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Insight: REIBC blog > Investing in Real Estate for a Social Purpose

Investing in Real Estate for a Social Purpose

posted on 10:36 AM, October 11, 2019
Central City Foundation’s Ashnola at the Crossing in Keremeos, a 22-bed treatment program for youth and young adults. Credit: Central City Foundation

What is social purpose real estate? According to Jennifer Johnstone, president and CEO of Central City Foundation, it is “…properties or facilities [that] are owned and operated by mission-based and non-profit organizations or investors for the purpose of community benefit and to achieve blended value returns... Investing in social purpose real estate can deliver financial and social returns that improve our communities and improve the lives of our neighbours in need.”

Central City Foundation has been playing a role in inner city developments since 1907, and today is worth $50 million. It uses its assets and expertise to assist its neighbours in three main ways: funding and supporting programs, developing capital projects, and working with social purpose real estate.

“Our grants support dozens of innovative, community-led programs run by community partners. We are often the first funder of a program and one of the few willing to take on capital funding projects,” writes Johnstone. The foundation invests in “…buildings and facilities that provide low-income housing and space and place for community organizations that are improving lives through unique early learning and education programs, daycares, health and family services, addiction treatment centres, and social enterprises.”

Central City Foundation currently owns five social purpose real estate properties in BC, with holdings that include 75,000 square feet of urban properties and a 58-acre rural site. The foundation invests in real estate to house other community organizations whose missions align, achieving blended financial and social return on these investments.

“While we’ve benefitted from real estate values, rising prices have put horrible pressure on non-profits to sell land and buildings,” writes Johnstone. “The skyrocketing real estate market has put an extra premium on the ability to hold community space… We believe it’s important to hold on to community properties in the face of gentrification and high-end luxury real estate. This is how we build community and how we address community issues.”

Input Summer 2019.jpg
Download Summer 2019

Read more about Central City Foundation’s social purpose real estate projects and approach in Johnstone’s “Impact Investing in Social Purpose Real Estate” in the Summer 2019 edition of Input. Download Summer 2019

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