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Community invited to invest in — not donate to — Homes First affordable housing

FILE PHOTO: Andrea Clancy and her son Dylan, 2, in the downstairs kitchen at the Oxford House on Olympia Street in 2015. The house is one of 37 properties Homes First now rents, but it hopes to purchase an additional 15 properties through new investment program it will introduce to the community at two information sessions on Thursday at the South Puget Sound Community College campus in Lacey.
FILE PHOTO: Andrea Clancy and her son Dylan, 2, in the downstairs kitchen at the Oxford House on Olympia Street in 2015. The house is one of 37 properties Homes First now rents, but it hopes to purchase an additional 15 properties through new investment program it will introduce to the community at two information sessions on Thursday at the South Puget Sound Community College campus in Lacey. toverman@theolympian.com

Homes First, the local nonprofit that owns, manages and leases affordable housing to about 200 people in Thurston County, is inviting local residents to enter into a new program that allows them to invest in the organization’s future properties while earning a return on their investment.

Homes First chief executive officer Trudy Soucoup says the program is the first “social impact investment initiative” in the South Sound. It would allow the nonprofit to expand its housing stock for low-income families, individuals and those with special needs.

Soucoup said Tuesday Homes First wants to raise $2 million to purchase about 15 properties that could serve as many as 100 people. So far, eight investors have provided $85,000.

But the need for low-income housing is growing.

“We have had to turn away more than 800 inquiries for our housing just this year,” Soucoup said in a news release. “Only 14 out of every 100 households earning 30 percent or less of the median income can find housing they can afford. Homes First has certainly helped fill the gap, but we have 37 properties with 97 rental units, and it just isn’t enough.”

The program would work this way: Local residents who aren’t earning much interest on CDs and other financial tools can invest their money in Homes First and earn as much as 3.5 percent over 5 years on their investment. Interest would be paid to the investor quarterly. A financial organization called Semble would manage the money.

“This will truly have a positive community impact,” said Realtor Cyndi Nelson with MVP Realty Group and a real estate advisor to Homes First. “With Homes First’s quality renovations and consistent upkeep, blighted neighborhoods are revitalized. Tenants get a home that’s often a fresh start in life, and contributors get a great return on investing their money wisely in something with longtime value.”

Soucoup told The Olympian this is a tangible way for people to address a serious shortage in the community.

“Everyone says we need more low-income housing,” she said. “We are asking the community to make an investment in housing.”

Those interested in learning more about the program are invited to either of two presentations about the Affordable Housing Fund on Thursday — one at noon and the other at 6 p.m. — at the South Puget Sound Community College Lacey campus, 4220 Sixth Ave. SE. To RSVP, call (360) 236-0920 or register online at homesfirst.org.

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