Black Voices in Real Estate

The Black Voices in Real Estate panel is a bi-coastal conversation hosted by City First Bank, the largest Black-led bank in the nation and celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Sheika Nikole Reid

The Black Voices in Real Estate panel is a bi-coastal conversation hosted by City First Bank, the largest Black-led bank in the nation and celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. This inspiring discussion during Black History Month in partnership with America’s historic Black newspapers (The Washington Informer – Bridge and Afro Newspaper) sheds light on the origins of the racial wealth gap dating back to Reconstruction while focusing on the future. Hear about strategic initiatives with funders, legislators, and advocates, who share a vision to increase economic mobility for Black Americans.  

City First has assembled some of the most brilliant and accomplished voices in the real estate industry to date. The bank has assembled a platform for pioneers in DC and LA’s commercial real estate landscape, who are engaged in community economic development. They are building today’s urban terrain by producing tomorrow’s affordable housing, mixed-use real estate, and nonprofit community facilities to produce opportunities for minority contractors, employment opportunities, and homeownership for low to moderate-income communities. The first annual Black Voices in Real Estate panel was on Thursday, February 24th, 2022.

Growing up in DC, I always knew that the commercial real estate developers and investors were the modern-day dukes, duchesses, kings, and queens of this town. Seeing Black people playing these roles was never foreign to me as we always had Black mayors, councilmembers, and in more recent history even a Black president. It always seemed obvious that this was common. It was not until later in life that I learned how many years it was illegal to process a loan to an African American. Let alone purchase property for commercial use. The arc of history was never gentle to our community. It was not until the wave of Black people in high offices following the Civil Rights movement that legislation was put in place to prioritize contracts and loans for the Black community. After former Mayor Marion Barry took office in 1978, the DC Housing Finance Agency was developed which enabled Black people in the nation’s capital to purchase property through tools such as DC Opens Doors, HPAP, and several First Source laws and the like. By appointing Black DC residents to boards and commissions, they were given access to opportunities that had historically evaded the Black community in the nation’s capital. Many of the big names in the real estate industry that we know today can trace the opportunities made available to them because of strong local and national political influence. Unfortunately, the dark history of predatory lending and redlining reared its head all over the country, in Oakland, Chicago, and New York. 

With 2022 marking the 75th anniversary of the bank, the event serves as an opportunity to present a snapshot of the commercial real estate industry and its relationship to the black community. As an institution that has opened pathways into the commercial real estate industry, this unique and intimate gathering invites the audience to understand where we are in the history of commercial real estate currently. By analyzing current trends in the industry and sharing predictions about what will come as we move forward. This knowledge sharing is intended to continue the work that City First Bank is doing and to build bridges of opportunity from local, Black-owned institutions such as the bank, The Afro and the Washington Informer and larger institutions such as the event’s partners, Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, and many more. 

The conversation will invite the public and private sectors from Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. Recently, City First Bank in Washington, DC acquired Broadway Bank in Los Angeles, CA forming the largest Black-owned financial institution in the country. 

The panel will be hosted in two segments interwoven for an inspiring and informative discussion rooted in data and empirical experience. Focused on closing the racial wealth gap through collaborative strategies between the public, private and philanthropic sectors of community economic development. 

The tools of today prepare our community to better tackle the challenges of the generation before us. The technology and information available now are more dynamic than ever in history hopefully this panel will play a role in that historical narrative. 

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