By Jessica David for the Rhode Island Foundation’s Winter 2020 Magazine.  

“Oh, this is my lucky day,” thought Ana Jimenez. Ana, her husband Freddy, and their three children were living in a small two-bedroom apartment when she saw men rehabbing a two-family home in her Olneyville neighborhood in early 2018.

“I asked the guy who was fixing the house if they were going to rent it,” Ana recalls.

He directed her to ONE Neighborhood Builders (ONE|NB), a nonprofit community development organization that works to revitalize Providence neighborhoods. Ana followed up with them and learned about their P3 (Protecting Providence Properties) program. It was through this program that ONE|NB had purchased six units of housing, rehabbed them, and leased them to moderate income families like Ana’s.

ONE|NB’s P3 program is an example of the kind of impact investments the Foundation makes in Rhode Island – loans and equity investments that generate measurable social impact and a financial return. In this case, the Foundation made a $806,000, 7-year loan to ONE|NB to allow them to create the P3 program.

“We asked ourselves, ‘How do we protect naturally occurring affordable housing units?’,” says Jennifer Hawkins, ONE|NB executive director. This led them to purchase, rehab, and lease the homes to those she refers to as “the missing middle” — families who earn too much to qualify for income-restricted housing, but who cannot afford to rent a typical market-rate apartment. Jennifer points out, too, that “protecting affordable homes is crucial” because of the substantially lower cost to purchase and rehab an existing unit vs. building a new one.

ONE|NB’s goal is for families who lease the units to save money and improve their credit, then ultimately purchase this (or another) home.

That is exactly what Ana and her family hope to do. “We’re talking about buying the house we’re in now. It has two apartments and, with the rental income, we could pay the mortgage. I don’t want to be moving any more. Since I moved here, I’ve lived in a lot of places,” Ana says. She came to Rhode Island when she was 12 from her native Guatemala and is a graduate of Central Falls High School. Both she and her husband work full-time jobs.

When asked about ONE|NB, Ana raves, “There’s not another place that can get you such a good apartment. I love them and dealing with them.” Jennifer shares, “The investment from the Foundation has
been incredibly impactful and we are eager to expand this program to communities outside Providence.” And there are, undoubtedly, other families like the Jimenez family, who—if they could find a home through ONE|NB’s P3 program—would consider it their lucky day too.