The strengthening economy has spurred a jump in home prices in the Lowcountry, in addition to a sea of new homes projects in the pipeline.

At a glance

What: The Lowcountry Housing Trust recently changed its name to the South Carolina Community Loan Fund.

Why: The new name shows the nonprofit's statewide initiative for affordable housing, food and other opportunities.

What's next: The group is hosting "Tri-County Housing Summit" on June 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Trident Technical College.

Objective: The summit is intended to help form a master plan to address affordable housing and other needs in the region.

The growth of the local real estate market has triggered calls for a balance with affordable housing. Addressing this issue is one of the marching orders for the South Carolina Community Loan Fund, formerly known as the Lowcountry Housing Trust.

The North Charleston-based nonprofit recently changed its name to coincide with statewide efforts to address affordable housing, food, healthcare and other opportunities.

Locally, the group has been an advocate for affordable housing in the region. That also includes helping finance several affordable housing projects, in addition to efforts for increasing access to quality food and other opportunities.

It also has assumed a lead role in efforts to sharpen the focus of affordable housing in the tri-county region.

Last spring, the group hosted "Housing Matters: A Tri-County Housing Summit," an event intended to kick-start a regional plan to combine private and public resources to increase affordable housing.

The event came on the heels of a scorecard report that ranked the Charleston region last in affordable housing compared to similar-size metro areas such as Savannah and Greenville.

The Community Loan Fund intends to continue pushing efforts, hosting another housing summit June 13. "This gives us pieces of the puzzle that will help us solve this and lets us create an action plan to work toward this," said Michelle Mapp, executive director of the Community Loan Fund.

The event is planned to address issues such as access to transportation and affordable housing.

Branching out

The group will use a recent regional housing study to shape what needs to be addressed.

The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Housing Needs Assessment study concluded that thousands in the region spend a large chunk of their income on housing. The nine-page report also concludes that workers such as firefighters, teachers, police officers, waitresses and administrative personnel can't afford to purchase or rent housing in the region.

"This gives us a real idea of the scope of the problem and what is next," Mapp said.

The Loan Fund is looking to mirror similar efforts throughout the state, in addition to expanding on other efforts, such as food access.

The move is in response to the organization's resources increasingly extended to areas in the Upstate and along the state's coastline.

"We started to lend outside the Lowcountry over the last 24 months prior to the name change," Mapp said. "Likewise, we began expanding lending more than just for affordable housing, so the name change reflects the direction we were starting to take."

The organization of eight workers will remain headquartered in North Charleston, while also working remotely throughout the state, Mapp said.

The group eventually will add staff in other parts of the state and work collaboratively with regional organizations, she added.

The Loan Fund collects contributions from local governments and foundations, and tax-credit-driven investments from companies and individuals. It then uses that money to pull down matching funds from the federal government.

The Loan Fund makes grants and loans to developers, with most of the money serving as revolving loans that return to the organization to be used again.

It is also making efforts to advocate for more than just affordable housing.

"Our expertise was in real estate-based lending, and it's not a huge leap to go from financing housing to a grocery store or farmers market or health center," Mapp said.

The nonprofit was founded in 2003 as the Charleston Housing Trust to be a source of financing for affordable housing construction in the city. The group later changed its name to the Lowcountry Housing Trust as it expanded into Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

Finding solutions

Since 2004, the nonprofit has provided $19.2 million in financing that has led to development of more than $163 million in community development projects, according to its annual report.

The group's funding has helped create or retain 3,159 jobs, five community businesses and 1,111 housing units, according to the report.

An example of efforts includes the construction activity at the Crisis Ministries homeless shelter on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston.

The Loan Fund gave Crisis Ministries a $500,000 loan to help fund a project that creates a veterans' dorm, a 40-bed transitional housing facility for homeless male veterans, officials said.

Stacey Denaux, the shelter's CEO, said the loan helps the group offer more for the community.

"Our missions may appear to be very different but they are very similar. ... The end result is all the same; we want to help people obtain and get permanent, affordable housing," she said.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.