February 26, 2020

Lending to Early Learning Providers, an Interview with Susan Duren of WCRA

We recently interviewed Susan Duren from Washington Community Reinvestment Association (WCRA). Learn more about this CDFI and their partnership with Enterprise Pacific Northwest in implementing the new WA Early Learning Loan Fund.

Can you please share a little about the work that WCRA does? How do you work with borrowers and what types of lending do you do?

The WCRA makes below market interest rate loans on affordable rental housing including seasonal farmworker and special needs properties and economic development properties across Washington state. Our loans are for both for profit and nonprofit borrowers and include short term and long-term permanent debt along with acquisition and rehabilitation loans. Since we are a bank member organization, many of our transactions come from member bank referrals and partnerships. We have a very high occurrence of repeat borrowers that benefit from our special loan terms. In addition, we have a publicly funded program that specifically finances nonprofit borrowers with limited resources that may not meet traditional bank lending requirements. The program finances both real estate financing and equipment acquisitions at preferential loan terms.

Can you tell us a little about the work you’ve done in the past with Early Learning Centers?

So far, we have provided two loans to two separate operators for a 9,900 SF leased space and a 3,173 SF space leased for childcare. In application for underwriting, we have four proposed transactions for childcare facilities. 

What lessons did you take from that work, and how can these lessons inform the work moving forward with the new Washington Early Learning Loan Fund?

We found that our loan programs for affordable rental housing with commercial space (mixed use developments) and our economic development program work well together supporting the creation of early learning centers. Another lesson was that experience working with public funders comes in handy when financing early learning space. Our programs are also a natural fit for implementing WELL fund transactions and will stretch the WELL funding so that more families can be served.

Why is work important to you and WCRA?

The WCRA mission and guiding principles support benefiting the citizens of Washington state with safe, decent housing and community support through partnerships and the expansion of resources. The expansion of early learning resources for low income families is a critical need throughout Washington state.

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