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What is a CDFI and why is it great for Twin Cities Habitat?

Blake MacKenzie
Posted by Blake MacKenzie on 10:06 AM on March 14, 2019

In 2018, TCHFH Lending, Inc. (the wholly-owned nonprofit mortgage company of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity) became certified by the Department of Treasury CDFI Fund. As a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI), we are recognized as a lender with a mission to fill financing gaps in the marketplace under-served by other lenders.

What does this mean for Twin Cities Habitat? Let's explore!

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What is a CDFI?

The Opportunity Finance Network is the national coalition for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). They define CDFIs as: "private financial institutions dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities join the economic mainstream."

A variety of institutions can become certified as CDFIs, as long as they have a mission for meeting the credit needs of under-served communities. That includes institutions like mission-oriented banks, credit unions, loan funds—and now, TCHFH Lending, Inc.!

TCHFH Lending, Inc. was already a mission-oriented lender, so why bother to become a CDFI? There are several great reasons:

  1. It unlocks more funding opportunities from the U.S. Department of Treasury and others. These funds can be leveraged to provide even more homeownership opportunities for local families.

  2. There's a CDFI peer network of similar affordable housing lenders. This allows organizations to share best practices and learn from each other. There are 37 CDFIs in Minnesota, and TCHFH Lending, Inc. is among the first few Habitat affiliates to become CDFIs—but more are joining.

  3. Being a CDFI means you adhere to lending best practices and standards. CDFIs are helping to develop benchmarks for financial stability and portfolio quality.

Part of those best practices involve creating a CDFI Advisory Council, and Twin Cities Habitat's Advisory Council is already an asset for our organization.

What is a CDFI Advisory Council?

Essentially, a CDFI Advisory Council serves three main purposes:

  1. Establish a connection to the local community 

  2. Provide feedback on our programs and products

  3. Create engagement opportunities with key partners

Our Advisory Council will be focused on several things. They'll provide a pulse on what's happening in the community from a broad swath of perspectives. They'll advise on our strategies to spread the word about our mortgage product to a larger audience. And they'll give their feedback on Habitat's homeownership program.

In short: the members of our Advisory Council are critical to Habitat's success and impact of our work in the community.

So, who's on our Advisory Council?

The Council has 7-10 members who come from diverse geographic, racial, ethnic, economic, religious, professional, and leadership backgrounds.

CDFI Advisory Council 1600x900

Advisory Council members, from left to right: Julia Israel (Community Representative, Realtor Partner), Buffy Moore (Habitat Homeowner), Robyn Bipes-Timm (Staff Liaison: COO for Twin Cities Habitat, President of TCHFH Lending, Inc.), Linda White (Referral/Financial Readiness Partner), Barb Wendt (Board Representative), Shereese Turner (Staff Liaison: Sr. Director, Programs & Services), Rev. Justin Schroeder (Community Representative, Faith Partner). Not pictured: Ahmed Ibrahim (Habitat Homeowner).

Here's what a few Advisory Council members had to say about Habitat:

Barb Wendt

Barb Wendt serves as the Lending Board's liaison on the Advisory Council, and brings decades of mortgage lending expertise to the table.

She says: "What excites me most is the innovation coming out of Twin Cities Habitat. Expanding the homeownership program means Habitat can reach an even wider audience in under-served communities, and add to the array of mortgage products available."

Julia Israel

Julia Israel is a Realtor, Trainer, and Homeownership Advocate. She also partners with folks who buy with Habitat on the open real estate market.

She says: "I love working with Habitat for Humanity! In addition to their care for the community, the open market program and superior loan product has proven to be the best choice for many of my clients seeking homeownership."

Buffy Moore

Buffy Moore bought a home with Habitat in 2003. She's a powerful advocate for the full spectrum of housing, from emergency shelters to homeownership.

She says: "There was a point in time when people gave back to me, and I was a recipient of that help. Now that I’m at a place where I can give that help, that’s what I want to do. It really hits home for me...Habitat is a wonderful organization."

Linda White

Linda White is a Homeownership Adviser at Model Cities, a referral partner of Twin Cities Habitat.

She says: “Our partnership between Model Cities and Twin Cities Habitat allows us to leverage both organization’s skill sets and resources to help that person become successful in homeownership.”


We're so grateful for the dedication and service of our CDFI Advisory Council, and look forward to the new opportunities unlocked by our CDFI status.

If you are interested in joining the Advisory Council, please contact one of our staff representatives: Robyn Bipes-Timm or Shereese Turner.

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Tags: Homeownership Program, Habitat Mortgage, 2019

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