To promote social justice by increasing economic access and expanding opportunity for low-wealth communities.
In 1993, two-dozen community development leaders gathered in a church basement to respond to widespread discrimination and redlining in commercial bank lending in Washington, DC. Without access to credit and other financial services, neighborhoods and people in DC were missing opportunities and being left behind. Led by John Hamilton, concerned leaders formed City First Enterprises (CFE) and over a 5-year period publicized the problem and then built the capital’s first community development bank. City First Bank opened its doors in 1998 with $9.4 million in capital investments from public and private sources including Georgetown University, Wachovia, National Community Investment Fund, and federal and DC governments. Today, the bank has grown to $250 million in assets and has leveraged over $1 billion in loans in the DC region, with over 80% of its loans to low- and moderate-income areas.
CFE serves as the holding company for City First Bank and continues to launch new community development initiatives. CFE provided the seed research and development for a New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program. Launched in 2003, the City First New Markets Program has provided more than $350 million of flexible financing for high-impact projects throughout the mid-Atlantic including THEARC, Capital Area Food Bank, Atlas Performing Arts Center, Mary’s Center, Humanim, and many more. In 2010, responding to rising gentrification in DC, CFE launched City First Homes, a new homeownership strategy to help middle-income DC families purchase homes while keeping the subsidy with the home. CFHomes, one of the fastest growing Community Land Trusts in the country, keeps homes in DC permanently affordable even as housing prices rise.