thefactsnewspaper.com - JAN 16, 2024

HomeSight, as Part of Black Home Initiative, Launches Field Order 15 Fund to Help Black Home Developers Build Affordable Homes

Exactly 159 years after Civil War General Sherman issued Special Field Order 15, the fund will facilitate the building of more homes for sale – and help close the racial wealth divide.

HomeSight, a nonprofit catalyst for equitable homeownership and economic opportunity, announced today that, under the auspices of Black Home Initiative (BHI), it will launch the Field Order 15 Fund, a reparative lending program for Black home developers.

The program will provide upfront grant money, eligibility for low-interest lending and technical support for Black developers who are building affordable homes in the communities that need these resources most. By strategically empowering Black developers, the Field Order 15 Fund offers a creative approach to addressing the affordable housing shortage by giving agency to stakeholders that traditionally have not had a seat at the table.

“The Field Order 15 Fund is systems change work at the granular level,” said HomeSight Executive Director Darryl Smith. “BHI was assembled to create 1,500 new Black homeowners in the next five years. We can’t do that with the inventory that’s out there. We need to get more affordable homes built, and to do that, we need to lower the barriers for the builders who are invested in this goal.”

Capital for project planning is often the first and most difficult barrier to new home construction, and the program’s upfront grant money removes this barrier. But the Field Order 15 Fund is more than a grant program. The underwriting team — which includes experts in construction lending, fund management, banking, accounting and real estate development — provides technical support using a proprietary checklist system. This checklist was developed in collaboration with the underwriting team and HomeSight’s experienced Real Estate Development team, who will guide and support builders throughout the process.

After completing the rigorous planning process, developers in the program become eligible for a low-interest pre-development loan commensurate with their project’s size. This section of the program essentially stands in for the loan application for construction financing. Because the underwriting committee will have deep knowledge about the projects in the program, they will be the first point of contact when issues arise. The goal will be facilitating wins rather than negative recourse should development challenges arise.

“HomeSight is the perfect home for this project,” said HomeSight’s Real Estate Development Director, Uche Okezie, who will manage the project for HomeSight. “As a Community Development Financial Institution, we have homeownership counseling, we do mortgage lending, we offer down payment assistance to income-qualified households, and we also build quality, affordable houses. But we are also a CDC – a Community Development Corporation – and our job there is to promote economic growth in the communities we serve. As a CDFI, a CDC, and a member of the BHI, this project pulls all our expertise, goals and imperatives together in a really unique way.”

The Washington State Housing Finance Commission, Amazon, and JP Morgan Chase are funding the project. Business Impact Northwest will provide surround-support services if a developer needs additional support or finds they are not ready for the program.

“The goal is to say yes to developers even when the answer might be ‘Not now, but after making a few adjustments, we’d welcome you to come back to the fund and continue the process,’” said Okezie.

What is “Special Field Order 15?”

General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Order 15 on January 16, 1865.

The order confiscated 400,000 acres along his famous march to the sea, which would be re-distributed the newly freed enslaved people, providing each family with “40 acres and a mule.”

President Lincoln approved Special Field Order 15, but after his assassination his successor Andrew Johnson rescinded it, returning the land to former enslavers. Black people never received “40 acres and a mule,” or any restitution for their enslavement. The following ten decades of explicitly racist policies prevented Black people from staking a claim in an economically secure future.

The Field Order 15 Fund aims to fulfill this abandoned equity goal.

About HomeSight

Since 1990, HomeSight, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Community Development Corporation (CDC), has worked to preserve and promote economically and culturally diverse communities through affordable homeownership, business development and community advocacy. HomeSight believes communities can only be strong, vibrant, and equitable if homeownership is attainable, cultural anchors can thrive in place, small businesses have access to the knowledge and tools to excel in changing markets, and prosperity is built and shared among all members of each unique community.

About Black Home Initiative

Black Home Initiative (BHI) is a multi-year, regional effort from Civic Commons that targets the racial inequities at the core of the housing ecosystem to increase homeownership among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) households. BHI’s initial emphasis is to create opportunity for 1,500 new low- and moderate-income Black households to own a home in South Seattle, South King County, and North Pierce County within the next five years. The initiative convenes cross-sector partners who collaboratively act on local priorities ranging from homebuyer preparation to construction financing to policy reform. By centering those most affected by the work, BHI is creating a foundation for long-term systems change. The ultimate impact we seek is racial equity for everyone and an increase in intergenerational household wealth.

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