In 1990, a group of Washington financial institutions joined together to create a consortium devoted to multi-family, affordable housing. Their goal was to generate a revolving, shared-risk loan pool that would provide a renewable source of permanent financing. In addition they were looking for a way to reduce and control administrative costs, develop and share expertise in the specialized underwriting and lending functions of affordable and special needs housing and otherwise assist member financial institutions in meeting the community development needs of their communities.
Under the leadership of Gerry Cameron, then US Bank of Washington President, the group contracted with The Development Fund (a nonprofit organization that develops innovative model programs in affordable housing) and set to work. Over the next few months, a Task Force representing 19 financial institutions met to analyze housing needs across the State, plan the structure, operations and lending products of the new organization and prepare the first operating budget.
The Washington Community Reinvestment Association opened its doors in February of 1992, with 35 member institutions and a $75 million dollar loan pool. At that time, a lack of permanent financing was placing many multi-family affordable projects in jeopardy of losing their federal low income tax credit subsidies. This was clearly an area of immediate need and became WCRA’s first target market.
Today, membership includes 39 financial institutions and the WCRA offers an array of lending and bond products, including both housing and real estate based economic development projects. The original loan pool has been enhanced through the creation of two additional lending pools which raise the WCRA lending capacity to over $105 million. As of September 2012, the WCRA has funded and committed over $256 million in loans representing 10,188 units of housing and 132,353 square feet of economic development project space. We have now provided financing for affordable rental housing in 32 of 39 counties in Washington, amounting to 82% coverage of the state, benefiting 89 communities.
In 2011, we also renewed our contract for construction oversight with the Washington State Department of Commerce (formerly CTED) and extended our contract for construction oversight with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission through June 2013.