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It’s a common story: a city, or part of it, languishes in squalor and poverty until outside investors see an opportunity in cheap real estate. They come in, redevelop houses and even entire streets, and suddenly the town has changed, with no input from longtime residents.
Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Momentus Capital, which includes community development finance institution Capital Impact Partners and other firms, has seen this happen over the past decade in Detroit as the organization qu he leads has invested in redevelopment efforts, from affordable housing to retail. When Carr looked at the individuals receiving Capital Impact investments in Detroit, he realized that the majority were not people of color, in a city that at the time was 80% black.
So four years ago, he started the Equitable Development Initiative, a program within Capital Impact that provides training, mentorship and financial capital to property developers of color who focus on providing mixed-use buildings. and affordable housing in their communities. The goal, he says, is to “debunk the misperception” around the “perceived risk of investing” in these people and neighborhoods.
The initiative expanded to Washington, DC, in 2019, followed by the Bay Area and Dallas last year. Although the basic program remains the same, the EDI is adapted to the needs of each city; meetings with local governments, community organizations and small businesses in each region help determine a city’s future needs. More than 200 color developers have already completed or are currently participating in the initiative. Many EDI graduates have gone on to start their own organizations and build local developments, from townhouses for new owners in Detroit to a mixed-use project in DC that includes affordable housing, offices and a grocery store in a ancient food desert. .