15 Developers of Color Welcomed into New Accelerator Program

Program is sponsored by a grant from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund and will support real estate developers of color focused on bringing more affordable housing to the Washington metropolitan region.

April 28, 2022 (Arlington, VA) – Today, Capital Impact Partners announced the inaugural class of its Housing Equity Accelerator Fellowship. The group consists of 15 of the region’s emerging real estate developers of color.

The goals of this new program, funded by a grant of more than $5 million from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, include increasing the number of real estate developers of color in an industry where they are under-represented, and helping to grow the affordable housing stock in this region.

The Amazon Housing Equity Fund is the company’s more than $2 billion commitment to preserve and create affordable housing in Amazon’s hometown communities — the Arlington, Virginia region; the Puget Sound region of Washington state; and Nashville, Tennessee. The Fund also strives to support minority-led organizations to help them build a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects communities of color.

“We need to confront the systemic barriers that have long kept developers of color from achieving their full potential,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance. 

These first 15 Fellows are experienced real estate developers who have reached a key point in their careers where additional training, mentorship, and potential access to funding can accelerate existing projects and help them to become more established in the field. Historically, the barrier to entry for emerging real estate developers of color has been extremely high.

“This fellowship is a win-win for the D.C. metro area,” Carr said. “We’re able to help these developers grow their businesses with invaluable training and mentorship, as well as potential access to funding toward their projects. And those projects will ultimately provide more affordable housing in a region that needs it.”

A Diverse Mix of Developers

The first cohort is a diverse mix of developers who are already creating and preserving affordable homes in the metropolitan D.C., Maryland and Virginia region:

  • Christopher Agorsor, New World Developers
  • Alexsis Blakely, Rosewood Strategies LLC
  • Odis Bledsoe, Home Answers Construction & Development
  • Tremayne Cobb, TOC Enterprises, LLC
  • Howard Ervin, Parallax Development Group, LLC
  • Dabrielle Goodwin, Eluvial Enterprise Inc.
  • Forest Hayes, Miller Beach Development LLC
  • Thomas Houston, Medici Road
  • Ayesha Johnson, A-Peace, LLC
  • Raymond Nix, Nix Development Company, LLC
  • Chi Perrus, Paragon Construction Group, Inc.
  • Valerie Sanderlin, FocusWorks LLC
  • Jason Saunders, BHI Construction and Real Estate Development
  • Ronette Slamin, Embolden Real Estate, LLC
  • Ernest Williams III, Wiltrust Group LLC

“The level of talent and the desire to support affordable housing initiatives that we have seen through this program so far are energizing,” said Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “Bringing more diverse voices, ideas and perspectives into the conversation around inclusive community building is how we are going to make the most meaningful and lasting change to affordable housing.”

Program Highlights

Capital Impact Partners’ Housing Equity Accelerator Fellowship is a free, two-year, part-time professional development and career advancement program. It provides:

  • Real estate training with a focus on affordable housing production in the D.C. metropolitan area
  • Small group mentorship
  • Access to grant capital for pre-development expenses such as architectural and engineering costs; permitting, survey and site-planning fees; and market and feasibility studies. These funds are often the most difficult and most expensive to raise for developers.

Capital Impact, Amazon Committed to Equitable Representation, Inclusive Solutions

The Housing Equity Accelerator Fellowship expands on Capital Impact Partners’ Equitable Development Initiative, which was started in 2018 to support emerging developers of color to participate in real estate development in their regions.

This new fellowship program stems from a $21 million pilot program launched by the Amazon Housing Equity Fund to support emerging real estate developers of color in Amazon’s hometown communities in the Puget Sound region of Washington state; the Arlington, Virginia, region; and Nashville, Tennessee. 

According to a 2019 study from the Urban Institute, the Washington metropolitan region requires an additional 375,000 housing units by 2030 to meet growing demand. To address this housing shortfall and to build more inclusive communities, it is essential that government agencies and a diversity of key stakeholders coordinate their efforts. As members of their communities, the fellowship participants will engage with and listen to community concerns, and their work will provide greater access to employment and opportunity for residents.

Several of the fellowship participants are alumni of Capital Impact Partners’ Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), which has trained, or is training, nearly 200 developers of color since 2018 in Detroit; the Washington metropolitan area; and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many participants in those three regions have since gone on to create their own organizations, build local developments, and foster peer-to-peer networks. Capital Impact also launched the EDI in Dallas on April 7, 2022.

This is an important effort given the gaps in representation for real estate developers of color, including:

  • Just 2 percent of real estate development companies are Black-led, according to Enterprise Community Partners. 
  • Real estate firms led by people of color control only 1.5% of real estate assets that are under management, according to Enterprise.
  • Just 4.4 percent of commercial real estate professionals are Black, according to a 2013 survey by NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
  • Just 5% of the Urban Land Institute’s members are African American, according to a 2020 report. 

Developers of color face multiple challenges and obstacles in their field not experienced as frequently by white colleagues, including:

  • Lack of business connections, family wealth, or the backing of a network of investors.
  • Lack of access to development opportunities, or ‘a seat at the table’
  • Lack of capital that is exacerbated due to the fact that traditional underwriting standards work against Black and Brown developers
  • Lack of capacity
  • Market and ecosystem factors

About Capital Impact Partners:

Through capital and commitment, Capital Impact Partners helps people build communities of opportunity that break barriers to success. We work to champion key issues of equity and social and economic justice by deploying mission-driven financing, capacity-building programs, and impact investing opportunities.

A nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution, Capital Impact has disbursed more than $2.5 billion since 1982. In 2020, Capital Impact launched a new enterprise with CDC Small Business Finance under one leadership team and national strategy to reinvent traditional and mainstream financial systems. Our goal is to ensure these systems equitably serve communities of color to drive community-led solutions that support economic mobility and wealth creation.

Our leadership in delivering financial and social impact has resulted in Capital Impact being rated by S&P Global and recognized by Aeris for our performance. Headquartered in Arlington, VA, Capital Impact Partners operates nationally, with local offices in Austin, TX, Detroit, MI, New York, NY, and Oakland, CA.

Learn more at www.capitalimpact.org and investedincommunities.org.