Baltimore Accelerator Will Focus on Black and Latina Women

The POWER Collaborative is hoping to build wealth and stability in some of Baltimore’s most underserved communities.

(Photo by Adam Moss / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Last year, Black homeownership hit its lowest rates since the 1960s. Meanwhile, the disparities in the real estate industry itself are also significant, with only 2% of real estate development companies in the U.S. being Black-led, and minority-led real estate firms controlling only 1.5% of real estate assets under management. A new initiative spearheaded by the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) is aiming to shift those numbers in some of Baltimore’s most underserved communities.

Dubbed the POWER Collaborative (Prioritizing Our Women’s Economic Rise), the LEDC is working in cooperation with local CDFI Baltimore Community Lending, the city of Baltimore, and several other civic and community leadership stakeholders to build a continuum of wealth and stability for Black and Latina women in Baltimore via real estate, small business and workforce development. So far, they have been awarded a $5 million, three-year commitment by JPMorgan Chase to fund the POWER Collaborative in Baltimore as part of a larger effort to fund creative programming addressing disparity.

“We know that most Latino women live in poverty with Black women, who are also cost-burdened renters,” says Emi Reyes, the CEO of LEDC. “The Baltimore collaborative plans to address the gap, empower opportunity in the real estate market, and provide the tools to build.”

POWER contains three primary accelerators: small business incubators, grant funding to develop affordable housing, and skill training in high-growth sectors. They’ll also offer needed access to capital, technical assistance and wrap-around support.

Clarence Snuggs is the COO at Baltimore Community Lending. Snuggs described a higher standard for the POWER Collaborative outcome as a “quadruple bottom line” which adds minority homeownership as a finalizing piece of the development puzzle.

“[The women we will work with] complete identifying a property, securing it, planning, and applying for it,” Snuggs says. “The creative part for us is building a continuum of wealth for Black and Latino women through real estate, small business and workforce development.”

Additionally, there is a mindset challenge that women and minority developers must overcome in traditional capital avenues.

“Development is a traditionally male-dominated field,” Snuggs says. “There are significant challenges in systems, with older houses in the neighborhood, and then the market overall. And lenders really don’t understand these markets. As a result, they say ‘this is a riskier transaction.’”

The collaborative will train 180 entrepreneurs, have 51 women start new careers, and redevelop 20 vacant houses. But this is about more than renovations. This program aims for businesses to replicate success long-term as budding entrepreneurs.

Picking the right properties will be a challenge, Snuggs says. In Central West Baltimore, where they’re focused, there are a lot of vacancies and challenges in the community. They learned from past mistakes and are intentionally correcting the massive flight and devaluation created by a high-rise rental mindset. The POWER Collaborative is focused primarily on “missing middle” housing, particularly creating affordable home-ownership opportunities in three-story rowhouses, and plans to utilize some of Baltimore’s 15,000 vacant units and lots.

“We have been at this for 50 plus-politician years, recovering from the 1960s with disturbances from the assassination of Martin Luther King,” Snuggs says. “Communities like Baltimore lost a lot of middle-class discretionary income and suffered. The system doesn’t produce opportunities for recovery at a scale that outpaces the deterioration.”

The idea is not to foster more transience, but to instill long-term stability by creating multiple levels of community assets — in trained people, successful businesses and quality affordable housing for permanent residence. Snuggs sees a stark need to disrupt the current development mindset.

“We don’t want it to take 20-40 more years to see improvement in these communities,” Snuggs says. “Baltimore once had a population of almost a million people, and now it’s under 650,000. A lot of that was flight in the 60s-70s to the suburbs. Economics didn’t justify themselves for renovating. You need to close that appraisal gap.”

According to Snuggs, a lot of the properties in their focus areas were most recently appraised at under $50,000, and could cost a few hundred thousand dollars to acquire and renovate. They would then sell them for only $110,000.

The goal is to put properties on the market at a price that a resident already in that community can afford. At the same time, the community benefits from a vacant or blighted house being put back on the market.

Reyes says they’ve already received ample interest from women in the community and hope to be “full steam ahead” by this Spring.

“What is also very beautiful about this initiative is that we have government support, private sector and nonprofit sectors,” Reyes says. “When you get everybody at the table with a common mission and goal, that’s what allows us to be more successful and aware, to address these needs.”

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This story is part of our series, CDFI Futures, which explores the community development finance industry through the lenses of equity, public policy and inclusive community development. The series is generously supported by Partners for the Common Good. Sign up for PCG’s CapNexus newsletter at capnexus.org.

Hadassah Patterson has written for news outlets for more than a decade, contributing for seven years to local online news and with 15 years of experience in commercial copywriting. She currently covers politics, business, social justice, culture, food and wellness.

Tags: real estatebaltimorecdfi futuresracial justice

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