Skip to main content

The Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at the UNC School of Government partners with local governments to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and development expertise. Since its founding in 2011, DFI has partnered with more than 85 communities to design and attract investment for development projects that accomplish local goals.

Local governments seek DFI’s assistance with difficult development projects, often in distressed areas where the government has had difficulty attracting private sector interest. Private developers would rather invest in growing, successful geographic areas, a rational decision given that they often don’t have sufficient up-front capital to figure out tough projects. However, DFI’s analyses identify projects with market potential that private developers have missed or ignored and that show the project to be attractive to private investors. Then DFI recruits highly qualified private developers to make the project happen. In this way, DFI opens more opportunities for developers than they would have otherwise been able to find and execute on their own.

DFI partners with communities on projects including:

•   Loan funds

•   Affordable housing

•   Building reuse and downtown revitalization

•   Master planning and execution

•   Community and neighborhood development

•   Economic development, including assessment of underutilized assets.

DFI is also sometimes contacted when a potential project has fallen through because of a trust deficit between public officials and private developers. The private developers often do not understand what a local government is legally permitted to do, and public officials do not know enough to judge whether they’re getting a fair deal. DFI comes to the table on the side of the local government but provides confidence to both sides. DFI identifies legally permissible options for the government and tests the assumptions and feasibility of the private developer’s plan. DFI enables public-private partnerships to succeed rather than fall apart, making more private projects possible.

The DFI Graduate Fellows program employs several graduate students from institutions across the Triangle every year for in-depth project work. The Fellowship program compliments the students’ academic experience in the fields of business, planning, public administration, public health, information science and applied geography.

DFI staff also contribute to UNC’s educational mission by teaching the next generation of community and economic development professionals in the Applied Community Revitalization course offered twice annually through the Master of Public Administration and the Master of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill. For select project types, under the supervision of faculty and staff, professional students conduct financial feasibility analysis, market research, and financial modeling to help communities understand how they can attract private investment into community revitalization projects across North Carolina. If you represent a local government and would like to submit a project for consideration by a student team, please fill out this form.

For more information about DFI and its services, contact DFI Associate Director Marcia Perritt at


Featured Blog Post:

DFI: Of the Public, For the Public