It was only one measly rejected loan application, delivered in the form of a cringe-inducing email sent to me by a shortsighted loan officer at some regional bank.
But it changed the course of my entire career.
People often ask me where the spark for the Impact Investing movement came from. Over the last eight years, I’ve shown dozens of people how to follow in my path and even partner with me—To create a dual return by making money for millennials while impacting the communities they’re investing in.
And the truth is— it might never have happened if that email hadn’t really pissed me off.
Let me back up.
It was 2015 and I was a 25-year old year old emerging developer with a proven and profitable track record of buying, fixing up and renting out affordable housing in marginalized Columbus neighborhoods. I was putting working class people in budget friendly housing and making a nice return for myself and whatever investors decided to hop on board.
So when a 9-unit caught my eye I decided to apply for a mortgage. I usually paid cash, but it would be a small loan and I had the credibility and the credit to make it easy.
Yet because of the address, I already knew what the response would be when I applied. But I wanted to hear the message directly. The casual discrimination in the wording was more than even I expected to hear.
“While I cannot redline neighborhoods …
I think we are going to pass on this one.”
The gist of it— while this manager would love to do business with me, he (unofficially of course, wink, wink) wasn’t going to lend in that neighborhood. Too dangerous. And I might not be happy. Could he recommend something in another part of town?
The irony had me reeling. Banks didn’t want to lend because the street was nearly vacant and the neighborhood wasn’t up to snuff. And yet here I had come to change all that. I was going to bring at least 18 newly employed residents to a blighted Street. New power bills, new voter registrations. Tax dollars.
That’s when I realized if the system would not adapt— I would have to become the system. “If it’s to be, it’s up to me. “
I had the cash to fund my own projects and a vehicle to give people access to my deals. Showing with the right knowledge, anyone can make great returns for not huge investments in “underserved” and neglected neighborhoods.
Make money. Make an impact. It’s what we call dual return.
Within months I had changed how I would fund buildings. And the passion for Housing JV was born. That was 5 years ago. A lot has changed since then for our company and the country. Awareness about the need for equitable housing and access to capital is at an all time high.
And things are moving fast. We will talk more in detail in the weeks to come, but I want to quickly bullet the highlights.
- Our 8-week Boot Camps students are actively investing and looking for projects in Dayton and Columbus
- We are less than two weeks away from launching our Detroit fund.
- We’ve launched the Economics Rights Movement (ERM), which I’ll be talking more about later.
- And as we look to the future we aren’t stopping. We are planning to democratize real estate investing through an open access fund we hope to roll out in 2022.
And people are starting to take notice.
Housing Joint Venture was named 9 black companies to watch by BlackBusiness.com
Our model was mentioned in an article in TechCrunch.
Things are going great for us. I wish I could say the same for that apartment building. It still sits vacant to this day. Opportunity lost.
And while I’m frustrated with the mindset that caused that loan officer to pass on the opportunity— I’m glad I was the one who got that no.
Over the next few weeks, we will begin sharing with you more of our story and what’s happening inside the company as well as provide educational and trend insights.
We will also showcase all the ways to get involved in partnering with us as we launch a movement and bring impact investing to the forefront. I’m so honored to share the past, present and future of Housing JV with you.