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How It Began

Affordable housing, and all of the related complexities, have been part of an ongoing conversation at our weekly company meetings for the past couple years. At one point, before she was employed by the city of Durham, we even had Karen Lado give us a presentation on which affordable housing options would work best in our community. Over the course of many months, we’ve watched videos and heard speakers educating us on historic policies that negatively impacted homeownership based on race and economic class. We’ve participated in community conversations regarding gentrification, such as Durham Under Development. Essentially, we’ve been talking about these issues for a long time. And there’s been a growing urge to do something - to contribute to the solution in some way.

Education and discussion is important but not without some action. After having Preservation Durham present to our group about their Preservation Equity Project, we decided that we would mobilize our efforts around a yearly fundraiser for that organization and others like it, such as Rebuilding Together. It felt like a perfect marriage of our area of expertise, housing, and our community-oriented mission. Though our job is generally to help people buy and sell homes, we understand, more than ever, the importance of helping people stay in their homes too.

Many of our neighbors are struggling financially and are finding it difficult to afford to maintain their homes. It’s become increasingly common for these homeowners to be targeted by aggressive investors who are not always offering market value. Sadly, the money earned from the sale often disappears quickly to make ends meet, leaving nothing for the long term.

We were happily marching down the road of planning for our fundraiser when one of our agents, Marcelle, approached me about an “opportunity”. If you know anything about Marcelle, you know that she views being given the chance to help someone as exactly that - an opportunity. When she joined Urban Durham Realty, she immediately presented us with a myriad of activities that helped to further ignite our passion for outreach.

Amid all these conversations regarding housing, in a spark of serendipity, Marcelle had been introduced to a mother with two young children (ages 8 and 9) who lives near downtown and is having trouble keeping up with the work and expense that her inherited home requires. She and her kids are the embodiment of the challenges we had been discussing. We were being given a chance to understand this issue at a personal level.

The path thus far has been bumpy and imperfect. We’re not in the home repair or construction business, but we have strong relationships with vendors that can help. And we have been grateful that our partners really want to help.

Our goal with this project is to get involved at a granular level, hopefully bring some attention to the cause in the process, and then continue our ongoing commitment to be part of a solution. We’d love for you to join us in this “opportunity”.

Marcelle Thomas

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