For families facing financial hardships, the past year and a half has been a challenge unlike any other. Take Boston’s Hispanic/Latino community. Even before the pandemic, more than a third of the city’s Hispanic/Latino population lived below the federal poverty line, twice the rate of all other residents.footnote1 During this time, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) has been a crucial resource for this community, providing not only affordable housing but also healthy food, trustworthy health care information, vaccination clinics and bilingual help navigating government services. “Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción empowers and engages individuals and families to improve their lives through high-quality affordable housing, education and arts programs,” says IBA Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, Ph.D.
IBA has been doing this work for more than half a century. Founded in 1968 to fight the displacement of low-cost housing from Boston’s South End where Puerto Rican immigrants resided, IBA went on to develop Villa Victoria, a 667-unit affordable housing complex. Today, IBA offers youth development classes, arts and music programs, technology education and financial coaching to 1,100 mainly low-income residents. With one in five residents reporting a lack of access to technology or difficulty using it, the organization’s community technology center was especially valuable during the pandemic when in-person schooling, doctors’ visits and other services moved online. “All our programs worked to support and engage our community during this difficult and trying time,” says Calderón-Rosado. That meant everything from access to laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to rental assistance and increased food distribution.
Funding from Bank of America, part of its $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, is supporting IBA’s bilingual range of offerings. In addition, the bank is supporting IBA’s financial empowerment program, which offers Villa Victoria and low-income South End residents the chance to reach their financial goals, increase their credit and build assets. “The curriculum is designed with cultural relevancy in mind,” says Calderón-Rosado. In just one year, program participants raised their credit scores from an average of 616 to 649. “The ability of IBA to deliver on its mission would not have been possible without the generosity, partnership and investment of Bank of America,” says Calderón-Rosado.