Across the country, cross-sector teams are coming together in communities to improve the lives of their residents and increase access to opportunity. Connect Capital (2018-2020) was a multi-year initiative designed by CCI to assist six teams and communities in attracting and deploying capital at scale to address their needs. Connect Capital supported teams not only with executing individual projects but also with using the capital absorption framework to expand and advance their local community investment systems. This included assessing local priorities and capital needs, creating and analyzing project pipelines, and identifying chokepoints to address through changes in policy and practice.
About the Program
Six multi-sector teams from across the country participated in Connect Capital. The initiative’s tailored, just-in-time curriculum included six peer-learning communities, four specialized meetings for team leads, and technical assistance and coaching, both virtual and during in-person site visits. Content focused on community investment, capital absorption, racial equity, and leadership and partnership development. Teams also received funding to support staffing, organizational capacity, and technical assistance.
The work of the Connect Capital teams is long term and will continue to play out well into the future. In these first two years, teams built firm foundations for that work by strengthening collaborative networks, helping to increase the supply of community investment and other financial resources in their communities, initiating housing and climate-resilient investments, contributing to potentially transformative changes in policy and practice, and, in two sites, demonstrating the powerful role utilities can play in catalyzing equitable, climate-resilient investments. As the COVID-19 pandemic took root during the last months of the initiative, CCI helped teams triage and adapt their work to meet shifting local and national conditions.
Meet the Connect Capital Teams
Appalachia: The Appalachia team covered a large geographic region that included the counties within Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia that are known as Central Appalachia. The team’s central achievement was the creation of a new investment fund, Invest Appalachia, which has a goal of raising $57 million to support the long-term regional economic transition from a coal-based economy. The team structured a new organization, recruited a governing board, hired an executive director, and secured a $2.5 million grant for initial capital and operating funds. They also supported increased collaboration among community investment stakeholders in the region, which has already helped seed technical assistance and local development initiatives.
Coachella Valley, California: The Coachella Valley team, co-led by regional nonprofit Lift to Rise (LTR) and Riverside County, focused on addressing rent burden (households paying more than 30% of their income in rent) by increasing the number of affordable housing units throughout nine cities and various unincorporated communities in the Valley. LTR staff and Riverside County, the core team working on Connect Capital, set a goal of building 10,000 affordable housing units. The team developed a regional housing pipeline of community-identified projects, moved forward its first batch of three affordable housing projects (500 units), and launched a $100 million Housing Catalyst Fund. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they collaborated in aggregating and distributing $135 million of housing assistance, helping more than 17,000 households and 68,000 people with low incomes keep up with rent and utility bills.
Miami, Florida: Led by the city, the Miami team focused on the urgent need to create and preserve affordable housing in Miami. The team set a goal of preserving or developing 12,000 units of affordable housing in the city and county over five years. Their work ultimately had a significant impact on the Miami-Dade Affordable Housing Framework (July 2020), which uses the capital absorption framework to frame a new ambitious goal of producing or preserving 210,000 affordable housing units in the county by 2030. As well as laying the groundwork for a more aligned and collaborative approach to affordable housing, the team also created an innovative catalytic loan fund, with support from the Knight Foundation and the city, that is intended to help small housing developers with pre-development costs.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Milwaukee team was led by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and included staff from other city agencies and a local business improvement district. The team concentrated on neighborhood planning and community infrastructure investments to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of two neighborhoods where MMSD worked on flood management projects. They developed a new model for collaborative planning across city agencies, supported MMSD to pilot a new approach to community benefit agreements, and contributed to improvements related to traffic calming, an amendment to a neighborhood plan on the city’s North Side, and a new approach to corridor planning on the South Side.
Richmond, Virginia: The Richmond team focused on tackling the housing challenges of residents in the city’s public housing projects with the lowest incomes. Initially focusing on housing choice vouchers for these residents, the strategy eventually expanded to focus on leveraging public incentives to produce more affordable housing for this income level, strengthening support services, and building public will to prioritize affordable housing.
Seattle, Washington: The Seattle team centered its work on fostering climate justice, economic opportunity, and thriving in place in the Duwamish Valley neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown, two riverfront neighborhoods that are significantly more diverse and have a significantly lower average income than the city as a whole. Led by the Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), and involving other city agencies and a strong resident advocate, the team focused on maximizing the benefits of major SPU capital projects for existing residents. The team developed a proposal, garnered support, and secured a $600,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the Duwamish Valley Resilience District, a new mechanism for pursuing a climate change adaptation approach to neighborhood development that empowers local residents. They also successfully advocated with the city to acquire land for approximately 100 units of affordable housing and other community-supportive services (e.g., nonprofit space, childcare, etc.), advanced plans for a local park expansion and redesign, supported citywide climate adaptation efforts, and fostered collaboration and community decision-making in local development efforts.