2021 Lending Report

Members of Benincasa Community renovating their new home and hospitality center.
Renovating Benincasa Community’s new home

Building community helps us recover

Like the projects in its portfolio, the Equity Trust Fund demonstrated resilience in 2021 after difficult times in 2020. Gratifyingly, given the isolation and deprivation so many have experienced during the pandemic, most of our new loans went to organizations dedicated to building communal bonds and helping others. Several are intentional communities that share deep roots with Equity Trust. Each has a strong social justice mission that inspires its members to reach into urban communities to provide support and resources, complementing our work with farms and rural lands.

Washington, D.C.’s Assisi Community was the borrower of the very first Equity Trust Fund loan way back in 1992. It was used to purchase one of the two houses its members live in (the purchase of the other house a few years later was also aided by an Equity Trust loan). In 2014, Assisi Community committed to permanently reserving its property for affordable housing in an agreement with D.C.’s Douglass Community Land Trust (DCLT). When (if) the community runs its course, both houses will be donated to DCLT. This loan finances needed renovations, building code upgrades, and energy efficiency to both maintain a decent living space for current members and preserve the value of the property for its future owners.

Benincasa Community is a CatholicWorker-style group formerly based in and primarily serving underprivileged people in New York City. Although neither we nor they knew it until earlier this year, members have ties to Equity Trust friends and allies going back to our founder Chuck Matthei and including former board member Monica McGloin. The group has an extensive network of supporters and close relationships with a wide variety of activist organizations. This loan finances the purchase of property near New Haven, Connecticut where the community will be able to grow food for itself and for local charitable providers and offer a different kind of hospitality experience for its many guests and visitors.

Saint Francis House has helped incubate numerous local grassroots organizations in New London, Connecticut, including the Southeastern Connecticut CLT, our current partner in the newly reorganized and renamed Southeastern Connecticut Fund for Land Equity (formerly the Francis Fund, which Saint Francis House helped found and served as our original partner). This loan helps finance deferred maintenance and repairs of the two houses where the members live and work, and which we hope will eventually be added to the CLT.

The New London Homeless Hospitality Center was one of those organizations launched with the help of Saint Francis House and is a frequent borrower from the Southeastern Connecticut fund. It has become an important local nonprofit offering a variety of programs assisting the homeless in that area. Previous loans enabled it to acquire and renovate homes, and to acquire land and build homes, for use as transitional and affordable housing for the people they serve. This loan finances the purchase of a building that will host a resource center for low-income people to supplement the Center’s headquarters and main shelter. The second floor will eventually be converted to efficiency apartments to be made available to the organization’s clients.

Another frequent borrower (this time from our general fund) is the North Carolina-based Jubilee House Community, which runs the nonprofit Center for Development in Central America in rural Nicaragua, helping small farmers organize into cooperatives for the production, processing, and marketing of a wide variety of organic crops including peanuts, cotton, and sesame. Cooperatives growing each of those crops have benefitted from Equity Trust loans to Jubilee House at one time or another. This loan enables an expansion of organic peanut acreage.