Lowcountry Housing Trust expands statewide, changes name, products

By Ashley Barker 
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published Dec. 12, 2013

The executive director of the Lowcountry Housing Trust discussed two changes coming in 2014 with many of the organization’s biggest supporters today during a luncheon in downtown Charleston.

Lowcountry Housing Trust Executive Director Michelle Mapp. (Photo provided)
Lowcountry Housing Trust Executive Director Michelle Mapp, who spoke today to supporters about the group’s upcoming change in name and scope. (Photo/provided)
Michelle Mapp told board members, community leaders and local developers that Lowcountry Housing Trust, a nonprofit community financier, will change its name to the S.C. Community Loan Fund on Jan. 1. With the new name, emphasis will be put on financing more small businesses and community facilities across South Carolina.

“The city of Charleston has supported the trust since its beginning when it was founded by the city. As of today, the city has provided $1.3 million to the trust,” Charleston Mayor Pro Tem William Dudley Gregorie said.

Mayor Joe Riley was scheduled to attend the luncheon at Tristan, but he hasn’t been cleared to return to work after undergoing hip surgery.

Part of the name change comes from the group shifting to providing loans for more than just affordable housing units. Community facilities, such as health and recreation centers and daycares; healthy food retail outlets, such as farmers’ markets, corner stores and grocery stores; and small community businesses that hire residents in underserved neighborhoods will be added to its list of product offerings.

To provide loans, the fund borrows money from financial institutions, foundations, businesses and high-wealth individuals, which it combines with grants from local and state governments and the U.S. Treasury. It then lends the money at a slightly higher interest rate for various developments, according to Mapp.

Since the trust’s first loan in December 2005, approximately $18 million has been lent to help build up communities. There is a cap of $500,000 per project.

For the past two years, the trust, which has eight employees, has been lending to organizations outside of the Lowcountry. The fund plans to open offices in Columbia and Greenville within the next two years with a loan manager at each site.

With the geographic expansion, Mapp expects more investment opportunities. She said Bank of America recently lent the organization $1 million this year, the largest investment to date.

“Being able to attract larger investors who have a statewide footprint allows us to capitalize on more projects,” Mapp said.

As of Dec. 2, the fund had raised $3.2 million in 2013. The goal for 2014 is $5 million.

“Being with the trust from the very beginning has been one of the most rewarding things,” said Vince Graham, the first chairman of Lowcountry Housing Trust. “It’s gratifying to see it being taken statewide.”

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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