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POWER Collaborative Seeks To Build Wealth for Underserved Black and Latina Women

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  Business Savvy

The POWER Collaborative seeks to create affluence and security in Baltimore's hardest hit areas.

Only 2% of US real estate development enterprises are run by Black people, and only 1.5% of US real estate assets are controlled by minority companies. In some of Baltimore's hardest-hit neighborhoods, a new project run by the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) hopes to change that.

Together, the LEDC, Baltimore Community Lending, the City of Baltimore, and other civic and community leaders are helping Black and Latina women in Baltimore establish wealth and stability via real estate, small business, and job creation. This group is called POWER Collaborative, and PNC gave them $5 million over three years as part of a bigger effort to sponsor incentive programs that aid those in need.

According to LEDC CEO Emi Reyes, most Latinas share similar struggles as African-American women -- they, too, are often forced to pay high amounts of rent. The Baltimore collaborative seeks to close the gap, open up the real estate market, and empower people to build.

These include small company incubators, affordable housing incentives, and skills training in high-growth industries. They also aid with money, technical concerns, and whatever else may be needed.

Clarence Snuggs has been the COO of Baltimore Community Lending for many years. Snuggs named the project's output a quadruple bottom line as part of the POWER Collaborative. The final piece of the development puzzle is minority homeownership.

"They will find a property, secure it, plan it, and apply for it," Snuggs explains. “Building wealth for Black and Latina women through real estate, small business, and workforce development is our creative component.”

When women and other groups try to receive money through traditional sources, they face a mindset issue.

Snuggs says that lenders believe that men usually do development. "Sisters, older homes in the area, and the market as a whole face considerable hurdles. And lenders don't get it. ‘This is a risky trade,' they remark."

The group will mentor 180 entrepreneurs, hire 51 women, and renovate 20 vacant homes. But it's not only about changing their residences. This initiative wants these women to make money so they can start their own businesses.

This is a difficult task, adds Snuggs. Their neighborhood, Central West Baltimore, has many vacant homes and difficulties. A high-rise rental inventory has produced a large flight and devaluation. In order to address the issue of "missing middle" housing, the POWER Collaborative was formed. They seek to use unoccupied condos and lots in Baltimore.

Snuggs says they've been working on it for 50 years. “The 1960s saw the death of Martin Luther King and other issues. Baltimore lost a lot of middle-class spending money. The system doesn't allow folks to recover quickly enough.”

The goal is to make the neighborhood more stable by having many well-trained people, successful enterprises, and long-term affordable housing. Snuggs believes it's critical to rethink development.

“We don't want to wait 20 or 40 years to see development in these neighborhoods. Baltimore used to have nearly a million residents, but today has less than 500,000. People migrated to the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s, thus restorations were uneconomical. To accomplish the work well, you must close the assessment gap.”

They claim that many homes in their localities were recently valued at less than $50,000, and that buying and renovating them may cost several hundred thousand dollars. They'd sell them for $110,000 each.

Listed properties should be priced to appeal to locals. It also helps the community when an empty or damaged house is remarketed.

Reyes said they've already had a lot of interest from local women and plan to be fully operational by spring.

“It's also excellent that the government, corporations, and non-profits support this endeavor,” says Reyes. “When everyone is at the table, we are more successful and aware of these needs.”

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