Who says nonprofits can’t be developers?

Urban League Plans to Develop Affordable Condos in Orlando Area

released on 10/26/06 at 08:58:08

The Urban League Community Park in Pine Hills is a couple of concrete slabs where basketball courts used to be, a pair of picnic pavilions with worn wooden tables, and a big empty lot of weeds, grass, dirt and litter.

Not much to look at — unless you have the vision of E. Lance McCarthy. The president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Orlando Urban League looks at the empty land and sees a 100-unit, affordable-housing condo development.

He sees a pair of three-story buildings with playgrounds and picnic areas in their courtyards. He sees walking paths winding along retention ponds.

“We see families playing and working from all walks of life. People are feeling good about themselves and owning their own homes,” he said.

The proposed $15 million Urban League Village on 5 acres next to the Urban League headquarters would be built in two phases of 50 units each with one-, two- and three-bedroom condos priced from $150,000 to $190,000. To lower the mortgages, homeowners could receive down-payment assistance of up to $60,000.

Under McCarthy’s brand of “social entrepreneurship,” it isn’t enough to educate low-income residents on how to become homeowners. You need to build them a home to buy. And it isn’t enough for social-service organizations to rely solely on grants, gifts and fundraisers. They also need to generate their own income.

Profits from the condos would go toward other Urban League programs, McCarthy said. Currently, 78 percent of the Urban League’s $1.6 million budget comes from federal, state and local grants.

“I have tried to redefine us as an economic-development agency with a social mission,” said McCarthy, 45. “In the 21st century, civil rights is economic empowerment.”

Other Urban Leagues started building affordable homes one or two at a time. That’s not McCarthy’s style. He looks for ways to make a large impact and a big impression.

McCarthy brought in a venture-capitalist company to offer black business owners million-dollar loans. He advocates for the poor while wearing three-piece, pinstriped Italian suits. He uses opera as a fundraiser. Full Article


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