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New Hanover Community Endowment announces 2024 housing investment strategy

New Hanover Community Endowment logo at its offices in downtown Wilmington.
Benjamin Schachtman
New Hanover Community Endowment logo at its offices in downtown Wilmington.

The three-pronged strategy includes up to $19.5 million in grants to be dispersed over the next three years.

The New Hanover Community Endowment(NHCE) has released an Affordable Housing Investment Strategy, allocating over $19 million to support existing and future housing programs. It follows last year's grant cycle, in which NHCE invested $25 million into education, health, and community safety — and millions more in multi-year grants — without putting a dollar into affordable housing.

The newly released strategy will allow previous applicants from 2023 and new applicants to submit requests for this year's funding under two goals, and articulates a third goal for long-term investments. The strategy acknowledges that the need for housing in New Hanover County is dire, with35% of households being cost burdened.

According to an NHCE press release, the Affordable Housing Investment Strategy is comprised of three key focus areas:

  1. Stabilization: Recognizing the urgent need to support existing housing and prevent displacement, the NHCE has allocated $8.1 million in core operating support over three years to nonprofit housing providers identified in the 2023 grant cycle. This crucial funding aims to address the challenge of accessing adequate support identified by community partners.
  2. Production: With a dedicated budget of up to $11.5 million in 2024, NHCE seeks to facilitate the production and rehabilitation of affordable housing units. A rolling grants cycle is established to identify eligible projects and guide applicants through the application process, ensuring maximum impact and efficiency.
  3. Capital: NHCE will explore creating a fund to provide low-cost capital for development projects aligned with the goal of increasing and preserving affordable housing. This collaborative effort involves engaging with city and county authorities, convening housing partners, and consulting subject matter experts to formulate actionable recommendations.

“With over $50 million in grant requests from the housing community, the 2023 grant cycle solidified the need for us to create this investment strategy,” Chris Boney, chair of the NHCE’s Grants committee, wrote in a press release. “Our residents deserve a path to safe, stable, and affordable housing, and we’re eager to be part of the solution.”
NHCE staff held a meeting Wednesday morning with grant applicants from the 2023 cycle to inform them about the new funding strategy, and share with them the process of filing a letter of intent. New applicants are also permitted to apply during the rolling grant cycle.

WHQR's Kelly Kenoyer interviewed NHCE Network Officer Terri Burhans about the new plan. A lightly edited transcript of their conversation is available below.

Kelly Kenoyer: Allright, Terry Burhans, you're a network officer with the New Hanover Community Endowment. Thank you so much for joining us.

Terri Burhans: Thank you for having me.

KK: So you've announced something really big today about affordable housing and the endowment. Can you kind of get into what this is?

TB: Sure. For the last six months, we've really been drilling down, talking to partners. And this is our investment strategy and the lanes of that investment strategy and how people can apply for funding to help support affordable housing in our community.

KK: So this strategy is just for 2024. How much money are we talking about?

TB: So if we're talking about $2.7 [million], in core operating in 2024, we're talking about $11.45 [million] in production, and then core operating into 2025-26. roughly $19 million is what we've set aside for the affordable housing community.

KK: So this year, we're looking at $2.7 million for core operating. Can you explain that on the official press release, it's called stabilization. So what does that look like?

TB: Yeah, so stabilization, core operating, that looks like the everyday expenses that a nonprofit incurs, just to keep their doors open and to do the work that they're doing. So it can be insurance, it can be rent. Some people, are going to look at that money and say that might help provide a fund for rental assistance, if that's part of our core operating. But really, it's designed to be flexible. Obviously, we still are going to, we're still going to monitor that we're still going to have budgets around that we're going to look at as an endowment. But it is designed to be flexible to fill those gaps where other funding can't.

KK: I know that you have not announced any specific nonprofits yet, because they're going to have to reapply for this grant cycle. But when I look at the description for this, it's talking about supporting existing housing and preventing displacement. So I'm immediately thinking about grants for low-income housing tax credit projects, maybe supporting WARM NC so that they can prevent displacement. Do you have any sense of the types of nonprofits that we're looking at for this?

TB: Yes, I do. And actually, it's interesting. Tax Credit projects are usually done by for-profit developers. So I think it's important to say that this is for nonprofits right now in our community. Really, it crosses the gamut. It could be anywhere from extended housing for somebody who is without housing, who was unhoused, all the way up to homeownership for somebody who's making 120% of the median income. So as you know, we have a variety of rental and homeownership models in our community, that will be applying for this money.

KK: So the next section of this is about production, a dedicated budget of $11.5 million for this year. So what are we looking at in terms of production for affordable housing units?

TB: Yeah, so one of the things that was super exciting to us as we met with nonprofits is that a lot of our nonprofits already have existing units, or they have land, but they just can't get that gap that they need covered to get those catalyzed. And so that money is really there to catalyze those projects that could be in their infancy, could be shovel ready, across that whole spectrum. But something that's already sort of happening is what that money is there for. And that that really is for 2024, that total investment.

KK: So mostly gap financing for projects that are about ready to get going. The last one that you have is just called capital. And it's about exploring a fund, there's not dollar amount tag to this. Can you explain what this part of the strategy is?

TB: Sure. So we know, nationwide that cities all over the United States are looking at creative financing, and ways to bring capital to affordable housing projects. And so that can look like a fund. And it's important to us at the endowment, that that really not be something rigid, that we're able to explore that together as a community, and bring in those experts from other cities to say, 'how is this working in your city? What does this model look like? How's it being managed?' But really understanding that it's going to look different in New Hanover County, right, because we needed to address our needs. And so that's why it's a study, is to really get that community input, engage the community, and take that journey together and really learn about that to say, what does this fund look like in a way that it best serves us?

KK: So it sounds like the goal is to set that up for future years to be able to have that fund in place. So what's the deadline on the study for this?

TB: Yeah, so it's our target to have a recommendation in front of our board before October 31.

KK: Perfect. So if I'm a nonprofit, and I'm looking to get in on this 2024 grant cycle for housing, how can I do so?

TB: Well, that's a great question we met this morning with our 2023 grant applicants. So we've already walked them through that process, and they've been patient with us. And we were so excited to share that with them. If for some reason there is a nonprofit housing provider out there, that was not invited to that or did not apply in 2023, that would simply be a phone call to the endowment. To set up an appointment with a network officer. I'm likely to be that network officer. And so that number is 910-756-5990. And you're probably going to speak to Allison is wonderful. And we'll make sure that we get an appointment set up to talk to you about your ideas and about your organization.

KK: So it sounds like the 2023 folks who applied last year, I know none of them got any grants. There weren't any housing grants sent out in 2023. So they're first in line this time around?

TB: They are definitely first to get their applications in. We envision that the first slate of recommendations will get in front of the grants committee in July.

KK: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Terri, it was a pleasure talking to you.

TB: It's great to talk to you Kelly and if there's one thing additional that I can add it is that this is a place to start, right? So this is just the first step. We understand that this engagement is going to be long-term with our housing community, but really excited to just get started and take this first step together.

KK: And it's almost 20 million. So it's a pretty big step.

TB: It's a big step.

KK: All right, thank you.

TB: Thank you.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.