In an ongoing series, we’ve been highlighting the many diverse facets of community development. Talking to developers, tenant organizers, ELDI staff, community planning committee members, and more—we are spotlighting the wide range of community partners it takes to transform a community from crime and blight to new opportunity. One essential piece of the puzzle that often goes undiscussed are the banks and institutions that provide the funds needed to realize a community plan and vision.
Dollar Bank has been a strong partner to ELDI from the early days, helping us fund several key community and affordable housing developments, which by their nature are risky. We chatted with Rebecca Yago, Dollar Banks’ senior vice president of real estate, to learn more about their commitment to community projects and why they put their faith and support in ELDI.
When did ELDI and Dollar Bank’s relationship begin?
Dollar Bank’s relationship with ELDI began around 2000.
What are some of the projects in East Liberty that Dollar Bank has invested in over the years?
ELDI has had to adapt to the ever-changing climate of commercial and residential construction, such as increasing costs and a decline in available funds over the last 22 years. Over that time, Dollar Bank has provided funds to ELDI for a variety of projects that have provided housing for chronically homeless, affordable rental units for people at 50% AMI, for-sale affordable units, and for-sale market-rate units. A sample of those projects are summarized below:
- In 2007, Dollar Bank provided an acquisition and predevelopment line of credit for the acquisition of nine blighted properties, six residential structures, and three vacant lots. In 2010, the bank provided financing to ELDI to construct affordable rental units on those acquired parcels. The project provided six permanent housing units for chronically homeless men and eight units of traditional low-income housing. Dollar Bank provided a bridge loan that was used in part to defer equity payments and a term loan. In addition, ELDI utilized Low Income Housing Tax Credits for this project, in which the equity was provided by Dollar Bank.
- Around 2009-2010, partnering with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, along with support from the Heinz Endowments, Dollar Bank provided a loan to ELDI to build six single-family Urban Prototype Homes in the 700 block of Euclid Avenue, priced between $216,000 and $299,500. The homes incorporated green designs, including Passive Housing Design, which annually saves the homeowners 40% on their energy bills.
- In 2014-2015, Dollar Bank provide ELDI with funds to acquire and stabilize abandoned units under a conservatorship to help the decline and to stabilize the housing stock in the neighborhood.
- In 2016, ELDI was selected by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh to be a co-developer of a Turnkey Development of scattered residential sites. Dollar Bank provided ELDI with a $5,000,000 revolving construction line of credit to construct up to 20 units under the Turnkey contract.
- In 2019, Dollar Bank provided a $2.3M loan for the new construction/rehab of 26 for-sale homes. Of the 26 homes, 18 are affordable and eight are market rate. Financing for this project included an allocation of New Markets Tax Credit equity provided by the Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives and loans from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
“The best way to ensure success with urban revitalization projects is to make sure we work with local community groups like ELDI who have a good understanding of the community’s needs, have designed a strategic plan for their community, and possess the expertise to see that plan through.”
What were the main factors in your decision to invest in these projects?
The Bank continues to partner with ELDI because of their proven track record in structuring and completing complex real estate projects. The best way to ensure success with urban revitalization projects is to make sure we work with local community groups like ELDI, who have a good understanding of the community’s needs, have designed a strategic plan for their community, and possess the expertise to see that plan through. As a result of our long-standing partnership with ELDI, Dollar Bank has been able to successfully provide funds for different levels of rental and homeownership opportunities in the East Liberty neighborhood.
Dollar Bank has a track record of investing in community projects. Can you tell us about that commitment and where it comes from?
Dollar Bank was the first bank to recognize the need to provide credit counseling to low-and moderate-income borrowers who have been shut out of the mortgage market because of poor credit. Participants in the bank’s award-winning Credit Enhancement Program are told “not yet” instead of “no.” As a result, thousands of people have been able to break the cycle of poverty and become homeowners.
Dollar Bank possesses an advantage in that we are a mutual institution, without the push and pull of stockholders to distract us from our mission. Whether we deal with individuals, businesses, or non-profits, we approach every relationship neighbor-to-neighbor to serve the needs of our local communities.