Grounded Solutions Network

EquityFirst – Catalytic Urban Investment for Social Inclusion

Urban development

Transformative infrastructure investment with a social equity framework expands access to economic opportunity, housing, health and public open space mitigating community displacement and culture shifts

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Lead Organization

Grounded Solutions Network

Oakland, California, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Thriving cities require socio-economic diversity to function best as marketplaces for opportunity, commerce, and culture. Currently, global urban re-investment and strong population growth are leading to skyrocketing real estate costs in major cities. The social fabric of established urban neighborhoods is rapidly transforming as significant numbers of businesses are relocated and families are uprooted from their homes, schools, and jobs. In U.S. cities, those affected are often low-income communities of color—which historically suffered from public investment policies, resulting in deep and disparate wealth stripping rather than wealth generation.Our solution is not to halt economic investment and growth, but to harness it and benefit communities of color. Strong and recent evidence, derived from our collective experiences, validates the use of an EQUITABLE IMPACT FRAMEWORK tool, including progressive SHARED EQUITY REAL ESTATE MODELS as the SOLUTION, providing local community control of specific real estate assets for long term sustainable social benefits.

Problem Statement

American housing, education and urban planning related policies historically were designed to disadvantage communities of color, which resulted in disinvestment in neighborhoods and associated multi-generational social and economic consequences. We all continue to grapple with legacies of the past. Previous urban renewal public policies and programs were particularly destructive to the physical and social fabric of communities of color, with highways and other public infrastructure requiring relocation, demolition and a loss of value for homes and thriving businesses within already racially and economically segregated neighborhoods. Ironically, these same communities of color are often targeted for new economic investments today, due to low property values resulting from decades of lack of access to capital and a lack of public policies designed for their direct benefit. New investments in parks and other amenities for communities of color today still too often result in physical displacement as rents and home prices rise dramatically, forcing relocation of existing low and moderate income households and businesses. Managing new investments to achieve social equity is a complex process, requiring that existing families and businesses receive a fairer share of the new resources, opportunities, social supports, and power, given their differential needs and circumstances. Achieving equity therefore entails addressing structural disparities that exist between people of different backgrounds, using new and improved public policies and programs which center community driven cultural and racial equity as a primary outcome of economic investments. Providing local community controlled ownership of land is a fundamental component to achieve equitable investment results.

Solution Overview

Our solution will refine and use an Equitable Impacts Framework to guide catalytic public/private shared equity real estate investments to demonstrate measurable social impact outcomes at scale. The progress and outcomes of our solution are illustrated by the early progress of Washington, D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Park. The new 1,200-foot bridge is slated for completion in 2023, and Bridge Park planners, nonprofit partners, residents, underwriters, and other city stakeholders are now entering their third year of implementing the project’s Equitable Development Plan. The goal is to ensure that the park drives inclusive development in the surrounding communities with opportunities for all residents, regardless of income and demography. Early progress indicators over a two-year period include:•The Douglass Community Land Trust shared equity program launched and seeking to secure $170M of additional public/private investment capital•70 homes purchased by low- and moderate-income participants in the Bridge Park–sponsored Ward 8 homebuyers club•104 existing small businesses based in Wards 7 and 8 received loans and technical assistance from the Washington Area Community Investment Fund •31 construction trainees from Wards 6, 7, and 8 secured new full-time jobs But more needs to be done to rapidly increase Bridge Park’s early shared equity portfolio expansion with additional sources of committed investor capital generated, additional technical capacity created and strengthening community resident partnerships. Similar work must also be initiated in Miami and Los Angeles, replicating the approach to stabilize and benefit significant numbers of low/moderate income residents and small businesses.

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