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From Disenfranchisement To Empowerment: Uplifting Neighborhoods

February 22, 2023 Category: FeatureFeaturedFundingLongReinvestment


Update: The underwriting disclosure was updated to reflect the inclusion of this article as part of collaboratively reporting on solutions to poverty and Philadelphia’s push towards economic mobility, with Resolve Philly. (3/1/2023 at 1:25 p.m.)

Now that the pandemic, which brought a host of inequities and problems, is waning, recovery is critical for low-income communities of color that were economically devastated by decades of redlining and disinvestment long before Covid-19.

46 years ago, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was enacted to end discrimination in banking. Specifically, it requires banking institutions to meet the credit needs of the communities where they conduct business. It charges the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to monitor the performance of these institutions.

Unfortunately, lending discrimination continues. In 2022, Trident Mortgage Company was ordered to pay over $22 million for discriminatory lending patterns in low-income communities and communities of color in the Philadelphia region, including Camden, New Jersey and Wilmington, Delaware. In 2018, then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro opened an investigation into Santander Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, and others for redlining.

While traditional banking institutions continue to not satisfy CRA’s goal of meeting the needs of low-income communities, several organizations have advocated for and are working to invest in our local low-income and communities of color.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) promote financial inclusion and economic development in communities that suffer from neglect and disinvestment. They focus on social responsibility and inclusion, and receive support from the federal CDFI Fund among other sources like the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). The NCRC  is an association of over 600 community-based organizations nationwide that work together to promote access to basic banking services, affordable housing, entrepreneurship and job creation.

From our Partners

The Beech Companies

Since 1990, The Beech Companies has carved out a new path for North Central Philadelphia and its longtime residents. Comprised of four primary organizations under its operation — Beech Interplex, Inc., Beech Community Services, Beech Capital Venture Corporation and the Alston Beech Foundation, it has become a model of community rebuilding. Located on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Beech provides disadvantaged communities in North, Northwest and West Philadelphia with direct services that include commercial and economic development, neighborhood revitalization, program support, small business loans, scholarships and organizational grant programs.

Beechwood Homes located in the Cecil B. Moore Community in North Philadelphia. (courtesy photo Beech Companies)

Beech Capital Venture continues to provide loans and lines of credit to small businesses. “Within the next 90 days Beech will be handling another small business program to support barbershops and hair salons with small grant funding,” explained Beech CEO Dr. Ken Scott.  The good news is these grants can be used for general operations, supplies, payroll and rent. This will be the fourth small business support program Beech has provided over the past three years.”

Beech has built thousands of units of affordable housing over three decades including the Beechwood Homes in North Philadelphia. Scott said Beech will continue to focus on providing more affordable housing in 2023/24. “This year construction and restoration of the historic Dox Thrash House will provide several units of affordable housing on the second and third floors. Pre-development work is underway on 100 affordable apartments for seniors and the disabled in the Cecil B. Moore community, which should be completed and ready to accept residents in 2024.”

The Enterprise Center

The Enterprise Center (TEC)  has promoted racial and economic equity since 1989 by supporting the growth of diverse small businesses and partnering with West Philadelphia communities on revitalization strategies. Their mission is to cultivate and invest in minority entrepreneurs to inspire economic growth in communities in the Mid-Atlantic Region. TEC services include one on one consultation for small businesses, providing certification as a Minority, Woman, and/or Disabled Business Enterprise, and connecting small businesses with procurement opportunities with 100 corporate and institutional partners.

TEC President Della Clark (left) and SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman (right), in front of TEC’s Biz on Wheels van. (courtesy photo Enterprise Center)

TEC also has offices in Norristown and recently opened its Camden Cares Center after serving businesses in New Jersey for over a decade. Their CDFI just launched a special loan product for New Jersey businesses with funding from NJ-EDA.

TEC now has a community development corporation. “We chose to form a CDC so we could turn vacant and underutilized property into productive use for the community’s businesses, including the parcels that we acquired to develop Enterprise Heights at Farragut & Market Street,” explained TEC President Della Clark. The dilapidated supermarket that we transformed into the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprise is a stellar example of our CDC strategy. We have helped incubate hundreds of food businesses into sustainable operations. We will soon launch our Business Accelerator Kit and will continue to visit business corridors with our Biz on Wheels van to share information on accessing the free kit, which will contain a tablet and business software.”

Clark is looking forward to the April ribbon-cutting of its 52nd Street Community Resource Hub that was completed from the ground-up with 100% minority business enterprises.

LISC Philadelphia

One of 38 offices of the nation’s largest community development organization, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Philadelphia invests in local disinvested communities to close gaps around health, wealth, and opportunity. Eastern North Philadelphia, Kensington and Hunting Park have been a focus of LISC Philadelphia for decades. More recently, LISC has stepped up as a convener and supporter of the Latino Equitable Development Collective (LEDC), a network of 13 Latino-led organizations that was founded in 2019. The LEDC is focused on collective real estate development strategies and service delivery designed to combat poverty and establish pathways for economic mobility for community residents.

“In 2021, six organizations from the LEDC — Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, Ceiba, Congreso, Esperanza, HACE and Norris Square Community Alliance, partnered with us to pursue funding from United Way’s Poverty Action Fund/The Promise to develop coordinated collective service delivery and data reporting processes,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of LISC Philadelphia. “We hope to leverage the work funded by the Promise with funding that would allow LEDC members to offer longer-term support for residents to increase their housing stability, expand opportunities for economic mobility and allow them to build inter-generational wealth.”

Frishkoff said LISC hopes to secure a third year of funding from the Promise for the partnership in 2023/24 and will focus on promoting the transformative possibility of a collective service delivery model like the LEDC.

While the CRA was developed to alleviate the practices that make the work of these organizations necessary, the Philadelphia region is fortunate to have these and other CDFIs working diligently to reinvest in and uplift neglected communities.


Have ideas on how our business, philanthropic, and government institutions can better support and invest in our communities? Share your thoughts here!



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