In an effort to increase minority representation in and ownership of commercial real estate, Walker & Dunlop has launched CREUnited, an alliance among industry heavyweights and minority-owned businesses.
“We have seen good intentions in the industry to increase the participation of minority owners and operators, but real, sustainable change requires the industry to come together,” said T.J. Edwards, managing director of Walker & Dunlop’s Proprietary Capital group. “CREUnited brings together organizations from across the CRE industry, all under one common interest: knocking down barriers that have hindered minority owners and operators from thriving in this industry.”
Member companies include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Camber Creek, Greystar, Kayne Anderson Real Estate, KKR, Pacific Life, Manulife Investment Management and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, representing multiple aspects of the industry, including lenders and private equity firms, institutional investors, and owners and operators of all asset classes.
While minorities account for over 48% percent of the U.S. renter population, according to the U.S. Census, just four percent of real estate companies are owned by women or minorities. According to a study by Harvard University, minority-owned companies control only a little over 1.2% of all assets under management (AUM).
Earlier this year, the alliance hosted a listening session with executives from 11 leading minority-owned CRE firms to commence the initiative. Leaders from Banneker Ventures, Dantes Partners, FLGA, Gateway Merchant Banking, Mohanna Development, New Faze Development, Osso Capital, Rule Enterprises, Standard Real Estate Investments, LA Bolden and The Menkiti Group shared personal stories and perspectives to help further illustrate the challenges and obstacles ingrained in the industry.
Stemming from the discussion, CREUnited identified five objectives and developed prospective solutions for each: increase transparency through industry reporting and tracking, build new channels for minorities to access established professional networks, expand access to debt and remove barriers to equity capital, assist in expanding the portfolios of minority owners beyond affordable housing and Implement best practices to ensure capital flows from institutional investors to minority-owned firms
“Walker & Dunlop kickstarted this initiative because our team realized that taking a company-by-company approach to diversity is not enough,” said Willy Walker, Walker & Dunlop chairman and CEO. “Through the power of partnership, we will transform the industry.”