Affordable housing advocate Gina Merritt on increasing racial equity in development while addressing the chronic affordable housing shortage.

Gina Merritt, Principal, Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures. Image courtesy of Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures

Growing up in affordable housing, Dr. Gina Merritt realized early on that affordable housing development was her destiny. Over the past three decades, she has served in various management, development and finance roles at different multifamily companies. Now, she is the principal of Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, a company that has more than $300 million multifamily projects in the pipeline. And obtaining financing for all those projects is a major challenge for minority developers, which is why she’s always looking for ways to support her balance sheet.

This year she got involved in a unique initiative from the Wells Fargo Foundation. Growing Diverse Housing Developers is a $40 million, four-year program that will help 35 Black and Latino developers across the U.S. grow their businesses and overcome systemic barriers created by racism and disinvestment, all free of charge. To do this, Wells Fargo tapped four community development financial institutions—Capital Impact Partners, LIIF, Raza Development Fund and Reinvestment Fund—to provide experienced minority developers with increased access to critically needed capital and resources.

In this episode of Mission Success: Women in Multifamily, Senior Editor Laura Calugar talks to Merritt about how exactly this program works and why BIPOC developers are still held with different underwriting standards when trying to access capital for their projects. Toward the end of the discussion, Merritt also shares details about her own initiatives, which support the residents living in the communities she builds.

Here’s a sample of the topics this episode covers:

  • How Merritt developed an interest in affordable housing (01:10)
  • Minority developers and discrimination (2:43)
  • How the GDHD program will help Merritt’s business (4:49)
  • Other developers in the program (8:15)
  • The challenges Black and Latino developers face when trying to access capital (10:52)
  • How the current financial climate is affecting minority developers (17:30)
  • Merritt’s initiatives that help residents (20:29)

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