In 2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston reported that here in our hometown of Boston the median net worth for U.S.-born Black households was $8. Eight dollars compared to $247,500 for white households (1). The wealth gap between America’s richest and poorest families has become a chasm — and the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination often mean that the racial disparities of wealth are staggering (2). Now, the pandemic has compounded these issues, with BIPOC households being disproportionably hit by the COVID-19 recession (3). BlueHub and our partners are fighting back.
After the 2008 crash of the housing market, people questioned whether homeownership was still the best way to build wealth. It is. On average, a homeowners’ net worth is 80 times that of a renter. We’ve seen the positive impact of homeownership firsthand with BlueHub’s SUN Initiative partnering with more than 1,150 families to avoid foreclosure, stay in their homes and repair their credit; 64% of these families are BIPOC. Yet across the nation, homeownership remains 25% lower for Black and Hispanic families than for white families (4).
Economic growth has suffered, too, in these BIPOC communities where redlining and systemic racism have limited investment and wealth-building opportunities. Both homeownership and job creation for residents of low-income communities have been longstanding areas of focus for BlueHub.
Close by our office in Roxbury, Massachusetts, we are investing in homeownership as part of the revitalization of Bartlett Place. Windale Developers and Nuestra CDC are converting this eight-acre former bus yard into a vibrant neighborhood. The area will feature a public market, affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities, something for which the predominantly Black community has been actively advocating. BlueHub’s loan to Windale, a local Asian and Black-led firm with a steadfast commitment to creating homeownership opportunities for long-time Roxbury residents, resulted in 16 new condos.
In other communities, such as the Northeast neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut, the lack of quality local jobs is the most pressing concern. There, with more than $15 million in funding from BlueHub, the renovated Swift Factory building is becoming an economic hub. With office space, incubator space for small businesses, and commercial kitchens, it is expected to create more than 150 full-time, permanent jobs. Eighty percent of businesses at the Swift Factory campus are owned by people of color, mirroring the demographics of this Hartford neighborhood.
Sometimes we find the opportunity to invest in both homeownership and business development. 2147 Washington Street is another Roxbury, Massachusetts project, and a joint venture between New Atlantic Development and Dream Collaborative, a Black-owned architecture and real estate development firm. It will include 74 units of housing, both rental properties and homeownership; a café space (for Haley House, a long-time BlueHub partner, also featured in this report); an affordable shared artist workshop; and additional commercial space for local area businesses. Like Bartlett Place, it answers the call for new homeownership opportunities for families in this primarily Black neighborhood. And, like the Swift Factory, it further anchors neighborhood businesses to the community, helping close the wealth gap a little bit more.
The businesses at 2147 Washington, the Swift Factory, and throughout the new Bartlett Place district — joined by the new homeowners — will have long-lasting impact. They will be helping close the wealth gap, providing their communities a more stable future.