Courtesy of NNPA Newswire
Courtesy of NNPA Newswire

Wells Fargo and D.C. community leaders this week announced a $1.6 billion investment in the nation’s capital — particularly in Wards 7 and 8, which have a high African-American population.

The announcement, which occurred at THEARC in southeast D.C., was heralded as an effort to unlock more economic opportunity across the city.

Officials at the financial giant said it has created the “Where We Live program,” in collaboration with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and other local organizations.

The program will triple Wells Fargo’s community giving and concentrate resources on the biggest needs identified by community leaders including affordable housing, small business growth and job skills, officials said in a news release.

“Communities succeed when we all work together,” said Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan.

“The ‘Where We Live’ program is rooted in two things — investments that help people live, work and thrive, and a deep understanding that neighborhoods need long-term partners,” Sloan said.

“It builds on Wells Fargo’s legacy of empowering residents and small businesses in our nation’s capital for the past 100 years, and our desire to create a compelling community investment model that can revitalize neighborhoods across the U.S,” he said.

The initiative is “an important step by Wells Fargo to expand its investment in the District, and to listen and work more closely with community groups,” said John Taylor, president and founder of NCRC. “Expanding access to mortgage and small business loans is essential to closing the wealth gap. Lenders need to listen and focus on the needs of the communities where they do business. It’s heartening to see Wells Fargo strengthen its commitment to do just that.”

Wells Fargo developed “Where We Live” to harness the power of its broad lending and community investment capabilities for greater impact, with emphasis in Ward 7 and Ward 8, officials said.

The company worked with NCRC, an advocacy organization championing fairness in banking, housing and business, as well as local housing, small business and nonprofits leaders to design “Where We Live.”

In addition, Wells Fargo team members will work alongside community leaders on “Where We Live” over the course of the five-year project.

Wells Fargo has been in Washington, D.C., since 1914, with its first location on G Street NW. Since then, local investments in the District have included support for education, the arts and neighborhood revitalization, among other community needs.

The bank’s new commitment includes a five-year, $16 million philanthropic commitment more than triples Wells Fargo’s local giving, with a specific focus on Ward 7 and Ward 8. This philanthropy includes $4 million for Community Development Financial Institutions to grow the small business community and $6 million for nonprofit housing initiatives like down payment assistance and development of affordable rental properties.

As part of “Where We Live,” four organizations are among the first to receive funding:

  • DC Central Kitchen will receive $150,000 and Wells Fargo will sponsor a class of trainees and support the kitchen’s youth job training center and retail café in Ward 8, where residents can learn job skills and real-life work experience. The project focuses on empowering youth who have become disconnected from work and school to pursue promising hospitality careers.
  • SOME (So Others May Eat), will receive $100,000. Homeless families enter this housing program with little income and minimal financial management knowledge. Residents will work with on-site case managers to create plans that outline financial, professional and personal objectives. Goals include increasing savings, reducing debt, securing and maintaining employment or completing job training.
  • The Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) will receive $125,000. The nonprofit community loan fund’s mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs.
  • Finally, MANNA, Inc., the affordable housing nonprofit that helps low- and moderate-income families secure high-quality housing, will receive $125,000 as part of the initiative. Wells Fargo support includes development funding for MANNA’s Hunter Place project in Southeast Washington and homebuyer counseling.

Wells Fargo said it’s pledging to maintain or grow market leader commitments in home lending, small business lending and community lending and investment over five years and, to that end, are providing loans and equity investments totaling more than $1.5 billion.

“For example, the Parkway Overlook development in Ward 8 is one of the early ‘Where We Live’ projects to tap $90 million in lending and equity investments from Wells Fargo to convert an abandoned housing complex into 220 affordable rental units,” officials said in a news release.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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