University District receives $24,000 matching grant to boost affordable housing program

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UA Little Rock-based University District Development Corporation has received a $24,000 matching grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Dallas and four local members: Arvest Bank, Bank OZK, First Security Bank, and Simmons Bank. These funds will be used to help University District’s mission of providing affordable housing to the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

“The Partnership Grant Program gives certain flexibility to organizations. It allows us to partner with member banks and apply those funds to impact the community,” said Barrett Allen, executive director of University District. “I think it is something that is needed, and I’m thankful for the program. We have worked with the local banks in the past on several other issues, and we thank them for supporting us.”

FHLB Dallas is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community investment by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 820 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas.

Through FHLB Dallas’s Partnership Grant Program (PGP), member institutions provide grants to local nonprofit organizations, which FHLB Dallas matches at a 3:1 ratio up to $12,000 per member and $24,000 per year in grant money that is distributed through a lottery system. In 2019, FHLB Dallas awarded $300,000 in PGP funds that was combined with $142,500 contributed by 25 FHLB Dallas members for a total of $442,500 to the organizations.

“The Partnership Grant Program is intended to strengthen the relationship between our members and the communities they serve,” said Melanie Dill, community and economic development manager at FHLB Dallas. “Our 3:1 match enables our members to provide additional support for community-based organizations.”

University District will receive a total of $24,000 in PGP funds from FHLB Dallas and four members: Bank OZK, First Security Bank, Arvest Bank, and Simmons Bank. 

Martie North, director of community development/Community Reinvestment Act at Simmons Bank, said that Simmons feels it’s important to invest in the communities they serve. 

“Affordable housing is the cornerstone for strong and vibrant communities. The University District Development Corporation (UDDC) works hard every day to provide quality housing that is affordable and attractive within the University District,” North said. “Investing in the communities in which we operate, work, and play is a priority of Simmons Bank. The FHLB Partnership Grant provides us with a wonderful opportunity to financially support organizations like the UDDC in their efforts to strengthen our communities. We believe in the work the UDDC is doing and value our partnership.

The local banks have served as community partners to help the University District in its mission to provide quality, affordable housing within the University District neighborhoods.

“Neighborhood revitalization is critical to communities. It improves quality of life for families and individuals, makes home ownership possible, contributes to the appeal of the city and gives hope, among other benefits,” said Jim Cargill, president and CEO of Arvest Bank in central, northeast, and southwest Arkansas. “Our associates work every day in support of this mission, and we applaud the results the UDDC has achieved here in Little Rock.”

The grant funds will be used to boost University District’s affordable housing programs, which began in 2009. The University District purchases homes to rehabilitate and lots to build new homes. These homes are then sold to those needing affordable housing within University District. The need-based First-Time Homebuyer Program provides first-time homebuyers up to $20,000 for down payment and closing costs to purchase a home constructed or renovated by University District. 

The First Time Homebuyer Program is financed through the City of Little Rock with funds from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOME Program. UDDC is now creating a plan and implementation strategy to rehabilitate, build, and sell new single family market rate homes. Buyers will be able to use conventional mortgage loan financing options to purchase a home and not be concerned about program restrictions that accompany the first-time homebuyer program. The organization is also discussing a single family rental program.

“This is the third time we’ve been selected in the lottery, and we are going to utilize the funds to support our affordable housing programs,” Allen said. “We believe that anyone making a prevailing wage should be able to live in University District at an affordable price, and we work with all the neighborhood associations who make up University District to make this a reality. These funds will help to support and shore up our acquisition of properties and to build up our reserves so we can work with banks to go after larger lines of credit.”

According to Barrett, University District’s goal is to complete 10-12 houses a year, either through renovation and resale of older homes or new construction on lots within University District neighborhoods.

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