Fresno Community Capital Collaborative for Economic Mobility
Why PRO Neighborhoods?
Recent research indicates that economic opportunity is deeply rooted in neighborhood conditions. Poor families located in thriving, resource-rich neighborhoods experience far greater education, health, and employment opportunities. Strong neighborhoods are key for any city’s long-term economic success.
In Fresno, 35% of census tracts have 40% or more of their residents living below the federal poverty level (in 2018, $25,100 in total income for a family of four). These tracts are clustered in the southern part of the city, creating a “capital desert” where there are fewer resources to support the aspirations of residents and potential entrepreneurs.
To address challenges like this, JPMorgan Chase launched Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods (PRO Neighborhoods), a $125 million, five-year commitment to provide communities with the capital and tools they need to support locally-driven solutions for reviving distressed neighborhoods across the U.S.
Engaging CDFIs and Community Partners
Fueled by a major grant from JPMorgan Chase, the Fresno Community Capital Collaborative for Economic Mobility will increase financing available to grow wealth and build or improve homes in Fresno’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Collaborative will keep partners connected to ensure that products are designed and marketed in ways that work for the population served. Through regular convenings, the Collaborative will discover and highlight opportunities to improve the community capital system in Fresno, as well as opportunities for additional local and outside investment.
From an overall, three-year grant of $5 million, $2.55 million will flow to Access Plus Capital (a subsidiary of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission) for lending. Access Plus Capital has further committed an additional $6 million in available lending capital to support the goals of the project. Meanwhile, two partner CDFIs, Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF) and Opportunity Fund (OF), have committed an additional $3 million and $1 million, respectively. NCCLF and OF are both past grantees of the PRO Neighborhoods program.
The balance of $2.45 million from the grant will be used to augment the access-to-capital work of a cohort of eleven place-based and person-centered community-based organizations in Fresno. Grant
funding, administered by the Central Valley Community Foundation as the project’s coordinator and fiscal sponsor, will enable these CBOs to participate as members of the Community Capital Collaborative alongside the CDFI partners.
The grantees include:
|Chinatown Business Association||Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce|
|Downtown Fresno Partnership||Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce|
|Southwest Fresno CDC||Center for Community Transformation Spark Tank|
|Lowell CDC||59 Days of Code|
|Better Blackstone||Pi Shop Product Incubator|
Need & Opportunity in Fresno
Fresno’s youth largely find themselves in households and neighborhoods that face a severe paucity of resources — adult mentors, safe parks, banks, grocery stores, job opportunities, and the modes of transportation to reach them. Concentrated poverty underlies all of these deficiencies, driving basic services away from entire communities. Alarmed by the lack of services in poor neighborhoods, and their devastation in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Brookings Institution studied poverty in major American cities in the wake of the storm and found, to their surprise, that only one city surpassed New Orleans in the rate of concentrated poverty: Fresno.
Unfortunately, it is kids who suffer worst from the concentration of poverty. It is normal everywhere to find that lower-income residents are having a greater share of the kids, and in Fresno this is also the case: about 27% of the overall population is below the federal poverty level, but about 40% of children live in poverty. But in Fresno, because poverty correlates so strongly with location, the neighborhoods where Fresno’s poverty is concentrated are largely the same neighborhoods where the birth boom is occurring, such that 46% of children live in areas of concentrated poverty. Far too many of Fresno’s kids are growing up in environments that seemed designed to keep them trapped in intergenerational cycles of poverty and the attendant symptoms of addiction and abuse, rather than offering ways out.
Combined with high poverty, Fresno’s young and booming population has strained the supply of housing. Because of low rents relative to construction costs, housing development in disadvantaged neighborhoods has languished. In 2017 the citywide rental vacancy rate of 3.1% was the lowest among the nation’s 75 largest cities. Proposed transit-oriented, multifamily housing projects in urban Fresno have stalled for years, and even failed to proceed, because of gaps in financing. A housing shortage has persisted despite Fresno’s surprisingly tight housing market.