Kioba Business Ventures comprises 30 Black men who bring with them a myriad of trades and skills. The development company started its work in Baltimore’s District 9, an area riddled with vacant homes. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

According to the Abell Foundation, the homeownership rate in Baltimore City dropped from 51 percent to 47 percent from 2007 to 2017. The Black homeownership rate plunged to 42 percent.

The decline of Black homeownership is not special to Baltimore. In fact, the homeownership gap between White and Black Americans is wider than it was more than 50 years ago. Unlike their counterparts, Black adults have long been subject to redlining, and they face significant barriers to borrowing from banks. 

A growing Baltimore development company is working to change this. 

Launched in 2018, Kioba Business Ventures (Kioba) is a Black-owned real estate development company that seeks to increase the rate of affordable housing opportunity for African-American families. 

Kioba stands for “Keep it 100 Black Men Association” because the organization is all about authenticity. The 30 Black men that comprise Kioba Business Ventures range from contractors, to developers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, activists and professors, and for them, the business is all about brotherhood. 

“The vision is to leverage real estate as an asset to empower Black men to create generational wealth, and the mission was to develop a sustainable system to support Black and urban communities in an effort to build Black families through cultural enrichment, wealth creation, asset sharing and the raising of public health awareness for the preservation of Black lives,” said Kevin Daniels, a member of Kioba’s logistics committee. 

In its early stages, the Kioba team self-funded their business, and they paid for a subset of members to obtain realtor, contractor and insurance licenses to build capacity before buying houses to develop. They also went into communities to discover what residents needed and to inform them about Kioba’s mission. 

When it came time for development, Kioba started in District 9, which has the most vacant homes in the city. There, they’ve completed the renovation on one house, and its homebuyer was able to gain over $10,000 in positive equity after moving in. Currently, Kioba is developing three homes in the Druid Hill neighborhood in District 7. 

Increasing financial literacy in Black communities is also an integral part of Kioba’s operation. Recently, the company hosted an event at Morgan State University’s school of business for middle and high school students to learn more about real estate and personal finance.

Kioba also collaborated with Smalltimore Homes, an affordable housing initiative in the city, to teach residents about financial literacy and the construction trade. 

Like many other development companies, Kioba has faced challenges because of COVID-19’s effect on inflation rates and disruptions to the global supply chain. The price of equipment and materials have soared, and there have been shipment delays. However, pushing through the pandemic together made the Kioba brotherhood stronger. 

The Kioba team believes that increasing homeownership rates in Baltimore will help tackle the violence and crime that plague neighborhoods. Homeownership instills a sense of pride in individuals, which in turn motivates them to safeguard and preserve their communities. 

“Our goal is to have millions of Kioba brothers across the country, across the world. This is not just limited to Baltimore or the United States,” said Renny Bass, a member of Kioba’s financing committee.  “The future is bright for Kioba.”