Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights started as a vibrant and diverse community, home to successive waves of immigrants. However, in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, the lack of investment in infrastructure and public services led to rising crime rates, graffiti-covered walls, and a lack of amenities like supermarkets that offered fresh food. To compound the issues, there was a lack of affordable housing for low-income individuals who struggled to pay ever-rising rents.
In the late 90’s, local business leaders and policy-makers came together to create public-private partnerships to address these issues. While much public financing has dried up in the last several years due to California’s budget crisis, Bank of America remains committed to putting together the sources of financing including construction loans and equity capital to bring these projects to fruition. In addition, the bank has a long track record of partnering with local nonprofits that understand the needs of the community.
A notable example of a recent successful public-private partnership was the creation of Las Margaritas Apartments, where the nonprofit East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) teamed up with Bank of America to develop affordable housing in Boyle Heights. The result was 42 units of affordable housing for working families, including two refurbished buildings and a new 20-unit apartment building. The project included green building materials and fixtures.
In addition to the apartments, ELACC provides after-school tutoring programs, nutrition and fitness classes, financial literacy and homebuyer education. And the housing is within walking distance of the new Metro Gold Line station, as well as shopping and services.
The ribbon cutting was held in April and, since that time, 42 families have moved in. One new resident, Nora Cabala, had been living in a small one-bedroom apartment with her husband and four children, including a special needs child who needed more living space to accommodate his developmental needs. Now the family is living in one of the new buildings in a furnished three-bedroom two-bath apartment, and the children have been able to take advantage of the tutoring programs. Says Cabala, “We have been able to lower our rent and hopefully we’re able to save enough money for our dream, which is that one day we will own our own home.”
The impact extends from the individuals to the wider community. Gail Lannoy, who manages Bank of America’s community development banking activities for the Western region, says: “When you talk about revitalizing a neighborhood, you need to do more than put a roof over someone’s head. The ability to provide financing for a project often has a catalytic effect. I have seen projects where the bank has financed a project. You go back a year or two later, the single-family homes are fixed up, the homes are painted, the yards are clean. One project can have a powerful effect on a whole community.”
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