New Alliance Seeks ‘Roadmap to Equity’ in Commercial Real Estate

The commercial real estate industry lacks diversity, and industry leaders agree that transformation is imperative.

The Census Bureau reported minorities account for nearly half the U.S. renter population, but just four percent of real estate companies are owned by women or minorities. And a Harvard University study found minority-owned companies control just over 1.2 percent of all assets under management.

To bridge this gap, CREUnited, an alliance between large CRE firms and minority-owned businesses,  seeks to increase minority representation and AUM.

CREUnited member companies include Walker & Dunlop, Fannie MaeFreddie MacCamber CreekGreystarKayne Anderson Real EstateKKRPacific LifeSymetraManulife Investment Management and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. The partnership covers all aspects of commercial real estate including lenders and private equity firms, institutional investors and owners and operators of all asset classes.

“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 TJ Edwards, Managing Director with 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.”

Bo Okoroji, CREUnited Advisory Board Member and Vice President of Investments & Divestments with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said the alliance should “create a domino effect” resulting in growth of assets under management for minority businesses. “There is also an important element of accountability here–the entire industry is accountable for the change needed to improve diversity, and the corporate partners within this initiative are committed to doing their part to expand ownership and growing representation,” he said.

The Mortgage Bankers Association recognizes commercial/multifamily members who show leadership in the areas of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) internally through market outreach efforts with its annual DEI Leadership Awards. The DEI Leadership Awards aim to:

–Recognize MBA members who have developed innovative ways to foster DEI efforts within their organization.

–Highlight leaders within the area of DEI in the real estate finance industry.

–Inspire business strategies that reach out to diverse populations.

–Raise industry awareness of the importance and value of being a diverse and inclusive industry.

–Share industry best practices and successes to inspire new strategy outreach to diverse populations in the industry.

The DEI Leadership Award nomination deadline is Aug. 13.

For more information about the MBA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership awards, click here.

The CREUnited alliance recently hosted a listening session with executives from 11 leading minority-owned CRE firms to commence the initiative. It identified five objectives and developed prospective solutions for each to provide a “blueprint” for measurable progress:

–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 to market-rate multifamily and other asset classes, such as retail, office, industrial, and hospitality

–Implement best practices to ensure capital flows from institutional investors to minority owned firms

Members of CREUnited’s advisory board will supervise these five objectives and foster new partnerships to make progress on these strategies and solutions.