I learned from a very early age to face racial and social injustices head on. I also learned that to make change for the underserved, the best way is to create a positive impact in your own backyard.
As a real estate industry leader in Arkansas, and the first Black-owned, full-service brokerage in Conway, I knew my team could have a powerful, tangible impact on addressing the inequities historically underrepresented communities face and help bring access to housing for the underserved here in my local market.
Making that goal a reality started in earnest with my work with the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Conway and the town’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Networking within these groups and others opened doors with community leaders, city leaders and more.
The primary objective of the CDBG is the development of viable urban communities achieved by providing decent housing, creating a suitable living environment, and expanding economic opportunities. The CDBG funds must meet one of three national objectives: Benefit to low- and moderate-income persons, aid in the prevention of slums or blight, and meet a need having a particular urgency.
During a meeting with the person in charge of the CDBG program, I found out that the city was going to need representation through a real estate company in listing and selling these houses. Months later, after demonstrating the benefits that our brokerage could bring to the project, CENTURY 21 Sandstone Real Estate Group was awarded the contract.
Rebuilding the community
The homes, more commonly known as the Spruce Street Cottages, are in older neighborhood where the community infrastructure needs improvement. Currently, there are 12 houses total with seven able to receive subsidies from the CDBG. We have three families in homes now, two are under construction, and two are still available.
I understand the frustration that many might have in shying away from working with government, but I also would say that even dealing with the red tape and delay issues, I often figure that is worth it because we can make a difference in the lives of the underserved who typically don’t have the same access as others.
If you want to participate in your local community’s program, consider these three things:
First, be in a market and city that wants to do better, to thrive and to address the racial gap in homeownership.
All parties involved must have the heart for it. They need to want to ensure that everyone in their communities is being served, especially those who need a little boost getting up to the top of the hill.
Finally, pitch this to address affordable housing concerns. More and more communities nationwide are being pressed to find and deliver on homes for the first-time, poorer families and individuals.
Bottom line: if you’re the person leading the charge, you will be seen as the “go to” community advocate and resource, which then feeds into other areas of additional business growth and opens the door for other income streams.
Korry Garrett, MBA, BS, is the Principal Broker of CENTURY 21 Sandstone Real Estate Group