Frances McMorris wrote:

When Bloomington, Indiana, was looking to fund a recent affordable housing project, they looked outside their city — and even their state — to secure financing. A single-family home on West 9th Street near downtown Bloomington, Indiana, was renovated by Bloomington Cooperative Living to create 18 new, affordable units with funding help from Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF), a Boston-based CDFI.

That funding connection was made possible by CDFI Friendly Bloomington, a nearly two-year-old organization that was borne out of the realization that creating a CDFI just for Bloomington wasn’t the most practical path. Instead, Bloomington established itself as the first “CDFI Friendly City,” serving as a new model for encouraging investments from CDFIs outside the region into local Bloomington projects focused on dealing with social and economic inequities.

According to its executive director, Brian Payne, the initiative quickly took root. Just a few months after CDFI Friendly Bloomington launched in September 2019, it received its first competitive grant award of $100,000 from Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., a nonprofit centered on the Indiana Uplands. Now, a year and a half into operation, CDFI Friendly Bloomington has gotten nearly $30 million in total investment in CDFI-supported projects, tripling the industry’s investment in that region.

That success is now being replicated in cities across the country by CDFI Friendly America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to help communities find CDFI funding. Bloomington has served as the pilot program, which has since expanded to include South Bend, Indiana.