John Green is a developer and investor who sees opportunity in a real estate market that innovates. With well over a decade of experience in real estate and finance, he co-founded Blackstar Stability (“BSS”) modeled on two proven programs that were created and operated by John and his co-founders. These programs began at the state-level and were scaled to the national level using both public and private funding. BSS is built using the lessons learned from running the program amid the 2007 Global Financial Crisis and is designed from the ground up using a double-bottom line business model that creates compelling risk-adjusted returns for investors while generating significant benefits for low-income and middle-income families and communities.
Their business model started after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) back in 2007. They started with a state-funded program designed to keep families in their homes following the housing market downturn and recession. The program helped families with substantial negative equity and focused on loan modifications to re-adjust the principal balance and monthly payment on their loans. Their state-funded program was a great success. They successfully helped hundreds of families stay in their homes despite initially being underwater. So they went national by leveraging private capital, still targeting low-income, moderate income, and minority communities that were slow to reach full recovery following the Great Recession.
A co-founding principal of Blackstar Real Estate Partners, John Green directs firm-wide strategic planning, and leads the investment management efforts. John has over 18 years of real estate and finance experience, and has managed approximately $5 billion in commercial, multifamily residential and mixed-use properties in greater Washington, D.C.; New York City; Baltimore; San Francisco; and other major metropolitan areas within the United States. For the decade prior to founding Blackstar, he served as Managing Director for MacFarlane Partners, a San Francisco based real estate private equity firm. In that role, John led all investment and asset management activities in the East Coast markets, which included acquisitions, dispositions, and financing of property investments. He also oversaw the development process of projects undertaken by the firm and its joint-venture partners. Overall, he was responsible for managing a portfolio consisting of over 2.75 million sf of commercial space, 7,500 apartment units, 400,000 sf of retail, 1,000 hotel keys, and over 10 million sf of potential development. Prior to joining MacFarlane Partners, John worked in the real estate development group of The Community Builders; and as an investment banker at Goldman, Sachs & Co. He also managed the business development efforts at Viacom Inc.
John earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and MPA from Harvard Kennedy School. He also holds a BS degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:09] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo, in order to build better for everyone. If you haven’t already, check out all of my podcasts at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co, or you can find them at your favorite podcast station. You’ll find lots worth listening to, I’m sure.
Eve: [00:01:06] John Green is working on a very big idea with well over a decade of experience in real estate and finance, John has co-founded Black Star Stability, a program that uses a double bottom line business model to create compelling risk adjusted returns for investors while generating significant benefits for low income and middle-income families and communities. The program’s roots go back to the 2007 recession, when John ran a program which helped families with substantial negative equity and focused on loan modifications to readjust the principal balance and monthly payment on their loans. It was a great success, so they went national by leveraging private capital, still targeting low income, moderate income and minority communities that were slow to reach full recovery following the Great Recession. And minority communities that were slow to reach full recovery. This is social impact with a capital I.
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Eve: [00:02:48] Hi, John, thanks so much for joining me today, I’m really looking forward to talking with you.
John Green: [00:02:53] Oh, excited to talk. Thanks so much for having me.
Eve: [00:02:5] Good. So, you’ve had a pretty solid career in real estate, but now you’re focusing on one very specific sector of the market and that is assisting families facing foreclosure, if I understand it correctly. Why did you launch Blackstar Stability, which is the name of your company?
John: [00:03:13] We’ve launched Blackstar Stability, really to focus on what we consider high impact single family strategies, and in particular, we try to expand equitable ownership of affordable single-family properties. And we do that in some ways that we think are creative and unique. In particular we focus on strategies that attack predatory lending practices. And so, it’s just a surprisingly large and robust and consistent market that seems to present lots of opportunities to demonstrate that there are better ways of interacting with families and people. That you can create fair opportunities to finance properties that are not extractive, and so we’re happy to demonstrate market driven, scalable solutions toward that end.
Eve: [00:04:03] What pointed you in that direction? What made it important to you?
John: [00:04:09] Yeah. So, it’s issues of housing affordability and community building are ones that have always been of interest. You know, they’re issues that I’ve focused a lot of my time and attention on during grad school and the team that I put together, I would say, are folks who have had that as a common thread throughout their careers in various capacities. My Chief Investment Officer, Erik Sten, was a former housing commissioner for the city of Portland for more than 12 years and led an organization that focused on issues of homelessness, housing affordability, issues like that. My head of investments, Toks Ladejobi, and I worked together for more than a decade at a company called Macfarlane Partners. It’s a unique real estate private equity company based in the Bay Area that does primarily commercial real estate investment, but just has a uniquely strong appetite for public private partnerships. And this more complicated, thorny projects that result in robust community
Eve: [00:05:13] And something good, right?
John: [00:05:15] Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And so, I focus on finding ways to use the various levers in the market to create outcomes that are pro-social. And so with Blackstar, we wanted to leverage a lot of those things that we have been doing with various sorts of large scale real estate and find ways to tap into this market. And housing affordability is at crisis levels in this country, and we see the single-family market, in particular the sort of small balance segment of the single-family market, as as a unique component that can serve as a big part of the solution. And so, for us, starting Blackstar Stability in this particular strategy, we thought a very creative way of being able to tackle those issues.
Eve: [00:05:59] So you started the company a while back. It sounds like it’s morphed into something slightly different. So you started it with government funds. Is that correct?
John: [00:06:09] No. Blackstar Stability has been all privately financed, but we structure our offerings as funds, at least to this point we have, and so the seed funding for the platform that we have right now is actually from catalytic funds, from an organization called Living Cities, which is a consortium of large financial institutions and foundations that are oriented around issues that help to address the racial equity gap. And so, you know, that became the sort of capital that helped launch this most recent platform that we’re executing.
Eve: [00:06:45] Interesting. And so how does it work, the program that you’ve put in place?
John: [00:06:50] What we do, in essence, is by large pools of single-family properties that are encumbered by generally predatory forms of seller financing. In particular, a pretty unique product called Contracts for Deed, which is a huge industry here in the United States, more than $200 billion industry and extraordinarily problematic. It’s existed for more than 100 years. We buy properties that are encumbered by those CFDs, we call them for short or similar sorts of problematic seller financing and generally at pretty significant discounts. And then we work with the families that occupy those homes to convert that form of seller financing into a more traditional mortgage. But we are resetting the terms of the debt pretty significantly. We’re reducing interest rates. We are, to the extent of properties underwater, reducing the principal balance, and we are extinguishing a lot of penalties and arrearages that generally have been applied in some, often predatory manner.
Eve: [00:07:53] And they grow really fast, with high interest rates. I know that’s awful.
John: [00:07:57] High interest rates and also, you know, just the sort of standards of practice in this space really mirror the sort of behavior that you would associate with payday lenders. So that sort. You know, it’s where the penalties are really an intentional part of the revenue stream in this space. And so, we reset the terms of the debt as we’re originating those mortgages, we’re generally taking performing pools of those CFDs and converting them into performing pools of mortgages. We hold in season them for a period of time to demonstrate payment performance and then sell them into the secondary market and recycle the capital. So, the focus is on completing a transaction that transfers title to these families. Because these CFDs are structured in a way where the sellers remain, the owners of the properties until the very last payments made. But the buyers take on not only possession, but all of the responsibilities of ownership, right? So, maintenance, insurance, taxes, those sorts of things and meet their obligations, so
Eve: [00:08:59] Do they realize what they’ve taken on, like how often are the owners simply unaware of what that contract meant?
John: [00:09:07] Yeah, generally not. Ta-Nehisi Coates had a great quote about it. He characterized these contracts as ones that combine all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of rentals and provides the benefits of neither. Generally, these families do not realize what they have. They think that they own the property and so they think and behave the way the typical owner would. So, they’re investing sweat equity and real capital into improving these places. And in a lot of cases, they’re accepting deferred maintenance obligations. So, they realize that they need to improve a property and they don’t realize that not only do they not own it, but that if they are delinquent, even once, that they could lose everything. And lose it in a process that’s much more aggressive than the sort of foreclosure process that you would associate the mortgage, right? It’s a process called forfeiture. And what happens is it’s essentially a breach of contract. And just think a very aggressive form of eviction.
Eve: [00:10:09] Wow. And so, you must have seen that accelerate during the pandemic when people lost their jobs, right?
John: [00:10:16] You know, we saw a really big acceleration of it actually after the global financial crisis. And I think we had a really big fear that it would accelerate a lot during the pandemic. We don’t have a lot of evidence at the moment that specifically underscores whether there’s been a big shift in the velocity of it after the pandemic. Part of what makes it hard to make those judgments is, it’s a market that’s intentionally shrouded in darkness. It’s relatively opaque because it’s largely unregulated at the federal level. It’s subject mostly to a patchwork of state level regs, and the states are inconsistent about requiring things as fundamental as recording those contracts. And even where they are required by law, it tends to be very poorly enforced. There was a study that was done a few years ago in Texas, which is one of the states that actually does require by-law to record these contracts. What that research effort found was that more than two thirds of the contracts that the research team was able to identify were not recorded, despite the fact that they’re required by law in Texas. So, nationally, the stats tend to be very inconsistent, and the best source of information for them historically had been the American Housing Survey, which is part of the U.S. Census. But all the questions related to these CFDs were pulled in two thousand nine.
Eve: [00:11:36] Why? Why were they pulled?
John: [00:11:39] Not entirely clear to me. It’s a fragmented market where the information tends to be hard to, especially nationally.
Eve: [00:11:48] Purposefully hard. So, you know, you talked about, what was it $100 billion market? More?
John: [00:11:53] No, we think it’s more than $200 billion industry. It’s more than five percent of all single family that’s not occupied by renters in the U.S.
Eve: [00:12:03] That’s what I was wondering what, how many homes are we talking about?
John: [00:12:07] Yeah, we’ve seen stats that suggest more than four million families. We’ve seen stats that say over nine, but more of them seem to be, you know, in the sort of the estimates and the plus minus four million family range.
Eve: [00:12:20] Wow. Ok, so how many homeowners have you impacted so far?
John: [00:12:26] We have a portfolio that’s relatively modest at this point. It’s about 200 properties that we are working with those families, and we’ve converted more than a quarter of those into mortgages. But we’re in the process of raising a fund to actively execute on this strategy. So, the portfolio that we have was basically the proof of concept and we are raising a fund to be able to do more of that activity.
Eve: [00:12:52] Okay. And then, like, you know, where are these homes? Is there any type of demographic or is it just anywhere, anyone who signed a contract like this?
John: [00:13:04] Yeah, you tend to see the most in places where the consumer regulations are weakest at the state level and where there are high concentrations of properties that are low value. Think less than $100,000. And so, geographically, we see that overweighted in the Midwest and the South, especially the Southeast and you know, that’s reflected in the portfolio that we have now. You know, again, our portfolio now is roughly 200 properties, you know? Over time, we’ll serve thousands. But in our pipeline right now we have more than a thousand units in pipeline, and it generally reflects that as well.
Eve: [00:13:37] And what about racially? Is it?
John: [00:13:41] Yeah, it is an issue that disproportionately affects black and brown communities. The Hispanic and Black populations are consistently overrepresented with respect to this, and it stands to reason. This is a relic of the redlining era and there are some very direct lines. At one point, this was the predominant form of housing finance for black people in America. And so there are some studies that really, really focus on that. You know, essentially, if you think about what gives oxygen to a product like this to exist, it is primarily the lack of access to traditional mortgages, right? And so in that vacuum, products like this have the capacity to thrive. So, when families were frozen out of the traditional mortgage markets, their means of housing finance, you know, reverts to something like this. Duke University did a study just a couple of years ago. It was focused on the city of Chicago during the housing boom from the 50s, during the 50s and 60s and what they found was fascinating. It was that somewhere between 75 and 95 percent of all transactions involving black buyers were financed with a CFD.
Eve: [00:14:51] Oh!
John: [00:14:53] Or something similar. And that somewhere between three and four billion dollars was expropriated from their hands into profiteers. And the practice is just absolutely malignant. You know, it’s in the same communities that mortgages wouldn’t be offered to families. Loans were extended to investors who then, in turn, went and sold these properties on, on a contract. But the contract buyers’ rights are basically subordinate to everyone else’s. And so if the owner of the property, despite being paid by the contract buyer, didn’t pay the mortgage that they had taken out on the property or the loan in whatever form if they didn’t pay taxes. All of those rights were senior and superior to the rights of the contract buyer. So even if you never missed a payment as a buyer, you could be kicked out of your home because of the actions of the seller. The seller doesn’t actually have to even provide a clean title to the family until the very last payment’s made and less than one in five of these transactions ever resulted in the families taking ownership.
Eve: [00:16:08] It’s actually completely heartbreaking. By the time you talk to these families, what shape are they in? They must be like battle scarred.
John: [00:16:18] Depends on whether something’s gone wrong, and it depends on how much they realize they’ve been had, right? When we look at these, there’s kind of four categories of problems we tend to observe, you know. So, first is that sort of illusion of ownership that I mentioned, right? That, you know, most don’t realize until too late that they don’t already own the home. The second is that these tend to happen at above market prices. Right? So, in our portfolio, the properties we purchased averaged roughly 10 percent interest rates. In our pipeline, the rates get as high as 18 to 20 percent. So predatory usurious sorts of range of rates, but they also tend to happen at prices that are well in excess of the property value, right? So, we have a pretty clear line of sight into kind of when these transactions were struck. So, in the portfolio that we purchased, a lot of those were REO that were purchased, you know, after the housing crisis. A lot of Fannie and Freddie product in particular. And so, what you would see was that a lot of those properties were purchased at rock bottom prices. They were marked up three to five X. And with no improvements being made to them, they were sold one to two quarters later at these huge markups. That would be a fantastic profit for anyone if it had any bearing on the actual value of the property, but they didn’t.
John: [00:17:42] So, you know, the way that it works from a buyer’s perspective feels pretty rational, right? It’s, they’re not focused on the comparison to mortgage interest rates or to the comparable property values. They’re not looking at comps, they’re not looking at mortgages, they’re looking at the monthly cost. And they’re comparing it to how much rent otherwise costs in their neighborhood. They make what feels like a rational decision. I’ll pay about what I’m paying for rent, or maybe a little more for the prospect of becoming a homeowner. Right? And I think I can afford that. And so I’ll sign up for this deal that doesn’t require a huge down payment and is pretty painless, and they don’t realize that you don’t have to pay much more than your rent to have a deal that’s not a that’s not a fair deal. It’s a very, very much a one-sided deal. So, just quickly, the other issues, you know, the obligations travel without the benefits, right? So, most of these families have no rights to sell or transfer their property. And it’s a mixed bag as to whether they can even deduct the interest from their taxes the way you would a traditional mortgage.
John: [00:18:56] Meanwhile, as I said, they’re responsible for maintenance, insurance, taxes, all that sort of thing. And then lastly, they’re just very few consumer protections. It’s just essentially unregulated at the federal level. The states are inconsistent, so there are very few property disclosures, no truth in lending standards. None of the typical process you associate with home buying. So, no appraisals, no home inspections. So, this very vulnerable population that generally is less experienced and less sophisticated about the home purchase process is exposed to just a very much one-sided transaction. And that sort of power imbalance and the asymmetric information all inures to the benefit of these sellers. And many of these sellers kind of characterize themselves as, you know, white knights who are intending to make the home buying process easy. But, you know, they set up a process that condemns these families to failure. It just, they’re built to fail. And in many cases to create a cycle of having the families responsible for fixing up any problems with the home, with paying exorbitantly while they’re there, very quickly covering the seller’s basis and then to the extent that they turn out, they just quickly replace them with another family.
Eve: [00:20:16] Yeah, I mean, it’s clearly a very good deal for them. It’s pretty shocking that it’s poorly regulated. So, with around four million homes like this in the country, what dent in that do you hope to make?
John: [00:20:28] Yeah, I think, you know, more than anything, this fund will be the first and what we hope will be a series of funds that have increasing impact and scale, you know, toward the issue. But I think one of the most important things we can do is demonstrate that there’s a better way to finance these and to solve for this, and that you don’t have to charge 18 and 20 percent, that you don’t have to charge 10 percent to finance these properties. And I think we have just a general thesis that the risk is being mispriced by the market for these families and for these borrowers. And so that if the more that we can unveil the, you know, the reality, provide the data that supports that, provide the sort of track record that supports that there’s an approach that’s scalable and market driven, we hope that we can invite the sort of activity that helps to collectively solve for that issue, but also that helps to support policy, that provides some common sense measures to better protect the consumers involved.
Eve: [00:21:24] That’s going to be the heavy lift, probably, right? The policy?
John: [00:21:29] Yeah, no, absolutely. I think there are a lot of folks who are spying the issue and have thoughts about it. You know, there’s a sensitivity to the issue that folks are mindful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, right? Non-profits and other institutions use these CFDs. I would say, you know, there are a lot of benign actors that use this to create pathways to ownership, using the same flexibility and very loose regulations to be able to provide a well-intentioned opportunity to families. But much more often, that flexibility is abused at much larger scale. And so there’s a desire to be able to find ways to preserve the benefits of it to have that capacity, while finding ways to eliminate the worst of what a bad faith actor might do.
Eve: [00:22:23] So you have investors, it sounds like institutional investors in this thing that you’re building. What are your investors looking for in terms of return? What can you give them?
John: [00:22:33] Our investors, I would say not necessarily institutional. Institutional through a different lens, right? So the sort of strategies that we executed previously with the company that I was with before the, you know, a very traditional institutional manager where pension funds, insurance companies, reinsurers, those sorts of things. That’s not the investor profile that we have today. We have, I would say, a mission-oriented coalition of investors that’s a combination of family offices, some foundations, some large financial institutions, but generally through their social impact arms or community development arms that are more than, as opposed to being concessionary in terms of their return expectations, they have more impact oriented-goals in tandem with their return expectations. And they have a bit more patience with their capital. In terms of the returns, you know, generally speaking, you’re thinking low double digit net returns.
Eve: [00:23:37] Which is pretty nice for anyone doing anything, let alone someone doing something that’s impactful and important.
John: [00:23:45] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I think, you know, our argument is that these are compelling risk-adjusted returns by any objective measure and that the impact-oriented nature of what we do is just, it’s inherent in the action. You know, I think there are a lot of impact strategies that have the capacity to generate impact. But you know, it’s, you don’t find out, you don’t figure out until much later whether or not you’ve accomplished that. I think, you know, for us, you know, kind of the very nature of what we do, if we’re successful at generating return, it will be because we’re accomplishing what we’ve said. And so, you know, I think our investors find that, you know, important as well. It’s, the strategy is unique, if only in that, whereas most affordable strategies today tend to focus on multifamily and rental, ours are focused on single family and ownership. And each of those are, you know, tricky to solve for various reasons.
Eve: [00:24:42] So what’s the really long-term goal?
John: [00:24:46] I think the long-term goal from our perspective is to build a better mousetrap for small-balance mortgage lending. And I think, you know, what we have is a unique way of driving activity using the activity with the CFDs to better understand the dynamics of that market, to work with an audience that uniquely demands it and to be able to provide solutions that hopefully not only solve the issue for them but help pre-empt the issue from occurring at all. You know, if you look nationally, less than 30 percent of all properties that are $70,000 or less are financed with the traditional mortgage. And the reason for that is simple. It’s the fixed costs of originating a mortgage are essentially the same for $50,000 mortgage as a $500,000 mortgage. And so [???] tends not to produce many of the former. And so that leaves a huge gap that provides the air space for a product like CFDs to continue to thrive. So, I think one of the most effective ways for us to be able to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing in this country, and for us to be able to promote the sort of reinvestment in that sort of product, is to give families the capacity to be able to finance those transactions in a fair and equitable manner. And so, you know, for us to be able to become an increasingly important player in helping to facilitate that, you know, really is the the long game for Blackstar.
Eve: [00:26:21] Okay. So, I’m going to shift gears a bit. I just want to talk to you generally as a Black developer, what challenges you’ve faced over the years?
John: [00:26:32] Sure. The real estate industry is…
Eve: [00:26:36] Homogenous?
John: [00:26:39] To say the least. It is incredible that it should be the, by far the largest asset class globally, how homogenous it is. You know, the EEOC in the U.S. had done some studies over time looking at the executive ranks of real estate leadership. You know, what’s incredible is from 2010 to 2015, the stats got worse. It went from bad to worse. It was senior executives and leadership in real estate companies went from about three percent in 2010 to about two percent in 2015. It’s just dramatically underrepresented. And so, you don’t see people of color populating the ranks of leadership. You don’t see it among the people who are allocating capital, and you certainly see a huge underrepresentation of people who are accessing that capital. And so, it has some of the ripple effects that we were talking about before. You don’t see the same level of investment into a lot of these communities. You don’t see the sort of thoughtful, continuous rebuilding and reinvestment that’s required to allow participation. And that has very direct implications into the lack of opportunity to generate multiple multigenerational wealth, to be able to close the wealth gap that has persisted and grown to extraordinary levels in this country. And you see that across, you know, essentially every role within the industry. You see the deficit of contractors of of practical trades, you see the deficit in the bonding capacity of those folks. So, this sort of asymmetry of both the roles that allow for the execution and the building of wealth, as well as the ones that control them, to be problematic at every level. You see that in a place like Washington, D.C., where I reside, that is a majority minority city. yet in that same study by the EEOC, the respondents who were characterized, self-reporting race, who were the leadership of real estate companies were ninety-six percent white. You certainly see a huge disparity in terms of gender as well.
Eve: [00:29:08] Oh, I should. I should note here that I was the only female developer in Pittsburgh for quite a few years, which is completely, I mean, I’m white, so, it’s just the whole thing is completely shocking.
John: [00:29:22] It is incredible but unsurprising. And that’s what’s unfortunate. And so, I’m encouraged that there seems to be more acknowledgement of that today and that there does seem to be at least a desire to do something about it.
Eve: [00:29:36] So the developers we work with on Small Change who are, you know, minorities have said to me that the hardest thing for them is access to capital. And out of all of those things that you listed, access to capital is still the most difficult. And I think that’s because of what they look like. And you know, I had a really interesting conversation with someone I interviewed who is actually helping support to minority developers purchase a building. And he said they couldn’t get a bank to talk to them until he submitted the prospectus to the bank without their photographs. So, while redlining is not supposed to be happening, you know, how do we even begin to address this?
John: [00:30:23] Yeah, no, absolutely. So, I think, you know, part of it goes to holding accountable the allocation of capital and ensuring that the composition of the organizations who are allocating capital represent more diverse interests, are more diverse themselves and are held to task and actually measured by virtue, amongst other performance indicators, of how they’re how they’re performing on that. Ultimately, if you look at the organizations that we consider institutional investment, they represent very diverse coalitions of people, right? If you look at pension funds and the composition of the workforce that those pensions represent, they’re diverse. There’s not this gender imbalance. There’s not this, the same sort of racial disparity. And in many cases, it’s, you know, may cut the other way, right? But you don’t see those interests being reflected in the communities necessarily, being invested in, and certainly not to the composition of the sort of managers and people with the lived experience that may better reflect. So, I think first holding those huge institutions that tend to be the primary source of capital for the largest of real estate execution, and then those firms that they are allocating capital to that are making individual deal- and manager-level investments, right, that those allocators themselves be more diverse and representative in their various ways, and that opportunities that they invest in, you know, reflect some level of diversity.
Eve: [00:31:59] I’m listening to you, but I’m completely overwhelmed at the prospect of actually getting there. It’s a very, very big problem. Do you think over the last three years that capital has begun to flow more to BIPOC communities, or to people who don’t look like a white male? There’s no other way to say it.
John: [00:32:24] Yeah, you know, what’s interesting is I think there are some trends that encourage me, although I’m careful not to overstate them, right? I think there has been this sort of increasing trend toward a democratization of capital in various forms, right? You know, the ascent of family offices really means that the sort of latitude of individual or smaller non-institutional investors that still control very significant capital to be able to invest in opportunities and managers with standards that sometimes allow for more flexible considerations around emerging managers, or to be able to directly influence the diversity of the candidates that they’re considering or the sorts of strategies that they’re supporting. That trend has been happening for organizations like yours, Eve, that help to provide for crowdfunding and for communities and smaller individuals that otherwise wouldn’t be able to access opportunities to be able to do it. And I think that, increasingly, the focus even amongst large institutions toward ESG-related goals, and that those institutions themselves are being held accountable, and that by extension, they are holding their managers more accountable, you know, certainly help to improve those trends. I think this sort of social reckoning that was initiated following the death of George Floyd and this sort of more public acknowledgement that the disparities exist, because before there really wasn’t even that, and this sort of acceptance that something needs to be done about it, encourages me that there will be at least more focus on it. I think that time will tell, but a lot of the rhetoric hasn’t necessarily met the reality to this point. And I think that, you know, we have to find ways to establish enduring solutions, you know, ones that create a real pipeline of talent, a real pipeline that will be more continuous in terms of that sort of access to capital.
John: [00:34:30] That it’s not just a feature of a small moment that’s quickly extinguished, but something that you know, provides more tectonic and secular change that, you know, changes the way that we think and act. There’s so much tumult and change that’s wrought by everything going on in the world right now. That the pandemic has helped to accelerate things like remote working trends and people’s willingness to move away for however long from, you know, from city centers and from having to live as close to work as they did and changing the sorts of places that people are choosing to spend their time, that some of these things may affect the way that opportunities will unfold over the next decade. And you know what’s wrought by that or lots of opportunities to think about how we’re going to affect the built environment and the way that we, the ways that we live, work and play together. And so, I think there’ll be tremendous opportunity for the folks who are able to be a part of figuring out and executing on that. At the same time, technology is having an increasing role in the way that real estate strategies are executed. And so that just provides avenues for a different sort of cast of characters to influence and to benefit economically. So, I’m encouraged that at the same time, some of these considerations around how access to capital and who the leadership is comprised by are happening, that some of these, you know, big, important. Market moving changes or otherwise happening because there are a lot of opportunities that’ll abound.
Eve: [00:36:07] It really does feel a little bit like the rise of the rest, doesn’t it?
John: [00:36:11] In some ways, absolutely so.
Eve: [00:36:15] So, yeah. So, also one last thing. You are one of a cohort in a renowned accelerated program called the Turner Housing Lab. And I’m just wondering what you’re hoping to get out of the program and how it’s going.
John: [00:36:32] The program is actually nearing its end now, unfortunately for our cohort, but it has been a fantastic experience. Michelle Boyd and the team there at the Turner Center, as well as all of the members of our cohort, have just been fantastic to interact with. I think, you know, for us, it’s really helped to provide access to a lot of perspective. There are just so many innovative housing strategies that are always being conceived that to have this, you know, to be a part and have access to the sort of hub of that sort of activity, the conversations that are constantly going on, has been phenomenal. You know, the nature of what we do is simple at the highest level, but in the practical execution of it, just incredibly complex for a number of reasons. So, to have access to resources like that to help you know, detangle and consider some of the thornier areas has been fantastic. And then, even though the members of our cohort all have very different strategies, the challenges that we face are not as distinct, right? So, to find the sort of common threads and to be able to benefit from one another’s perspective and to challenge your own thinking about the way that you execute your own business or that you consider your market or to recognize some of your own biases, you know, and how they may influence the way you attack opportunity, has just been tremendous. And so, you know, the advisors that have been involved, the, you know, the resources at the center and the peer learnings from our cohort members have all been fantastic.
Eve: [00:38:15] It’s amazing to me how an absolute crisis around housing has just created this abundance of creativity because there are, as you said, so many solutions emerging, physical and programmatic and lending and in every corner of our society, so that gives me hope that together we can crack the problem. I’m not sure, but maybe, right?
John: [00:38:44] Absolutely. If we can’t crack it, we’ll put a big dent in it, for sure.
Eve: [00:38:48] Okay, so one final question what’s next for you?
John: [00:38:53] Prospects for Blackstar, so, in 2022, we are very much focused on growth. We have been fortunate in having pretty significant success and momentum so far in our fundraise. And so, we’re, in just a few weeks, we’ll be closing our second round, which will take us about halfway toward our $100 million fundraising goal. So, we’re hoping to close out our fund in 2022. We have a big pipeline, as I mentioned, more than a thousand units, so we’ll be busy closing and executing and operating. We’re expanding our lending relationships and so, lots of wood to chop. So, you know, what’s next for Blackstar is a big focus on growing the platform, on executing on the strategy and on finding ways to better serve the families that we support.
Eve: [00:39:43] I can’t wait to see how it goes.
John: [00:39:46] Thank you so much. We definitely appreciate it.
Eve: [00:39:59] And that’s how John planned to change the equation for so many people losing control of their homes and their lives.
Eve: [00:40:16] You can find out more about this episode or others you might have missed on the show notes page at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music, and thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of John Green,