Social Justice Through Capital + Expertise
City First Enterprises helps achieve racial, economic, and social equity by providing underinvested communities with access to capital and financial expertise for affordable housing, education, nonprofits, small businesses, and climate-focused initiatives.
We envision more vibrant, just, resilient neighborhoods with higher employment, greater self-sufficiency, and equitable access to services and opportunity.
CFE has an unparalleled legacy of frontline community development in the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas.
With decades of experience as a Community Development Financial Institution, or CDFI, we bring a unique mix of expertise, capital, and relationships to help address the region’s inequities. CDFIs are certified by the US Treasury as specialized lenders whose primary goal is to bring capital to low-income and low-wealth communities.
Background + Timeline
Community development leaders came together to discuss how to rectify the damage that years of discrimination, disinvestment, and redlining had done to people and communities of color in DC. A consensus emerged to create City First Enterprises, a nonprofit financial institution aimed at reinvigorating the neighborhoods in which residents were still dealing with the fallout (now expanded to the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas).
Through our loan fund, the Equitable Growth Fund, we provide accessible debt capital to community innovators and entrepreneurs working in affordable housing, small business, education, nonprofits, childcare, commercial real estate, and more. These typically are borrowers who are denied capital from traditional lenders, and so we also invest considerable technical assistance resources to ready them with the financial acumen for taking on responsible debt. Yet another tool was needed to advance our goals.
CFE’s founders established City First Bank, DC’s first community development bank. The bank has since merged with Southern California-based Broadway Federal to create the publicly traded City First Broadway (NASDAQ: BYFC), the largest Black-led Minority Depository Institution in the United States. The bank’s lending largely focuses on low- and moderate-income areas for investment, and CFE often co-lends with the bank, underwriting the more risky, subordinate debt.
Our ownership of CFB shares renders CFE a bank holding company; yet CFE and CFB are independent entities with their own boards, lending policies, and staff. Additionally, CFE is one of more than 500 nonprofit Community Development Financial Institutions nationally, a designation given by the U.S. Treasury to entities that expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses.
CFE launched City First Homes (now Homes by CFE), a subsidiary CDFI, to help address the rapid displacement of low- and moderate-income families living in DC. For more than a dozen years, the organization has successfully served as a home purchasing assistance program, including shared-appreciation and second trust mortgage lending. In response to changing market conditions, though, Homes by CFE is phasing out the legacy shared appreciation program and has recently launched a Down Payment Assistance Program. For more information about this transition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When the pandemic hit, CFE was one of the first regional financial institutions on the scene, delivering critical resources to small businesses so they could survive. Since then, we have managed six grant programs for the DC government as part of our Social Equity Investments work. Grant funds management has become a key part of achieving CFE’s mission, and we look forward to more opportunities to work with local governments on behalf of their constituents. Almost thirty years since its founding, CFE remains nimble and responsive to community needs.
CFE’s green lending work was officially launched as the One Climate Fund. Through our partnerships with the two local green banks, we are scaling clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate infrastructure lending regionally and are dedicating more organizational resources — both staffing and capital — to making this a flagstone of CFE’s impact.
We also are launching Homes by CFE’s new signature Down Payment Assistance Program to help more low- to moderate-income households purchase their own homes. The outcome of the totality of our investments is reflected in safer neighborhoods, higher employment, increased access to high-quality school and childcare seats, more resilient businesses, stable home lives, and, ultimately, communities of opportunity.