Working Together to Strengthen Our Cities

This is a guest post by Tim Sloan, CEO and president, Wells Fargo & Company

Wells Fargo is pleased to partner with cities around the U.S. to improve the communities where we all live and work. We’ve been doing it for generations, and it’s a part of our company culture that makes me most proud!

I would like to welcome the National League of Cities annual City Summit to Los Angeles, a city that’s very important to Wells Fargo, and where nearly 3,000 of our team members live and work. Later today, I look forward to discussing with Executive Director Clarence Anthony how financial institutions can be part of the solution to the challenges facing cities.

As you may know, Wells Fargo shares the NLC’s deep commitment to the success of communities across the U.S. Our company has long recognized that we can only be as successful as the families, schools and businesses in the communities we serve. So we work hard to support the economic, social and environmental health of U.S. cities.

For example, this year we’ve committed to contribute $400 million — more than $1 million a day — to nonprofits that support local community needs across the U.S. We are also the leading affordable housing lender in the country, a distinction that makes me very proud.

And in addition, Wells Fargo team members regularly volunteer their time to nonprofit organizations that do so much for neighborhoods and communities. Last year alone, members of the Wells Fargo team volunteered more than 2 million hours to support the causes that mean the most to them.

Our community commitment supports a diverse set of priorities including community development, civic projects, K-12 and higher education, the arts, environmental initiatives and more.

Just one example: We recently announced more than $1.6 billion in lending, investment and philanthropy to the most disadvantaged parts of Washington, D.C., over the next five years. This program, Where We Live, was developed and launched in collaboration with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, and it is aimed at unlocking economic opportunity for those in the city who need it most. In particular, it will focus on affordable housing, small business growth and job skills — issues that local leaders told us are the city’s most pressing needs.

One of our first Where We Live projects was to redevelop a Southeast D.C. apartment community — Parkway Overlook — that had been abandoned since 2008. Wells Fargo provided $90 million in lending and equity investments to convert the complex into 220 affordable rental units, helping to add reasonably priced housing in a neighborhood that badly needs it.

Of course, this is just one project. But it illustrates just what we can bring to the table when cities approach us with concerns over housing accessibility, housing inventory and housing affordability.

In far too many U.S. neighborhoods, families find it difficult to afford the rising cost of rent and are challenged to save enough to buy a home of their own. We recently commissioned a study, conducted by the Governing Institute, in which more than 40 percent of state, city and local government officials said the lack of housing availability and homeownership is a national crisis. It also showed that about half of the general U.S. population sees housing affordability as either a crisis or a serious challenge.

The full report of the study has much more detail, and includes three solutions recommended in the Governing Institute study:

  • Provide incentives to builders to construct new homes that people can afford. For example, the City of San Jose, Calif., has adjusted fees for developers to a square-footage basis rather than per unit to encourage higher density housing with less square footage. In the survey, 60 percent of respondents said they would support smaller house construction in their neighborhoods.
  • Address land scarcity. Cities lacking land for new construction can look to community land trusts — nonprofit, community-based organizations that purchase land to preserve affordable housing — to unlock local land supply.
  • Reinvest in first-time homebuyer programs. Such programs, especially those that include pre-purchase counseling, can improve mortgage literacy and empower buyers to improve their chances of qualifying for a mortgage.

Wells Fargo has long supported just this kind of effort. In 2012 we worked with NeighborWorks®America to create a program designed to help more low- and moderate-income residents realize the dream of homeownership. The program, NeighborhoodLIFT, provides down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers and potential homebuyers ready to re-enter the market, as well as financial support for programs that support community revitalization efforts.

Through NeighborhoodLIFT, we’ve created more than 18,500 homeowners and committed $412 million to assist low- and moderate-income homebuyers — making this the single largest corporate philanthropic effort of its kind in Wells Fargo’s history.

I know that all members of the National League of Cities are working hard to help your communities thrive, and I want you to know that Wells Fargo is committed to working with you! Thank you for the work you do and the passion you bring to this work. You are a uniquely valuable asset to the communities you represent.

I look forward to our conversation and to continuing this important work in the years to come. Thank you.

Wells-Fargo_Sloan_Photo_2018About the author: Tim Sloan was elected CEO of Wells Fargo & Company and a member of the Board of Directors in October 2016, and he became president in November 2015. Previously he served as chief operating officer from November 2015 to October 2016 – a role in which he was responsible for the operations of the company’s four main business groups: Community Banking, Consumer Lending, Wealth and Investment Management, and Wholesale Banking. Tim earned his BA in economics and history and his MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.