ShoreBank Co-founder Mary Houghton Delivers Leaders Forum Lecture on Community Development
By the early 1970ís, investment had dried-up in inner-city Chicago, as local banks chose to lend money to the suburbs rather than invest in their communities. At the time, Mary Houghton and three friends were running a minority lending program. They believed in their work, but wanted to have a greater impact. And so, over drinks in the Eagle Bar the four conceived of a plan to buy a bank and turn it into a community development vehicle. They raised roughly $3 million and in 1973 opened ShoreBank.
Houghton, now president of ShoreBank Corporation, told the story of the institution on November 3 as part of the SOM Leaders Forum lecture series. Over the last 35 years, ShoreBank has become one of the premier anti-poverty organizations in the country and an inspiration for generations searching for new and more effective ways to revitalize downtrodden communities. The bank has focused on lending to local entrepreneurs, many of whom made their living rehabbing and managing South Side rental buildings. Houghton said that over the decades, the bank financed more than 50,000 units of affordable housing, helping to stabilize the community and help residents gain a toehold in the wider economy.
"Access to capital is an important tool in poverty mitigation," said Houghton. "It makes it possible for everyone in the community to have the opportunity to use their energy to reach their potential. If you do it broadly, you can create a thriving market and a thriving community."