Talk to young engineers these days, and you’re likely to hear
them refer to sociotechnical systems, instead of the more traditional term, infrastructure. This new phrase is a bit cumbersome,
but it’s a useful reminder that the success of a development rests
as much on social context as on bricks and mortar.
As a banker, I think that there is a lesson to be learned here.
Since Capital One began its Community Finance Group in 2006,
While we are very proud of the
communities our partners have created, we’ve realized that the success of
these developments ultimately rests on
the social systems that they offer. For our financing
to have an impact on those who live in
these communities, it made sense to
support essential social services.
That’s why we began our Social Purpose Grant program in 2008;
since then, we have awarded grants for purposes that range from
creating a children’s museum to funding an electronic library.
In 2014, for instance, we worked with the Philadelphia nonprofit Project HOME to finance Francis House of Peace, a 94-unit
community for persons who have experienced homelessness or
who are at risk of homelessness. The building earned LEED Silver
certification from the US Green Building Council and features an
exercise room, library, administrative offices and two terraces
with city views in addition to its apartments. The building itself is
gorgeous, but it’s what goes on inside that touches me.
Project HOME provides a comprehensive tenant services plan
for residents based on access to Project HOME’s wide range of
social programs. This includes educational programs and computer classes, medical and behavioral health services and job
training and placement through Project HOME’s employment
services department. We provided a $100,000 Social Purpose
Grant over 10 years to help support these programs.
When you hear people who have been helped by Project
HOME, you cannot help but think that this nurturing environment is what it takes to turn a beautiful building into a life-chang-ing experience.
To cite another example, we provided a $500,000, 10-year
grant to the nonprofit New Hope Housing to help fund an on-
site case manager at Rittenhouse, the latest of its single-room
occupancy communities in the Houston area. These services
include case management, access to mental health care, and
financial management and life skills classes. New Hope Housing
was initially formed in 1993 to serve adults living alone on very
Also a LEED Platinum development, Rittenhouse won a num-
ber of awards including the Urban Land Institute 2015 Houston
Development of Distinction Award or Not-for Profit Affordable
Housing. Among other amenities, it features a courtyard with
covered patio and a large lobby with 24-hour front desk staff.
Visiting this outstanding property for the first time, we were
really surprised to find out that New Hope had named its com-
munity room after Capital One to commemorate our partner-
ship. What an honor!
We certainly have some incredible partners, and have learned
something new from each of the roughly 30 new developments
we are involved with each year. We try to take those learnings
and pay them forward, so that the next development is quicker
to build, easier to operate and more productive for the lives of
I won’t tell you that our Social Purpose Grant is a universal
solution, or that it fully plugs the gaps that can be left by reductions in federal programs. But we have learned that, a little extra
money in the right hands can turn a building into an engine of
By Laura Bailey
Investing in the Social Side
Of Affordable Housing
While we are very proud
of the communities
our partners have created,
we’ve realized that the success
of these developments
ultimately rests on the
social systems they offer.
Laura Bailey is senior vice president, community finance, at
Capital One. She may be contacted at laura.bailey@capitalone.
com. The views expressed here are the author’s own.