“Hey did y’all know you can qualify for this?” she texted in a group chat meant for coordinating Thanksgiving plans.
Queenetra Andrews knew the offer could help her cousins.
It wasn’t the first time she’d dropped a link in the family text thread to a bank offering to help first-time homebuyers. She’s found a new library of resources since starting the Equitable Development Initiative six months ago.
The Equitable Development Initiative is aimed at supporting emerging real estate developers of color to create affordable housing in Dallas. Capital Impact Partners, a nonprofit community development financial firm headquartered in Arlington, Va., started the program in 2018 with groups in Detroit, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Andrews is one of 15 developers graduating Friday from Capital Impact’s inaugural Dallas cohort of the program funded by JPMorgan Chase and Charles Schwab.
The roughly six-month training course is free to the handful of developers selected from more than 100 applicants. At Friday’s ceremony, they get to pitch conceptual real estate projects that include affordable housing in disinvested Dallas communities.
Andrews said many of the resources she’s learned about through EDI could benefit her family and the people she grew up with in southern Dallas.
“I educate myself on all of the programs out here and I try to speak at roundtables just to tell people in the community,” Andrews said.
Capital Impact concentrates on connecting developers of color with access to capital, said Aaron Gougis, its Dallas initiatives manager.
“We look for the areas that are typically overlooked by traditional lenders,” Gougis said. “Those may be developers or entrepreneurs who are just starting out in their careers. They may not have the vast experience that lenders may look for.”
Southern Dallas business ownersstruggle with access to business loans that flow to established developers, meaning they can be left out of planning conversations, Gougis said.
“In our city, our local citizens don’t necessarily have a seat at the table to be part of how their communities are shaping in the future,” he said. “We hope to be able to be part of the solution to be able to address that.”
After owning a trucking business since 2014, Andrews pivoted to start a single-family development firm in 2020. She’s built more than 36 houses in the two years she’s run Andrews Development & Holdings as its general contractor, CEO and owner.
Before joining the initiative, she knew the fundamentals of building. But she didn’t know how to scale her business — about financials, tax credits or how to take on multifamily projects.
“Being a small business owner coming from underserved areas, you don’t really have the support to know about financials,” she said.
For Andrews, her major takeaway from the program was the importance of building a network of other developers to learn from and collaborate with.
The varying skills that cohort members come in with make the training a robust experience, Gougis said.
“Being a real estate developer is a challenging career and is not a job that can be done alone,” Gougis said. “You need a team. You need individuals who can help you achieve your goals and vice versa.”
Most of the cohort has less than five years of experience. But there are industry veterans in the mix, like Joe Dillard III, who has worked in project management for decades.
His background stems from an education in architecture and engineering, and after seeing real estate development done at large, he wanted to go granular into the economics of the industry. So Dillard applied to EDI.
In his years of work, he said he didn’t meet many Black developers but saw how banking disparities among people of color can stunt a professional’s potential to grow.
“There have been challenges that have been seemingly insurmountable,” Dillard said. “But with programs like what this program does, this relationship with Capital Impact Partners, this is encouraging.”
For the last decade, on and off, Dillard has advised on project management at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Oak Cliff, not far from where he grew up.
As he watched a community grow alongside large distribution centers, he’s considered the impact it’s having on the people who live there.
“The traffic, the noise, the environmental aspects of air quality, all these things,” Dillard said. “It’s almost like you’re watching a movie that you can’t do anything about. Only it’s reality.”
Through EDI, Dillard said he’s gained confidence in his ability to make an impact and incremental change in his community through development.
“We intend to make a movie everybody wants to not only see but be a part of,” Dillard said.
Dillard helped draw initial designs for a 6-acre development that Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church is planning in Pleasant Grove. The early plan was a low-density project, but since joining the cohort, he introduced higher density to the site plan to create quality housing that he said the community desperately needs.
Dillard said church leaders are excited about the higher-density model, and he plans to roll right into the project after graduating. He also hopes to use his newfound connections from the program to seek additional funding to realize the church’s vision for the community.
“There’s an accountability that comes with any form of education,” Dillard said. “When you know better, you should do better.”
With most of the homes that Andrews built, she’s worked to keep the price tag under $300,000 —well below the region’s $400,000 median home price in October. It’s a rewarding process for her, especially on closing day when families take photos in their future home.
But in her final days of the Capital Impact course, she said she’s become more excited about building multifamily developments. As the housing market shifts and interest rates spike, fewer people are going to be able to afford homes they might have before, she said. She wants her future projects to address that.
“People who can’t afford $400,000 houses, they still have to have somewhere to live,” Andrews said.