A California developer is trying to raise $1 billion to invest in Black and Latino communities. If successful, it would be one of the largest commercial real-estate funds ever to focus on minority neighborhoods.
Martin Muoto, chief executive of the real-estate firm SoLa Impact LLC, already runs three funds totaling $180 million. They focus on affordable housing and some commercial real estate in minority neighborhoods around South Los Angeles. The funds, which raised money from individual partners in large investors like the private-equity firm General Atlantic, have recorded double-digit average annual returns since the first fund launched in 2014.
Now, Mr. Muoto is trying to use a similar approach in cities across the U.S. that suffer from a shortage of affordable housing and from what he said are regulatory barriers that make it tougher to build.
His new Black Impact Fund is focusing on large metropolises like Philadelphia and Atlanta, as well as midsize cities like Fresno, Calif.
SoLa has been investing in opportunity zones, a program created by the 2017 federal tax overhaul that allows investors to defer and reduce taxes if they reinvest capital gains in designated low-income communities.
During the coronavirus pandemic, housing for lower-income communities has outperformed market-rate housing in coastal areas as the shortage of such affordable homes resulted in lower churn rates and better returns.
Developing projects in minority neighborhoods can be a good deal, especially if land is cheaper and there are tax and infrastructure incentives. With a comprehensive plan, “you make your returns on the buy, on the way in,” said William W. Towns, adjunct professor of social impact at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.