The Florida Housing Coalition, the state’s leading nonprofit provider of training and technical assistance dedicated to affordable housing from ending homelessness to first-time homeownership, today announced the creation of new Center for Racial Equity.
“One of the many lessons of 2020 was that our country is at a critical time of racial reckoning,” said the Coalition’s President and CEO Jaimie Ross. “By purposely focusing our work, the Center for Racial Equity represents our commitment to help Florida communities confront their own racial inequities in housing.”
The Florida Housing Coalition Center for Racial Equity will serve as a composite platform for the Coalition’s efforts focused on race and equity in public and private investments, regulations, and legal and policy frameworks that shape Florida’s neighborhoods, cities, and regions. The Center will provide support for municipalities looking to advance racial equity in their communities by analyzing local data and policy to survey and articulate the ways the state’s housing systems are affected by racism, systemic oppression, and conscious inequality.
“We know two things: Florida—like every other state in the nation—has a housing problem intricately linked with race; and Florida’s cities often look to the Coalition to help them solve housing problems,” Ross said. “What is the right approach for local communities to take? There are no obvious benchmarks and little to no statewide policy guidance to indicate a single working approach. This is how the Coalition can help,” she added.
“White Floridians are more likely than any other racial group to own a home both free and clear or with a mortgage. At the same time, Black Florida families have the lowest homeownership rates in the state, and more than half of households are renters,” according to a soon to be released HOME MATTERS 2021 REPORT from the Coalition.
The idea for the Center came from discussions among Coalition staff in response to the protests for Black Lives Matter that occurred nationally throughout 2020. “Each of us felt a need to respond to the urgency of the moment in a way that was thoughtful and deliberate and that would move the dial long term,” Coalition Chief Programs Officer Ashon Nesbitt said.
Before any funding for the Center was confirmed, the Coalition hired University of Michigan Law School (and Florida native) graduate Dan Mathis, who serves as the Housing Equity lead and Technical Advisor for the Florida Housing Coalition.
Closing the Racial Disparity Gap in Homeownership
Having started planning in the early fall of 2020, the Center opens with several programs already in place. Central to its early efforts is the seminal program Closing the Racial Disparity Gap in Homeownership (Closing the Gap) – a matching grant program for municipalities. With funding in place from major underwriters Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the program provides a 3:1 match in technical assistance and resources to close the gap in the homeownership rate between Black and white households. Over two years, selected jurisdictions will work with the Center to implement strategies in program design, land use, regulations, financing, subsidies, communications, and capacity building.
“Bank of America is helping advance racial equality and economic opportunity, with a particular focus on helping create opportunity for people and communities of color,” said Gene Schaefer, Miami market president for Bank of America. “We are committed to helping multicultural families and communities begin to build personal wealth and family legacy through the power of homeownership.”
The Florida Housing Coalition Center for Racial Equity is being launched with funding by the Wells Fargo Foundation, which is focused on advancing racial equity and creating pathways to safe, affordable homes.
“Having a safe and affordable place to call home is essential to help lay the foundation for wellness, dignity, and economic opportunity,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy with Wells Fargo. “With our support for the Coalition’s Center for Racial Equity, we hope to inspire meaningful change to a long history of systemic inequality, injustice, loss of wealth, and housing instability experienced by people of color, particularly during times of economic distress. We aim to build a more inclusive, sustainable future where everyone can have a quality and affordable place to call home.”
Leading with Equity Online Course
Every year the Coalition hosts a conference, and last year’s (held online) featured a number of workshops and panels focused on racial equity issues. As a result, the Coalition gathered excerpts and organized them into a “Leading with Equity” free online course.
“With so many leaders focused on racial equity issues, we wanted to showcase their work as a way to further the conversations taking place in organizations across the state,” Ross said.
Funders Collaborative & Allies
Recognizing the goodwill and work of so many already working in the racial equity space as well as those sharing the common goal of remedying racial inequities in housing, the Center for Racial Equity has launched with a Funders Collaborative in place and a growing list of Allies.
“We know that so many of our partners share our enthusiasm for this initiative and genuinely welcome the opportunity to make meaningful change in racial equity,” Ross said.
Major underwriters include: Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The Center defines “Allies” as organizations that are either in support of this work-- the advancement of racial equity in housing and community development -- and/or are also doing this work. A list of Allies can be found at: https://centerforracialequity.org/we-work-side-by-side/.
Glossary of Shared Language
Clarity of language is central to creating shared strategies. Towards that end, the Center has launched with an ever-growing Glossary of Shared Language. “We hope that the glossary can help equalize the space and make it easier for our partners in this work to move forward with clear expectations and vision,” Housing Equity Lead Dan Mathis said.
With a focus on racial equity, the Center for Racial Equity Internship Program provides mentorship to student interns from the four Florida-based historically Black colleges and universities. Launching in spring 2021, the CRE Internship Program will work to build the roster of dedicated, passionate, and highly trained professionals available to public and private organizations working in housing affordability and community development.
In addition to launching CRE and starting the funding applications for the Closing the Gap program, in 2021 the Coalition’s annual Home Matters Conference will focus on the work of the Center for Racial Equity. Taking place virtually again this year, the conference dates are August 30-Sept 1.