A group of 12 young black professionals in Miami-Dade formed the Miami Millennial Investment Firm just over a year ago.
Its mission: Get black people to invest in Miami-Dade’s black communities.
“We decided we wanted to make this a black project,” said Fabiola Fleuranvil, one of the group’s founders.
The firm assesses predominantly black neighborhoods in the county and invests in them by purchasing, rehabbing and selling property. They’ve purchased two single-family homes so far with plans to also add commercial and industrial properties to their portfolio.
Fleuranvil said when she looked at who was coming in on the cusp of neighborhoods changing in Miami and buying properties and then making big bucks down the line, it was foreign investors, big-name national and local developers, but not necessarily young black folks.
“We see the opportunity, but we don't want to sit back as bystanders. We're coming in to do it,” she said.
The group is focused on five neighborhoods: Brownsville, Liberty City, Overtown, Gladeview and Little Haiti because location, location, location.
“There is a greater need to be back toward the center city where the center of commerce is, and so that's why these communities that were neglected 10, 20, 30 years ago are now prime land,” Fleuranvil said.
Miami Millennial Investment Firm is a closed group, but they're in talks to create subgroups for future investors.
Fleuranvil said at first people doubted that she could garner enough interest for the inaugural investment group. To start she needed 12 individuals to chip in $10,000 each.
“People were saying, ‘How are you going to find young professionals who can put that type of money on the table?' Fleuranvil said. “And we were able to find it without a problem. “
At networking events and even at a softball game, once she started talking about the plan, people asked, “Where do I sign up?”
Chris Payne, 31, joined the firm after hearing about it from his friends. On a recent afternoon, he gave me a tour of a three-bedroom and two-bathroom home the firm purchased in cash on a quiet block in Brownsville.
“We're here in our lovely foyer area that flows very nicely into the living room,” he said pointing out areas where doors were once missing.
Payne said the house had a lot of potential when the group found it, but it needed work. It was a foreclosed property that wasn’t being maintained at all. The walls were a patchwork of peeling paint and the floors needed re-tiling.
“This was an opportunity to take a blighted house on an otherwise nice street and to transform it,” he said.
The group purchased the home for $87,000 in 2016, according to county records. It’s currently under contract for $175,000.
Steven Osakue, 27, another of the firm’s investors, said other groups have been strategic in South Florida when it comes to ownership in their own communities, but in predominantly black enclaves black professionals don't always see the potential in staying and investing
“I think it's been systemic for many generations that we haven't been taught what to do with our money as much as other communities have,” Osakue said.
A major barrier to doing this type of investing is access to capital -- and not just bank loans, but personal wealth. Younger investors are not always able to get bank loans and have to rely on buy-in from their personal circles or families to start.
But in black communities, that type of personal wealth can be hard to come by and the reason has historical roots.
Slavery, segregation and discriminatory policies in housing, banking, education excluded communities of color from building wealth over generations.
A recent study by Brandeis University and Demos, a public policy group, found to gain wealth comparable to white high school dropouts, black and Latino students have to graduate from high school and attend college.
The study found institutional discrimination trumps individual gains that build wealth overtime. It found in black communities:
- Going to college does not close the racial wealth gap.
- Raising children in a two-parent household does not close the racial wealth gap.
- Working full time does not close the racial wealth gap.
- Spending less does not close the racial wealth gap.
"That creates a mindset where you're operating out of lack and poverty so you can't really see wealth building," said Florence Gaspard, an investor with Miami Millennials.
Gaspard said even with built-in challenges for black investors, it's important to start staking a claim in the growth and income potential in Miami-Dade's black neighborhoods. That means being creative, like building a collective that pools money together.
The Miami Millenial Investment Firm members say they plan to build out a real estate portfolio that can potentially help shape the future of Miami’s black neighborhoods and also make them money.
Kevin Smith, one of the firm's investors said it’s not enough to say, 'This is black neighborhood because black people live here.'"
“Do we own the commercial? Do we own the industrial? Do we own the banking?" he said. "We have to have ownership in our community. If we don't have ownership we are spectators in what someone else decides to do with our community. "