Program Success Magazine November 2021 | Page 2

How to Bolster Black America and Build Millions of New Affordable Housing Units by 2030

Melvin L . Mitchell , Author African American Architects : Embracing Culture and Building Urban Communities
A national housing crisis is destroying Black America ’ s prospects for maintaining cohesion and viability in the country ’ s cities and inner suburbs . Inside Black America resides a disjointed assortment of financial institutions , brokers , contractors , developers , architects , planners , landscape architects , engineers , fabricators , suppliers , title companies , tradespeople , property managers , unskilled laborers , and other related entrepreneurs . This collection of entities — most with memberships comprising 2 percent or less of their respective national accrediting bodies — are an anemic but nascent African American building industry .
Since the 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington , D . C ., African American architects have been experiencing a heightened level of attention throughout Black America . African American architects could parlay that attention to elevate themselves to a place of essentiality in Black America that could rival Black medical doctors and lawyers . Those two groups currently hold representation in their professions that are two and a half times that of Black architects .
Realization of such an aspiration will require that Black architects undergo deep but doable attitudinal and behavior modifications , including several things not normally done by formally trained architects . One would be to read the last several National Urban League State of Black America reports . There , one will find a grim picture of the socioeconomic and financial health of Black America , a consequence of the past 15 decades of de jure and de facto policies of white suppression of Black wealth creation . The Urban League reports call for a new Marshall Plan for urban main street America to counter this force .
But who would be the actual builders and wealth-creation beneficiaries in such a plan ?
No single one of the “ 2 percent ” entities - least of all architects - can make a meaningful positive impact on the plight of Black America alone . Architects are too prone to think and talk incessantly about the priority of “ design ” while ignoring that they are in the real estate and construction businesses , like it or not .
The mission for a new apostate wing of African American architects who conflate the still-siloed roles of architect , real estate developer , and builder must be to push hard for the transformation of the Black building industry into a new national African American affordable housing industry .
The need for a fully networked Black housing industry was first broached by Black leadership at the passage of the 1948 Housing Act but never materialized . After the 1986 creation of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program , there quickly evolved a ( virtually all white ) national affordable housing industry that went on to build millions of new housing units . Those developers pocketed billions of dollars for construction , development , design , planning , and management . U . S . Department of Housing and Urban Development ( HUD ) research shows that much of that housing was built in Black spaces and occupied by African American people , yet almost none of those billions of dollars in low-income housing development flowed into or through the hands of Black America ’ s nascent building industry . Imagine the impact had half of those dollars passed through a national Black affordable housing industry instead .
A new Black affordable housing industry must utilize available and emerging tools and resources to radically alter the vast economic disparities between Black America and the rest of America . Some of those tools are included in Senator Elizabeth Warren ’ s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act ; Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey ’ s Green New Deal ; a reworked Opportunity Zone legislation inspired by Senator Cory Booker ; and coming climate-stabilization legislation . The country is also on the cusp of launching a several-trillion-dollar infrastructure upgrade . An equitable share of those dollars injected into and flowing through Black America – dominated spaces would ensure a very different set of National Urban League State of Black America reports by 2030 .
The current white-owned affordable housing industry is a helter-skelter collection of several hundred preinformation-age operations . That industry now faces threats from a rising group of disrupters bankrolled by massive amounts of investment capital from firms willing to bet big on capturing a sizable market share of the U . S . shortage of eight to ten million affordable housing units . These disrupters seek to bring lower costs to affordable housing creation through full integration of the silos of capital , design , and a revolutionized construction industry .