last year also saw the launch of an invitation to members to consider converting their subvention investments into grants to fund a permanent capital pool called the Legacy Fund. Gifts to this fund will support our core lending in perpetuity, as loans are repaid and revolve to projects that benefit vulnerable, low-income people and communities. By the end of 2021, twelve communities said yes, generously donating $545,000 to the Legacy Fund.
In 2021 we committed $27 million, closed $32 million and disbursed $25 million in loans, all record figures. 50% of the nonprofits we’ve lent to since 2018 have been first-time Leviticus borrowers. In 2021 we continued to extend our reputation as a pragmatic, flexible organization that tackles tough loans to assist very low-income people.
We could not carry on our work without your support and partnership. Thank you for all your contributions to Leviticus in 2021. We look forward to 2023, our 40th anniversary year!
For 10 years, Carlos Bolanos was homeless. At the end of 2020, he moved into 3500 Park Avenue Apartments, a 115-unit residence in the South Bronx developed and run by the nonprofit The Bridge and supported by a loan from the Leviticus Fund. At Thanksgiving dinner, one of Bolanos’ nieces cried at the memory of worrying about him during previous holidays, wondering where he might be.
“They don’t worry about Uncle Carlos being on the street anymore. They’re happy that I’m happy.”
The excerpt above is from an article in the Global Sisters Report, a project of the National Catholic Reporter. They profiled the Leviticus Fund, and our nearly 40-year history of advancing the faith-driven values we share: ensuring that the economically poor can live with dignity and self-determination; using our shared resources to benefit those with less; and protecting and sharing the earth’s resources.
As busy as we all are, it’s important to reflect on the fact that through our work, we are dramatically improving the lives of people like Carlos. Your support for the Leviticus Fund extends hope to communities on the margins and serves people in need. And if we can change one life, we can change the world.
Rosemary Jeffries, RSM
Making an IMPACCT
In October, the Leviticus Fund took part in the groundbreaking for a long-awaited affordable housing complex for seniors in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
IMPACCT Brooklyn (IB), previously known as Pratt Area Community Council, is a strong advocate for low and moderate-income residents in Brooklyn. The new, four-story building will provide rent-subsidized housing for low-income seniors, with 30% of units set aside for those at risk of homelessness.
Two predevelopment loans from Leviticus totaling $950,000 helped support this project, which represents an investment of $36 million in affordable housing in Bed-Stuy.
The IB project was the second development to benefit from more flexible lending terms from our $12 million Project Start Fund (PSF), which launched with a $2.75 million award from the Federal CDFI Fund’s Capital Magnet program.
PSF fills one of the biggest needs we see among the affordable housing developers we have served for nearly 40 years: capital to move a project from concept to reality.