Capitalizing Change: Stories of Impact and Partnerships

2023 Impact Report

Letter From
Letter from
the CEO

As we look back on our journey in 2023, it's clear that it was a transformative year for CFE. Despite navigating a challenging macroeconomic landscape, our portfolio continued its upward trajectory across various sectors and regions.

Amidst the cacophony of public discourse surrounding diversity and inclusion, we reaffirmed our commitment to providing equal opportunities for every family to thrive. At the end of the day, a growing majority of Americans now recognize financial inclusion as not just a matter of economics but a moral imperative.

The recent pandemic exposed systemic cracks in our country’s economic model and accelerated a shift in public attitudes on social inequality. Across business and public policy circles, there's a deepening recognition of our shared responsibility to shape a future where prosperous communities translate to a vibrant economy. We’re seeing a more intentional approach from lenders, investors, government, and civic leaders toward uplifting those left behind by generations of discrimination.

On a personal note, I’m privileged to witness this transformation every day from my front-row seat as an immigrant leading a diverse team that is driving change within the communities we come from.

CFE stands poised as we enter this economic reset, committed to actively shaping a new and more inclusive economic reality. We embark on this armed with a deep pool of talent and a robust balance sheet that positions us to catalyze growth in the corners of the market we currently serve – and in those we aspire to reach.

In this report, we'll share the impact of our endeavors in 2023 – both by the numbers and through the narratives of our borrowers, partners, and team members. I hope they will shed light on our path forward and elevate the importance of our collective mission.

The CFE team in action: Our Director of Finance and Accountant working on our financials...
… and our lending team having fun while getting the job done!
In Action
In Action

City First Enterprises is a community development financial institution specializing in flexible lending for affordable housing, commercial real estate, small businesses, non-profits, clean energy, and homeownership. With a mission to create equitable financial solutions to support people and communities in achieving their economic aspirations, we envision a future where all people and communities transform their futures through equitable access to capital.

We recognize and appreciate the vital role that our partners and funders play in supporting our work. Our success in advancing economic prosperity for all, especially those communities and families that have been historically overlooked, is due in large part to collaboration. We are grateful for the continued support and commitment to our shared pursuit of conceiving and constructing a new financial system that is inclusive and provides opportunities for everyone to thrive.

As we delve into the stories of our borrowers, we get a glimpse of their vitality and unwavering excellence. Each story celebrates their adamant spirit and commitment to achieving their goals.

These stories are just a tiny part of the bigger picture, and we are honored to be able to share them with you.

From Hobby to Business: The Inspiring Journey of Meats and Foods

For over two decades, Ana Marin and Scott McIntosh dedicated their culinary talents to serving the residents of Washington, DC, in restaurants across the city. Capitalizing on their years of experience, they embarked on a journey to transform their passion into a thriving business.

In 2011, Ana and Scott began experimenting from the comfort of their apartment kitchen, crafting fresh sausages for friends and neighbors. What started as a hobby soon blossomed into a full-fledged business venture named Meats and Foods. By 2012, they were securing commercial kitchen space and attracting wholesale customers.

As Meats and Foods gained momentum, the couple set their sights on expanding to a storefront location in Northwest DC. In August 2014, Ana and Scott proudly opened the doors of Meats and Foods to the community.

At the heart of Meats and Foods lies a simple yet powerful mission: to provide the neighborhood with reasonably priced, freshly prepared dishes made from scratch daily, free from processed foods or preservatives. With a steadfast commitment to quality and customer experience, Ana and Scott have cultivated strong ties within the community, forging lasting relationships with patrons who appreciate their dedication to excellence.

Like many other businesses, Ana and Scott faced their own set of challenges. They felt the impact of the pandemic and its associated closures. They were also faced with obstructed access to their restaurant as a DC Water construction site blocked their entrance, creating a barrier for customers to get around and reducing their storefront visibility for several years. Despite the challenges they faced, Ana and Scott persevered and remained successful.

Nearly a decade after opening their storefront, the team of two sought to purchase the location they’d been renting.  However, they soon realized their vision required more than culinary expertise; it necessitated financial investment. With financing from CFE, bolstered by Nourish DC's support, and supplemented by a grant from the Commercial Property Acquisition Fund (distributed by CFE in collaboration with the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development), Ana and Scott successfully secured the necessary funding to realize their vision.

Their journey exemplifies their resilience and the transformative power of community support and access to financial resources. By supporting individuals like Ana and Scott, CFE continues championing economic empowerment and equity within underserved communities. Meats and Foods is a testament to the enduring spirit of entrepreneurship and the potential for positive change within our communities. Ana and Scott's story is just one of many that inspire us to realize the profound impact of passion, perseverance, and support in turning goals into tangible achievements.

Partnering to Break Down Barriers to Housing Access 

In order for individuals and communities to be able to achieve their economic aspirations, affordable and accessible housing is essential. We recognize the profound impact that affordable housing has on fostering financial stability and opportunity. However, we also recognize that achieving this goal requires collaborative efforts.

That's why we take great pride in our partnership with the National Housing Trust (NHT), a collaboration born out of a shared commitment to making housing more accessible and affordable. Together, we've embarked on a mission to address the pressing challenges Tenant Associations (TAs) face during the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process.

The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act requires an owner who wants to sell their rental property to give tenants an opportunity to purchase the property and a right of first refusal to match a third-party contract. This act ensures that tenants know about their owners’ intent to sell in advance and have an opportunity to preserve their affordable housing within the District.

Our TOPA Earnest Money Deposit program represents a significant step towards breaking down barriers to housing access. This program addresses the initial hurdle TAs encounter—the Earnest Money Deposit (EMD)—which often poses a significant financial challenge. By offering a solution with a unique success fee model designed to mitigate risks for TAs, we've empowered them to pursue their rights confidently.

Since its inception, the TOPA EMD Loan Program has significantly impacted tenants and communities throughout the District of Columbia, providing vital funding to over 30 Tenant Associations across all eight wards. Together, we have deployed over $6 million. Through our work with NHT we foster transactions and empower residents to become invested in their neighborhoods. This strategic collaboration harnesses the power of partnership to drive substantial, purposeful change.

“The TOPA Earnest Money Deposit program is a critical tool for tenant associations to exercise their TOPA rights in Washington, DC. NHT and CFE's continued partnership has enabled the program to grow, allowing more tenant associations to have the opportunity to explore self-purchasing or find a developer that meets their needs.”
– Amy Lieber, Lending Initiatives Manager, NHT

Savoring Success: The Flavorful Rise of The Peruvian Brothers

Back in 2012, Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone decided to call their new food truck “Peruvian Brothers” because their dream was to share the food they missed from childhood growing up on a beach in Peru. The idea had come to them during a family reunion.

“My brother had come back from being a ship’s captain, and I was back from my second Olympics,” says Giuseppe, who still feels very honored to have been on the US rowing team in Beijing and London. “We said, let’s throw together a bar or restaurant. My mother – she’s very wise – said, how about you guys start with a food truck.”

They started by selling sandwiches and hot sauce from a single truck, but their small beginning grew fast. They added a second truck and a third. Soon, they were catering weddings, business events, and government functions. Even the White House has welcomed the Peruvian Brothers!

When La Cosecha, a Latin American market, was launching in Northeast Washington, DC in 2019, the developers approached Giuseppe and Mario about opening their first-ever brick-and-mortar location.

Photo courtesy of The Peruvian Brothers

While the pandemic brought challenges, the brothers kept their sights set on opportunity. "There was a beautiful park where my wife and I used to walk around and try to have an hour of fun a day outside our home,” Giuseppe recalls. They quickly decided to open a stand there, in Water Park at National Landing.

As a popular presence in the National Landing neighborhood, Peruvian Brothers soon got noticed by an important new neighbor. “Amazon came around and said, we’re putting in a huge infrastructure here. Do you want a space at the bottom?,” marvels Giuseppe. “We were like, if Amazon calls, we say yes. For us as Peruvian people, as Latin American people, as Hispanic people, having Peruvian Brothers and Amazon together is something we never thought was possible.”

Planning their first full-service restaurant was a heavy lift, but everything was going well – until a year into the process when their construction costs skyrocketed with inflation. The brothers tapped their network for ideas, and that’s when they heard about CFE.

CFE saw the strength of the brothers’ partnership – and thanks to our own partnerships, we were able to make the numbers work for an affordable loan. The Virginia Small Business Financing Authority provided a 50% loan guarantee to match the collateral that Peruvian Brothers brought to the table. It’s a great example of how deeply CFE values entrepreneurship -- in terms of who we work with as clients, and in our own nimble approach to analyzing the business case and assembling a team of partners to put capital in the hands of people like Giuseppe and Mario.

Peruvian Brothers officially opened at Amazon HQ2 in October 2023, and it’s been a tremendous success. Still, the brothers feel like they’re just getting started on their dream. “We’re gonna keep growing and growing,” Giuseppe promises. “We’ll make sure that everybody in the DMV area, everybody in the US, everybody in the world knows what Peruvian food is all about!”

Collaboration for a Sustainable Future 

Since 2020, we have partnered with local green banks to expand access to clean energy solutions in our region. What began as loan servicing support has since evolved into dedicated co-lending programs to support businesses and organizations seeking to invest in energy efficiency and renewables upgrades.

In our latest transaction through these partnerships, we joined forces with the DC Green Bank (DCGB) to finance a 125-kW tranche of rooftop solar system installations across DC and Maryland, underscoring our shared commitment to providing sustainable energy solutions to communities in our region.

This rooftop solar panel project, led by solar energy developer Copernican LLC, brings sustainable energy to nine low-income households. It’s also the second time CFE and DCGB have partnered with Copernican, demonstrating our ongoing dedication to working with mission-driven developers in the region. Projects like this work directly towards the Justice40 Initiative to confront and address decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities, bringing resources to communities most impacted by climate change, energy cost burdens, and environmental hazards.

By leveraging the strengths of both CFE and DCGB, we maximize our collective impact. DCGB's technical assistance, risk tolerance, and economic capital, combined with CFE's extensive infrastructure and deep understanding of community finance, have been instrumental in making this project successful. Our joint effort goes beyond merely providing capital to a clean energy project; it's about strategically deploying resources where they can make the most significant difference.

The benefits of these solar panels to residents are multifaceted. Not only do they result in emissions reductions, but because these residents won’t be paying Copernican for the energy generated from the solar arrays, they also benefit from free energy. This allows households to contribute to combating greenhouse gas emissions and reducing air pollution while experiencing cost savings from these installations. This partnership showcases how we can align our financial resources with a collective commitment to environmental stewardship and community well-being.

“Partnerships between green banks and CDFIs are critical as we build a cleaner, more affordable, and more inclusive future. We are proud to work with City First Enterprises to provide financing to deliver affordable clean energy to underserved families across the district.”
– Trisha Miller, Chief Executive Officer, DC Green Bank

Empowering Communities, One Home at a Time

Last year, CFE’s subsidiary City First Homes, operating under Homes by CFE (HBCFE), launched a new mortgage lending program as a Special Purpose Credit Program (SPCP) to assist low- to-moderate income African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino households in the DC and Baltimore metro areas.

With a keen understanding of the barriers that Black and Latino families face in the pursuit of homeownership in our region, HBCFE offers a solution that improves access for first-time homebuyers from these underserved communities. By law, SPCPs allow qualifying lending programs to extend loans exclusively to members of historically marginalized groups.

The down payment assistance (DPA) SPCP represents an opportunity for those from African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino backgrounds to break the cycle of generational inequality, opening a pathway towards stability and prosperity, and for some, an opportunity to remain in their communities instead of being priced out.

The DPA program offers a second trust mortgage, covering up to 20% of the purchase price or a maximum of $100,000 towards down payments. This alleviates the financial burden on participants, eliminates the need for mortgage insurance, and reduces upfront down payment and closing costs.

During its pilot last year, the DPA program supported 13 borrowers in DC and MD. Despite initial demand exceeding available funds, by the year's end, HBCFE secured a substantial $3 million contribution from JPMorgan Chase, highlighting the critical role of our funding partners in sustaining and scaling such innovative initiatives.

With this support, HBCFE can continue offering second mortgages and engaging borrowers through programming that supports their homeownership journey beyond the initial purchase, covering topics like home repair and estate planning workshops. Partners have been vital since the very beginning, from the Yale Law School Community & Economic Development clinic helping design the SPCP to referrals from home counseling organizations like Manna. And, of course, as a second-trust mortgage lender, our first-trust lending partnerships have been pivotal in facilitating the program’s expansion.

While HBCFE has played a role in our borrowers’ journeys, the real spotlight is their resilience and determination. These individuals have seized the opportunity to secure homes and build brighter futures for themselves and their families. As we celebrate their success, we continue to renew our commitment to empowering individuals and communities, ensuring that homeownership remains a tangible reality.

& Impact
& Impact
Growth in our consolidated portfolio since 2020
Growth in consolidated total assets since 2020
Growth in consolidated net assets since 2020
of dollars deployed to Black and Latino borrowers
of dollars deployed for women-led projects
of dollars deployed in DC
Our Path
Our Path

As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, we know we’ll have more stories of impact and partnership to share as we continue pursuing our purpose of ‘Capitalizing Change.’ We hope you’ll explore our 2024-2026 Strategic Plan and join us as we seek to scale our growth and amplify the impact we create together.

The best gatherings always end up in the kitchen – like this open house where CFE team members helped celebrate the completion of an affordable housing development we supported.
Photo courtesy of Kea Taylor, Imagine Photography
Our lending and grants team members share info and resources at an event for DC small businesses.
With Us
With Us

City First Enterprises Board of Directors

On behalf of our entire organization, we extend our sincerest thanks to each of our esteemed board of directors.

Oswaldo Acosta
President and CEO, City First Enterprises

Brian Argrett, Chair
President and CEO, City First Bank

Lori Chatman
President, Capital Division, Enterprise Community Partners

Annie Donovan, Secretary
President and CEO, Raza Development Fund

Priya Jayachandran
CEO, National Housing Trust

Amber Kuchar-Bell
Chief Strategy and Operations Officer, Opportunity Finance Network

William Longbrake
Executive in Residence, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland

Estrella Lucero
Attorney, Goldfarb & Lipman

David McGrady, Vice-Chair
Community Development Consultant

Cantwell F. Muckenfuss
Clinical Lecturer in Law, Yale University

Shannon Scott, Treasurer
Chief Financial Officer, New Venture Fund