Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) is on a mission to finance a sustainable future for Canadians—starting with where they live, work, and play.
“VCIB believes real estate can be a powerful tool for change,” says Trish Nixon, Managing Director, Commercial Impact Banking. “We offer financing solutions that empower developers and owners to positively impact the communities in which they operate.” Calling out the bank’s distinct approach, Nixon notes, “We call it social purpose real estate.”
ESG factors play an increasingly prominent role in real estate operations. With extensive experience providing tailored financing for commercial real estate projects, VCIB has seen a huge shift in the market over the last few years. “Every day we hear from traditional developers who are looking for new ways to embed social and community benefit into their projects,” adds Nixon. This is an exciting shift for a financial institution that’s both a Certified B Corp and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.
VCIB provides construction, term, and acquisition financing for commercial real estate projects that drive social, economic, and environmental benefits in communities across Canada. A wide variety of projects may qualify for financing, including residential developments that offer affordable units, non-profit owner-occupied buildings, energy efficient buildings, arts and culture hubs, co-working spaces, and heritage buildings.
To complement their social purpose real estate financing, VCIB’s experienced clean energy team provides specialized lending for projects that have energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainability components.
“High-impact projects not only excite us, but define us,” explains Nixon. “Our mission is to use finance as a tool to drive immediate and lasting social and environmental impact in our communities. That means we’re driven to work harder for borrowers who are aligned with those objectives and can help us achieve them.”
Like your favourite bespoke tailor or local bookshop, VCIB makes it personal. “As an account manager, it’s my job to understand a client’s vision and anticipate their unique requirements,” says Eric Visser, Senior Manager of Business Development, Commercial Real Estate. All the typical lending proof points come into play, of course, but it’s the “conversations that reveal a client’s passions, motivations, and vision for a project.”
With considerable experience financing real estate projects that incorporate affordable housing, energy efficient amenities, community-enhancing designs, and ESG-forward plans, VCIB doesn’t shy away from unconventional projects. “When I have a thorough understanding of a client’s plan—and it fits VCIB’s impact-first framework—I’ll find a financing solution that works for them,” continues Visser.
This confidence comes from a history of financing creative models for affordable housing and community spaces, combined with VCIB’s in-house clean energy expertise. Visser notes that “we don’t believe that ‘unique’ or ‘innovative’ necessarily equates to ‘risky’.” Adding, “my job is to understand a project holistically and find ways to mitigate risk.” In fact, measures that bolster a project’s impact rating with VCIB, such as the inclusion of affordable units or investment in efficiency upgrades, can reflect positively within the adjudication process, as they may reduce vacancy risk or add long-term value.
“VCIB wants to support businesses that drive social, environmental, and economic change, so you’re not going to pay more to do the right thing,” states Visser. In fact, clients attest that VCIB’s rates and financing solutions are very competitive in this market. Contributing to the social and environmental sustainability of market real estate builds your brand and your business.
All in the family
As a subsidiary of the largest credit union in the country, VCIB builds on Vancity’s long history of investing in community, with a national scope. While the credit union operates solely within British Columbia, VCIB is regulated to serve the rest of Canada as a Schedule I bank. Headquartered in Toronto, VCIB is next door to the big banks, yet its size and impact mandate sets it apart. Visser explains, “Our nimble approach and niche expertise make the difference in how we serve clients across Ontario and in select national markets. Whether big or small, unique purpose-driven real estate projects need the customized financing solutions that we’re willing to offer.”
VCIB’s blog showcases a broad client list that includes private developers and non-profit housing providers. The bank has also worked in partnership with public organizations such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Canada Infrastructure Bank, seeing public-private partnerships as a path out of the affordability and climate crises. “The challenges we’re addressing require all hands on deck,” Nixon emphasizes. “VCIB is committed to partnering with private, not-for-profit, and public sector players to find solutions to move the needle forward.”