La Puerta: Opening the Door to Financial Health and Wealth

La Puerta's goal is to provide a comprehensive set of wealth building services and sound financial products to low-income families.

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Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Texas: Brownsville (78520,78521,78526), Harlingen (78550,78551,78552,78553), Raymondville (78580), Sebastian (78594), Combes (78535), La Feria (78559), Los Fresnos (78566), Los Indios (78567), Olmito (78575), Port Isabel (78578), Rio Hondo (78583), San Benito (78586), Santa Maria (78592), Santa Rosa

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Health & Fitness
  • Human Rights & Equality

Date Started

The Community Development Corporation of Brownsville was founded in 1976 and La Puerta in 2015.

Organization Type

  • hybrid

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)


  • $1m - $5m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL

Facebook URL

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The La Puerta program serves families in the 5 counties along the southernmost Texas-Mexico border, an area that comprises one of the 1 persistent poverty regions in the U.S. The majority of families we serve are financially unhealthy as they are: 1. living pay-check to pay-check, 2. rely on high cost predatory loans for financial emergencies, and lack a plan for their financial future.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The symptoms of chronic financial illness for our clients are evident in the fact that 72% have sub-prime credit scores, 75% are under 80% AMI, 72% have no savings, the average credit sore is 480 with monthly debt payments of $518, and their average net worth is -$10,247. We are endeavoring to provide families with a comprehensive set of products and services to assist them to escape the cycle of chronic financial illness and accumulate long-term assets including: one-to-one financial coaching and housing counseling, interactive financial workshops for adults, teens, and children, free federal income tax preparation, and matched savings opportunities, sound alternative mortgage and small dollar loan products, real estate brokerage and mortgage services, single and multifamily construction and GED certification. Mi Casita is but one example of the products we developed that allows families to build the core unit of a new home for $49,000 and both the physical structure and the mortgage note are designed to grow with the family. As a family’s financial resources increase, they can add additional bedrooms, bathrooms or living space while the cost is added to original mortgage.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

In the last three years, we have provided over 2,000 families with financial coaching and housing counseling, financial literacy workshops for over 3,000 people and filed nearly 900 federal income tax returns garnering over 3 million dollars in tax refunds. Since 2013 CDCB has provided new construction, preservation, first lien mortgages, down-payment assistance and realty services to 786 homeowners as well as 136 ‘casitas’ for individuals to rent. In addition, we have provided over 18,071 small dollar loans in our region. When a family initially walks through 'La Puerta' we are opening the door to their financial future. We perform a triage of their financial health to measure their financial pulse(monthly income), financial cholesterol level(monthly debt burden) financial blood sugar(credit score) and financial immune system (savings) to determine what type of services to enroll in.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

As a mission driven CDC/CDFI hybrid organization involved in social innovation,CDCB provides access to affordable homeownership and realistic opportunities to increase financial assets, financial health and wealth by creating sound financial products and services, available to individuals across the socio-economic spectrum. We focus on serving underserved rural Latino low-income working families in deep south Texas including veterans, ex-offenders, immigrants and colonia residents.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • geography
  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • age - youth

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While many organizations offer financial coaching and access to affordable housing options around the country, CDCB has listened intentionally to the needs of the families we serve and as a result created products such as the CLC small dollar loan that provide families with access to up to $1,000 with a year to repay at only 16% interest and downpayment assistance to purchase a home with a mortgage product and housing structure designed to grow as the family increases their income all while receiving customized 1-1 financial coaching with a trusted partner with deeply rooted in our community.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In the last three years, we have provided over 2,000 families with financial coaching and housing counseling, financial literacy workshops for over 3,000 people and filed nearly 900 federal income tax returns garnering over 3 million dollars in tax refunds. Since 2013 CDCB has provided new construction, preservation, first lien mortgages, down-payment assistance and realty services to 786 homeowners as well as 136 ‘casitas’ for individuals to rent. In addition, we have provided over 18,071 small dollar loans amounting to $18,379,377 in our region. The qualitative impact of our work is evident in the increased quality of life and long-term inter-generational wealth building opportunities available for the families we serve. The individual stories demonstrate that we are taking a process that was transactional - to one that is truely transformational for the families we serve.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

The CLC loan has been franchised in 13 locations throughout the state of Texas and 3 other states and we continue to work on building partnerships with similar organizations so that they can offer the small dollar loan product in communities throughout the US. We are also working on expanding the scope of our financial capability work to provide text, chat, and skpye financial coaching as well as increasing our tax preparation work and creating an emergency savings account component to complement the small dollar loan program. In addition we are expanding the MiCasita program in colonias.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Campaigns

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We are currently trying to determine how to take our work to scale in order to serve a larger share of low-income families while reducing our use of grant funds. To this end we continue to innovate in the mortgage development space, attempting to push the envelope to develop financial products that enable low-income families to build wealth and create a profit to re-invest in our work.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The La Puerta team is small but mighty and is composed of the director of home ownership, the LP manager and 3 full time financial coaches. We also work closely with the grant writer to raise funds for critical program activities. Our team is houses a wealth of knowledge of mortgage financing, social service program development, implementation, evaluation, data management and experience working with families in this region. As we evolve we would like to expand our data analytic capabilities.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community
  • Other

If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

Limited English Proficient, Veterans, recently Released Ex-offenders, Immigrants, Rural & Colonia

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 66.7%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 66.7%

Clarity of Writing - 33.3%

Idea Originality - 66.7%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 33.3%

Impact Potential - 100%

Financial Sustainability - 33.3%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 33.3%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 33.3%

Clarity of Writing - 33.3%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 33.3%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 33.3%

Team - 33.3%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 33.3%


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I love the work you're doing and think it's great that you've developed your programs and products in response to the needs of your community, with a focus on high impact financial products and homeownership support. I'm really interested in learning more about your small dollar loan product, since this is something that many people need but few organizations offer. Could you share more information, here or offline, about the repayment rates you've seen and what you've learned about how to successfully provide a small dollar loan product? Thanks!