A collaboration between the City of Florence and the South Carolina Community Loan Fund could go a long way to revitalization of a neighborhood and increased opportunities for its residents.

Several neighborhoods in the city are in deep decline. Their mostly low-income, African-American residents are underserved; their infrastructure disinvested. The City Council has set aside more than $3 million for catalyst projects designed to improve the housing stock, bring back residents and spur economic activity in those communities.

For the first phase, South Carolina Community Loan Fund provided $700,000 in loans to help build seven single family homes and rehab two others in North Florence. The houses will be built by a minority-owned company and sold to families earning up to 80% of median household income. Prospective home buyers will receive down payment and mortgage assistance from the city.

Florence city manager Drew Griffin attended an SCCLF training and liked how the mission of the city and the loan fund dovetailed. “South Carolina Community Loan Fund’s mission is to bridge the gaps in neighborhoods through housing, food access and economic development,” he said. “With their funding, we could target minority contractors and allow them to take advantage of business opportunities in their neighborhood.”

Patrick King, Chief Lending Officer for South Carolina Community Loan Fund, who underwrote the loan, notes that a city-funded market study found many former residents of the neighborhood would like to return and help regenerate it, but for a lack of functional housing. “We invested in this project because improved infrastructure by the City of Florence that brings families to this underserved neighborhood will provide safe, affordable housing; spark more development; and boost the economy of a community,” he said.

The city plans a second phase of its project in North Florence and efforts in two other declining neighborhoods as well. Griffin says the city is also considering a partnership with SCCLF to improve access to healthy food by investing in a community grocer.

For more information about South Carolina Community Loan Fund or to learn how you can secure funding for your community development project, visit http://sccommunityloanfund.org/borrow.