Grandfamilies, defined as a family in which grandparents are raising their grandchildren, often struggle with the financial challenge of living on a fixed income. There are an estimated 20,000 grandfamilies living in Milwaukee County who frequently battle to find adequate, affordable housing.
Northwest Side CDC, together with Gorman & Company, envisioned a solution to this growing problem: The Villard Square GrandFamily Apartments, an affordable housing complex for grandfamilies.
In August 2010, IFF provided a $1.285 million loan for the construction of the 90,000 square feet, four-story multi-family housing complex, featuring 47 apartments, as well as amenities like a rooftop garden, exercise studio, beauty salon, and business center. The site also houses a branch of the Milwaukee Public Library on the first floor, giving grandfamilies a setting where they can learn, as well as interact with their neighbors.
Once construction was completed, Villard Square became the first grandfamily housing complex in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin and the third in the United States.
“Doing deals using tax credits are hard but because of its expertise in lending to nonprofits, IFF made it easy,” said Howard Snyder, Northwest Side CDC Executive Director. “We worked on this project for eight years, but it was worth the wait—150,000 library patrons used the library in 2012 and we created housing for 47 low-income grandfamilies.”
In 2008, IFF CDFI won a $5.5 million award from the Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance for geographic expansion outside of Illinois. The NEXT Awards are the largest and most prestigious awards for community development financial institutions (CDFIs). And this award allowed IFF to expand to fund projects like Villard Square.
“The NEXT Award provided funding but it also inspired us—we worked even harder to meet the expectations and responsibility that came with these resources. The award also allowed us to serve even more low-income people and families by financing new facilities, such as Villard Square Apartments,” said Joe Neri, CEO, IFF.
(Date of loan: Aug. 2010. Date of story publication: 2013)