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Online retail giant Amazon is launching a new program to help advance the careers of real estate developers of color and increase diverse voices in the industry. The effort will also focus on inclusive community building to address the affordable housing shortage across the U.S.
“With this accelerator program, we are laser-focused on lifting up emerging real estate developers of color,” Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, said in a press release via Business Wire. “We want to foster their professional growth through education and training, as well as improve their access to capital, which can be elusive to developers of color.”
Free for participants, the pilot program is set to feature training, mentorship and opportunities to increase access to capital, which can hold back developers of color, given the often steep upfront pre-development expenses. Those costs can include architectural and engineering expenses, permitting fees, survey and site planning fees, as well as market and feasibility studies.
The program also aims to lower the barriers these developers can face when bidding for affordable housing developments.
Amazon has committed more than $21 million to launch the program in its three communities: Seattle, Washington; Arlington, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee. The company will partner with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) in Puget Sound, Capital Impact Partners in Northern Virginia and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee in Nashville to offer professional training and support to affordable-housing providers of color.
Each of the initial 30 participants must identify as a person of color, have work experience as a developer at a real estate development firm or organization, and have real estate development activities focused in the Puget Sound region, Arlington region or in Nashville.
Through the partner organizations, the program will develop curriculums and facilitate networking opportunities for developers of color, with virtual and in-person classroom instruction on real estate fundamentals, affordable housing trends, public policy and financing best practices.
“If we are going to bring about lasting, holistic and meaningful change to how affordable housing is developed,” Buell maintained, “developers of color need to be a part of the solution.”
The initiative is part of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, a commitment of over $2 billion by the online retail giant to “help preserve existing housing and help create inclusive housing developments through below-market loans and grants to housing partners, traditional and non-traditional public agencies and minority-led organizations.”
Along with this program, Amazon is also partnering with Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Inc. to administer grants of up to $200,000 to qualified applicants who are real estate developers of color seeking them through the Amazon Housing Equity Fund.
“Developers of color bring enormous opportunity for creative and inclusive solutions to community-focused real estate development, but systemic issues continue to create multiple barriers to their success,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners and CDC Small Business Finance. “Through this program, we are partnering with Amazon in helping open doors for people of color, who can then pay their experience forward.”
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