Formed from a tribal housing authority, Wisconsin Native Loan Fund (WINLF) programs are advancing racial equity among Native and non-Native people alike in Wisconsin by providing opportunities to build assets through homeownership and access to capital for affordable financing.

Founded in 2007, WINLF is the only Native American CDFI in the state of Wisconsin that offers home, consumer and business lending products and technical assistance to tribal members of all 11 of the federally recognized tribes in the state.

They provide residential lending products, homeownership counseling, down payment assistance and coaching services that support the renovation of distressed homes in Native communities.

One of the ways they are working to address the racial equity gap is through their lending process, which includes lending on tribal lands when other financial institutions are not able to do so. In doing so, they're making asset-building more accessible for tribal communities.

WINLF’s delinquency rates are lower than most banks and lending institutions. “We do this by being more flexible and by being able to work with clients” says David Gouwens, chief operating officer.

Wisconsin Community Loan Fund homeownership learning program participants

WINLF received funding from Enterprise to build out and enhance their homeownership program for Native and tribal communities. With that funding came the opportunity to participate in the Native Homeownership Learning Communities Cohort that wrapped up in early 2020.

“One of the nice things about the cohort was working more with housing authorities and other nonprofits and kind of helping them understand what we need and what we do and understanding more of what they needed and learning more about the services they offer as a way to collaborate,” says Gouwens.

Since receiving this funding, they've successfully processed 11 homeownership-related loans and have increased the homeownership opportunities for tribal members.

In late August, WINLF became certified as a HUD Housing Counseling Agency. They were able to partner with Oweesta’s HUD Housing Counselor Training Program to pursue certification. This intense program included several virtual trainings, study groups and in person training with the goal to staff HUD Certified Homeownership Counselors.

“Our organization continues to obtain professional certifications that expand our ability to serve Wisconsin’s Native Americans and non-Natives who seek financial guidance,” says Jeff Johnson, board chairman and interim CEO.