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CHICAGO-Even if it is 1%, community investing has a place in individual and institutional portfolios, according to the Social Investment Forum Foundation and Co-op America. The groups have launched a web site, www.communityinvest.org, which offers information and links to investment opportunities worldwide, including commercial real estate developments and loan funds.

The move is partly a response to current and proposed cuts in federal funding of programs such as Section 8 public housing assistance and community development block grants, according to members of the non-profit foundations. “Institutional and individual investors need to step in and make up the difference,” says Shorebank senior vice president Jean Pogge, chairperson of the community investing program. “Community investing is not a grant or a subsidy, but a sound investing option and an effective model for community development.”

The groups’ web site offers investment opportunities from about 400 institutions. “There’s a little bit of everything out there,” says Pogge, whose own firm’s products include money-market accounts and certificates of deposits, but pay market rates on money invested in low- and moderate-income communities.

Community development loan funds also offer “good returns,” Pogge says, while venture capital funds also are seeking money for various investment strategies. They also are relatively safe investments, adds National Community Capital Center chief executive officer Mark Pinsky. Although investments are made in what are perceived to be high-risk markets, the $14 billion in assets have had a charge-off rate of less than 1%, he says.

“We are seeing a boom in attractive investment opportunities in emerging domestic markets,” Pinksy says. Nonetheless, the withdrawal of federal support is eroding public-private partnerships, says Albany Community Land Trust board member Roger Markovics, whose organization has developed 59 units, in New York’s capital.

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