By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
Baltimore-based Enterprise Community Development recently launched the Let’s Build Accelerator to address the equity gap in the real estate and development industries. With its initial $5 million equity investment, the nonprofit will partner with Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community and faith-based developers to bring projects to fruition.
“This program is designed to help those who are in the development space and in our communities seeking to figure out how to solve local solutions in their communities but often don’t have the money or the partner to help take that vision forward,” said Brian McLaughlin, president of Enterprise Community Development.
Enterprise Community Development, which is an affiliate of Enterprise Community Partners, is an owner, developer and operator of affordable housing in the Mid-Atlantic. It is the sixth largest nonprofit owner of local housing in the country and the seventh largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the country.
The Let’s Build Accelerator was created because while BIPOC, community- and faith-based developers have leading ideas for local development that will advance their neighborhoods, they face hurdles in accessing partners and funding to make their projects happen.
According to McLaughlin, many of these developers have not experienced fair banking relationships. They also do not have the professional network to form partnerships with established developers who can help them scale their business.
Enterprise Community Development is specifically targeting Maryland, D.C. and Virginia BIPOC, community- and faith-based developers for the Let’s Build Accelerator. Those chosen will not only receive the equity capital needed to secure ownership stake in projects but will also obtain access to Enterprise Community Development’s network of vendors and service providers.
From negotiating with the bank to reviewing construction progress, the developers will be a part of the entire process, and they will receive on-the-job training. Applications will be taken on a rolling basis for the accelerator.
“The hope is that we’re building a very strong, robust future pipeline of developers who if they get an opportunity can take it from there without us,” said McLaughlin. “They won’t need us at some point. They can now have the experience and returns that allow them to bridge their way to their next project on their own.”
According to McLaughlin, the real estate industry is not always a friendly space. Many times, developers are driven by profit and returns, and they don’t want to share funds with partners. They also seldom consider if their project addressed a need in the community.
As many BIPOC, community and faith-based developers are ingrained in their neighborhoods, he hopes that they seek input from community members in the design process. He also hopes that some of the money generated from the accelerator’s projects will be driven back into local communities.
“I think what we hope to do by ensuring that some of these other developers are a part of the ownership is that they get part of the wealth, and they can reinvest that wealth back into their companies and back into their community,” said McLaughlin.
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