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Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Edwards Church of Northampton has made a $500,000 investment in Way Finders’ Development Capital Fund via a low-interest loan that will provide pre-development funding for affordable-housing projects the agency manages throughout Western Mass.

In 2019, the Edwards Church congregation was surveyed on their preferences for church support in the community. Results indicated that members had a strong interest in supporting affordable housing as an alternative investment of the church’s invested funds.

Its investment committee subsequently sought out an affordable-housing development partner in which to invest and learned that Springfield-based Way Finders, an affordable-housing organization dedicated to bringing home stability to people across Western Mass. since 1972, manages its own Development Capital Fund, which is open to outside investors.

“The most important way to address the affordable housing crisis is by building more homes, which we can do with adequate funding,” said Keith Fairey, Way Finders president and CEO. “Our pre-development fund is vital because it covers the large expenses tied to all the work needed before we put a shovel in the dirt. This includes architect fees, site preparation, permitting, and due diligence.”

Way Finders puts money into the fund, as do outside investors, including churches. Edwards Church is now one of those investors. The $500,000 is a loan to Way Finders, not a grant or gift. The funds earn an annual, below-market interest rate; the funds can be repaid to the church in six years if the church so chooses.

“Parts of the Edwards Church vision statement proclaim, ‘knowing that the road is long, we choose to walk together,’ and ‘encountering the world’s joys and suffering, we offer ourselves as instruments of love and justice,’” said Michael McSherry, senior minister. “The church’s investment in Way Finders is an expression of our commitment to walk with our neighbors who face housing insecurity and taking concrete steps to help build solutions.”

Way Finders has more than seven active affordable-housing projects currently under development in towns including Amherst, South Hadley, Ludlow, Springfield, Great Barrington, and Agawam. The agency built and currently manages Live 155 on Pleasant Street in Northampton and also manages five other affordable-housing properties in Northampton, plus many more throughout Western Mass.