As a Black person in the commercial real estate industry space now, it’s disheartening to see how my peers of color are consistently marginalized. Now don’t get me wrong, this happens basically in every space we are in, but this is article about my experience in real estate. Historically, predominately white professionals who have access to financial resources such as wealth and privilege often find it easier to purchase and develop properties, while majority of middle-class people of color are systematically blocked from building generational wealth due to opportunities and hidden rules and regulations, some that often include inflexible underwriting processes. Even right now as we speak, I can think of at least 6 buildings that are sitting empty and not being occupied, but when I’ve approached the big commercial firms about transfer of ownership, or even leasing at a lower rate, there’s been radio silence. Why is that?
Underwriting, specifically, can be seen as the “gatekeeper” that determines which minority groups have the ability to build and own businesses or invest in property. This gatekeeper method has traditionally kept people of color from obtaining financial security and has allowed for racial disparities to exist within the real estate industry for decades.
It is unacceptable that people of color are still subject to outdated systems that fail to recognize their potential and deny them access to investment opportunities. It takes massive amounts of effort just for a person of color to qualify for property ownership, even when they may have the means and qualifications necessary for success. This emphasizes the importance of advocating for better representation in these industries as well as pushing for more equitable underwriting standards so that everyone has an equal chance at participating in today’s economy.
We must take this a step further by actively supporting investments made by black communities so that we can create a more inclusive environment where all people can thrive. We need more individuals, organizations, institutions, and governments who will commit themselves to dismantling oppressive structures so that we can redistribute power and wealth among minority communities. It should no longer be impossible for those who have been marginalized due to systemic racism to rise up out of poverty and gain financial stability; we need changes now if we want a future where everyone can reach their full potential without facing any form of discrimination or inequality.
It can be overwhelming confronting these organizations and institutions who say they want more black and brown ownership but yet are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments for approval. It leaves me asking a lot of questions:
- Do I invest more of my energy into wealth redistribution?
- Do I take it to a whole next level and recognize that it is almost impossible for the marginalized to no longer be marginalized because the system is so set up to keep us from rising up?
- How can Predominately White Professionals help people of color access investments?
- What strategies can be used to challenge traditional underwriting processes that disproportionately affect people of color?
- Is there a way to encourage more Black and Brown ownership in commercial real estate without creating further disparities between lower-income communities and wealthier populations?
- How do we ensure that the wealth generated from property development is accessible to all, regardless of race or class?
- Are there any existing initiatives helping make commercial real estate available for marginalized members in the community?
The process of purchasing a property has the potential to change the course of an entire Black community, whether residential or commercial. It requires a prolonged commitment, not just in capital but also in activism. This journey I’m on is full of obstacles, both externally and internally imposed. There are moments when I feel scared, anxious and even defeated, but there are also moments where I am hopeful that this could be a successful venture and make some real changes for communities like mine.
Hope IS a Strategy
My hope is that by investing in commercial real estate, I can create a more equitable world where everyone has access to the same resources. By breaking down economic barriers, we have the opportunity to revolutionize entire communities and empower those who’ve been held back for too long.
The potential for success is great when diverse teams and coalitions. These networks of people could come together to create solutions that directly tackle systemic racism and gross economic inequality. They could develop innovative strategies such as microloans or crowdfunding initiatives that provide capital to minority communities so they can become empowered stakeholders within their own neighborhoods, without being predatory.
These efforts must also be backed up with legislation and policy changes at the state and federal levels so that there can be lasting impact on a larger scale. We need laws and programs that provide grants, training opportunities, loan guarantees,and other incentives for small businesses owned by minorities so they can achieve true financial stability and improve their prospects for commercial real estate ownership.
The impact of this kind of action would no doubt be far-reaching – it could spark a shift in attitudes regarding race and socioeconomic status across generations while providing equal access to prosperity through home ownership or business investments. In short, it can help open new doors of opportunity while closing the gaps between people from different backgrounds who have been denied their rightful chance at success due to outdated systems of underwriting.
Long Road Ahead
At the end of it all, if we can invest our time and resources into creating wealth-generating opportunities for black people, communities of color everywhere, then we will have truly taken wealth-redistribution to a new level and given marginalized communities access to financial stability. This is something worth fighting for and I’m determined to see it through.
It’s important to remember that real change takes time and we must remain committed to the goal of achieving financial freedom for not just ourselves, but for our communities who have been shut out of this conversation.
In the end, this mission of mine will be a success if it can create lasting impact on society as a whole. No matter what happens along the way, I am going to keep pushing forward until I reach my destination. It has been ridiculously hard. This is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my lifetime. But I still believe that together, we can make a difference!
Thanks for taking the time to share your experience Jesse. I know many white people just have a hard time believe barriers in real estate still exist, because, you know, it’s “illegal”.