Interview with Alicia Matricardi of New Economics for Women
The home buying process can be challenging to navigate in the best of times. For those pursuing homeownership in recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic and incredibly competitive real estate market in many areas have made the process that much more difficult. New Economics for Women (NEW) has been hard at work helping families in the Los Angeles area reach their goal of homeownership throughout these challenging times. In addition to homeownership programs, the nonprofit works to build economic mobility, particularly for Latina women and their families, through housing, education, entrepreneurship and civic engagement.
Boston Private has worked with NEW for many years to finance the construction of new affordable homes on formerly vacant and blighted properties, some of which dated back to the recent foreclosure crisis. Boston Private most recently partnered with NEW to serve as the construction lender for an affordable housing development in the Canoga Park neighborhood of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Eight beautiful and energy-efficient single-family infill homes were constructed using modular housing, and each home was sold to purchasers earning no higher than 120% Area Median Income.
Boston Private is proud to have been part of NEW’s remarkable success rebuilding communities block by block and creating new opportunities for families, many of whom are people of color and woman-headed households. The housing development was recently featured in an article and video on Forbes.com.
Further, since 2013, NEW’s Financial Empowerment Programs have assisted 180 families in purchasing a home, totaling over $62 million in local investments. Of these families, nine chose Boston Private as their mortgage lender, resulting in $3.1 million in further local investment through Boston Private and NEW. Eighty-three percent of families who purchase through NEW's homeownership program are low- to moderate-income. Sixty-eight percent of participants are female-headed households.
We caught up with Alicia Matricardi, General Counsel and Director of Real Estate Development for NEW, to learn more about how the organization is navigating the pandemic and delivering essential services to families in Los Angeles.
How are you helping your clients in this challenging time?
New Economics for Women has been in operation throughout the pandemic as an essential services provider, so we have had to dramatically change how we perform our work, but we have continued to serve families with services and housing designed to stabilize our most vulnerable families. We are operating various programs to provide services to low-income individuals and families through our FamilySource Centers that are specifically aimed at thoughtful responses to the instability caused by the health, and corollary economic, crises of the day. For example, through the funds provided by the Mayor of Los Angeles’ Angeleno Fund, NEW has been working as a strong partner in the distribution of $36M of emergency funding into the hands of thousands of families who are struggling to purchase groceries and other essentials while unemployed, underhoused, and in increased instability during this pandemic. NEW alone has served thousands of families with these services since March, and this has been quite a challenge given the social distancing rules and the low access of online services presented by our client population.
How can others in the Boston Private community help you right now?
Donations aimed towards some of our safety-net programs would be an effective way for individuals or families to support our work. We have had donors set up private funds to pay for families who need to pay rent, or for week-long stays at motels to ensure that families can stay out of their cars and off of the street. The flexibility of these donations is irreplaceable for us because it is distinguished from other grant funds that, as a nonprofit, we could more traditionally pursue that apply only to program costs. These donations have also covered the cost of our PPE and other equipment, site safety improvements, and overtime and meals for staff that we had otherwise not budgeted for this past year. Anyone interested in donations can go to our website for a link for donations at www.neweconomicsforwomen.org.
What has your experience been like working with Boston Private?
The relationship between NEW and Boston Private has been essential to our real estate development activity. We have been borrowers in three separate loans to fund our creation of affordable housing opportunities, and through the help of the bank have been able to perform 78 single family rehabilitations, and 8 new construction homes for low- to moderate-income purchasers with soft-seconds offered by NEW. The loans offered by Boston Private were rare and unique opportunities that were not offered by other local banks that recognized the importance of our work, and demonstrated a willingness to partner with us to build these opportunities for working families. We are extremely proud to have worked with them as a responsible lender on all three deals.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned throughout this crisis?
We have learned the need to pivot to remain responsive is one of the most important skills we can bear as an organization. How quickly can we get staff back into the field? How can we continue working from home? How can we interact when we can’t “interact” in the way we used to? How can we remain responsive? Our willingness to change is a key factor in our survivability. Just look at what our client families go through each day of this pandemic. We must rise to the occasion because our families must also do so, and they have no choice in the matter. To remain responsive to them, we must pivot, and keep doing so to get through this all together.