Shelley Halstead, founder of Black Women Build-Baltimore, oversees a participant using a jigsaw. The organization will close the application for its spring 2022 build on Tuesday. (Courtesy Photo)

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

Home ownership and wealth-building initiative Black Women Build-Baltimore is in the midst of organizing its spring 2022 build in Druid Heights, and the application deadline closes Tuesday. 

Women chosen for the program will garner the skills and knowledge required to maintain a home. They will also be trained in carpentry, electrical and plumbing. 

Upon the completion of the four-month build, participants will have the opportunity to purchase the home that they helped to rehabilitate. Black Women Build-Baltimore will also support them in obtaining a mortgage loan. 

“Black women are particularly vulnerable because they own less property and have less ability to pass on wealth compared to any other group. Black Women Build-Baltimore understands that key factors for creating wealth are the ability to own and maintain a home and the ability to pass down wealth intergenerationally,” said Tonika Garibaldi, program manager for Black Women Build-Baltimore. “By training women in trades-related work, our program not only provides a tangible set of skills to be used on other jobs and in the home but allows women to make two to three times more in wages than traditionally female-centered jobs.” 

Black Women Build-Baltimore was founded in 2017 by carpenter Shelley Halstead on the belief that Black women must first learn the skills necessary to maintain wealth before they are able to generate intergenerational wealth. For Halstead, one way this can be taught is through preserving home ownership. 

For each build, the organization independently purchases all of the construction materials from home improvement stores. Annually, it takes on two cohorts of three women for a spring and fall build, renovating six vacant and deteriorating houses. Since its establishment, Black Women Build-Baltimore has constructed seven houses and made four women new homeowners. 

To qualify for Black Women Build-Baltimore’s program, applicants must be a Baltimore City resident, be a first time home owner, be employed, have a savings of $2500 and maintain a minimum credit score of 640. They must also be able to work on the site from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Monday through Thursday. 

Applications will be evaluated on women’s interest in the trades, as well as their commitment to advancing their communities. 

Garibaldi hopes that Black Women Build-Baltimore can expose women to different avenues for wealth creation and professional success. 

“On a community level, our initiative will eliminate blight and create opportunities for home ownership as we work toward whole block outcomes,” said Garibaldi. “On an individual level, we think it is important for our neighbors and community at large to see Black women rehabilitating houses and then owning them. It opens up possibilities for not just those working on the house but for those who witness it.”

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