Before and after of WIDC project

by Citizens Energy Group

As executive director of West Indianapolis Development Corp. (WIDC), Lisa Laflin considers herself many things, including “dot connector, cat herder, and chainsaw juggler.” Many employees of community development corporations (CDCs) or other nonprofits probably can relate. Working to keep many plates spinning at the same time, Laflin is a passionate voice for affordable housing and the flourishing of neighborhoods served by WIDC.

WIDC has recently completed a housing project through the Investment Collaboration on Neighborhoods (ICON) loan program, an initiative from Citizens Energy Group that makes low-interest loans available to nonprofits and CDCs to facilitate such development projects. The program is designed to help CDCs access the financing they need to undertake important projects that might otherwise be too costly or too difficult to finance through traditional channels.

Laflin and the WIDC team purchased a home in The Valley neighborhood originally built by Habitat for Humanity but which had since undergone foreclosure. Despite being in a flood plain and thus ineligible for certain federal loan programs, WIDC secured a $100,000 loan from ICON to rehab the home and make it available as affordable housing with a 20-year deed restriction.

According to Laflin, the loan process, which took less than half an hour to complete, was the easiest she had ever experienced and faster to process than federal funding, even as WIDC follows federal guidelines on requiring multiple bids for comparison.

She also said the personal connections she developed with Rhonda Harper and Kenya McMillin, ICON program liaisons at Citizens, made the process smooth. “We’ll be able to have the loan fully repaid after the close of the home sale this summer, less than two years after the original agreement,” Laflin said.

Many other CDCs have been able to access low-interest financing through the program in order to undertake important community development projects since the program’s inception in 1995. With alumni projects including housing, community spaces, and arts spaces, the program is particularly valuable for CDCs that are working in underserved communities or tackling particularly challenging projects.

Laflin and WIDC are looking forward to their next ICON project. “I don’t know that I would do anything different with the loan process,” Laflin said. “We’re already planning to use ICON on future projects, and I would recommend it to other CDCs in need of financing — particularly for housing projects. I appreciate the program’s flexibility and efficiency, I am grateful for the staff’s support in making our project a success, and I commend Citizens’ commitment to the community in leveraging their resources to stand up this program.”

About ICON:
The ICON loan program can be a valuable resource for CDCs working to improve the lives of families and individuals through affordable housing and community development projects. The program’s low, simple interest rates make it an attractive financing option for CDCs that struggle to access traditional sources of funding. Previous partners have included Hawthorne Neighborhood; Hearts & Hands of Indiana; Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) Indianapolis; and Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation. ICON’s redevelopment efforts are in keeping with the mission of Citizens Energy Group to enhance quality of life and economic development in the communities it serves.

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