Homeownership creates financial stability and allows families to build and pass on wealth to future generations. But not all families have equal access to homeownership, or even to making the most of homeownership when they do own homes. Like many cities in the United States, Seattle has a history of redlining, gentrification, and displacement, particularly targeting African American residents.
Caleb Jackson, co-founder of Uplift Investment Group, bought his first house in 2012 and has been passionate about real estate ever since. He loves that working in real estate enables him to provide for his family. However, a few years into his career, he learned firsthand how developers can try to take advantage of people who aren’t knowledgeable about real estate. Around 2018, when Caleb’s family decided to develop or sell his grandparents’ duplex in Seattle, Caleb connected with a developer who offered to buy the property from Caleb’s uncle for $150,000 and give Caleb a $1500 commission. Fortunately, Caleb knew how much the property was worth. He knew the property behind it had recently sold for $900,000 and that any developer would likely make $1.5 million or more on his family’s property. This experience seeded the idea for a community outreach initiative designed to assist historically displaced communities in Seattle in maintaining their homes and building generational wealth.
Uplight Investment’s community outreach initiative is part of the Building Generational Wealth Initiative funded by the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods (DON). In 2023, DON is supporting BIPOC entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to pilot community wealth building strategies as part of a long-term effort to close the racial wealth gap in Seattle. The community wealth building strategies include:
- Broad-based Worker Ownership
- Community Controlled Capital
- Community Ownership of Real Estate
- Progressive Procurement
- Equitable Small Business Ecosystems
- Wealth Retention and Asset Building Programs
Uplift Investment’s community outreach initiative represents the wealth retention and asset building programs strategy. Their target audience includes African American legacy homeowners, their children and grandchildren in Seattle neighborhoods that were previously redlined. During the pilot, they aim to reach and educate 100 to 300 people, as well as partner with two to ten homeowners to guide them through a customized wealth-building process. Some examples of options Uplift might recommend for homeowners to make the most out of their property are adding auxiliary dwelling units for additional income, receiving a geotechnical report, creating architectural plans to redevelop the entire lot, etc.
Uplift’s original plan for this pilot was to host large educational events on wealth building through home ownership, giving community members access to experts, including structural engineers, lawyers, architects, estate planners, etc. After hosting their first event in April, Uplift decided to shift their strategy to tabling at existing community events. For example, they tabled at Kent Cornucopia Days and Africatown Community Land Trust’s Summer of Soul event series.
According to Caleb, it has been more difficult than expected to reach out to community members and interest them in the program. The African American community has been taken advantage of by real estate investors and developers in the past, and some community members are understandably skeptical. He’s partnering with community organizations to meet community members where they are.
Thank you to the Uplift Investment Group’s team, including Caleb, Cornelius Johnson, Nadia Rizk, and Alexis Edwards for leading this pilot project! We at People’s Economy Lab are excited to continue supporting you in this work.