Skip to content

BSA News

May 18, 2023

Historic Compact Signing At the BSA Aims To Jumpstart DEI In Real Estate Development

2023 MAY08 Press Conference 101 1000px

Photo by David Hill, David HD Photography.

Less than one percent of real estate developers in the U.S. are Black or Latino. The BSA is working to change that.

On May 8th, the BSA hosted the signing of the CommonWealth Development Compact – a commitment made by mayors and leaders from Boston, Cambridge, Lynn, Salem, and Somerville to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in real estate development. This compact is the result of a partnership among the BSA, the Builders of Color Coalition (BCC), the Civic Action Project (CAP), and the Eastern Bank Foundation (EBF), that has been working together for a year and a half to explore ways to increase the number of minority-owned firms involved in development in Greater Boston.

BSA Seeds an Idea

The seeds of this work were planted in 2021 when then BSA President, Greg Minott AIA, LEED AP, managing principal at the DREAM Collaborative, LLC, steered the BSA to tackle inequity in the real estate development. As a starting point, the BSA hosted workshops to identify barriers to minority firm involvement and brainstorm potential solutions. Among the workshop attendees were: architects and developers from minority-owned firms as well as white-owned firms, municipal officials, representatives from the health and education sectors, and equity advocates. A few major challenges surfaced in these workshops, including:

  • Small minority-owned firms were often left out of the public request for proposal (RFP) process because they didn’t have the capacity to respond to the request and/or weren’t exposed to the opportunities.
  • Proper bonding and insurance coverage is required for every development job but given their size and experience, small minority-owned firms often could not obtain the necessary insurance coverage required for larger jobs.
  • Partnerships between small minority-owned firms and larger firms are a great way to solve for the above issues while also fulfilling DEI requirements. But, for these partnerships to be equitable and productive, the relationship between the two firms needed to be more structured and meaningful.

After gathering this feedback from the workshops, the BSA, CAP, and BCC partnership was established. Together, these organizations applied for and received a grant from the EBF to usher this work forward. The CommonWealth Development Compact is the first outcome of this partnership.

Compact Sets Standards for Engagement

The CommonWealth Development Compact represents a big step forward in the partnership’s efforts to create a more diverse real estate development workforce. The BSA, BCC, CAP, and EBF coalesced to recruit five municipalities for this historic commitment to DEI in regional real estate development. The compact signatories agreed to use their best efforts to require that a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan shall comprise 25 percent of the comparative evaluation of each development proposal submitted for municipal-owned properties. Further, the compact requests that private development proposals requiring sign-off from the municipalities include an EDI plan. This program is dedicated to changing the face of real estate development in the region. As Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll said at the signing of the compact, “It took a lot of collaboration, but when you ask yourselves the question: how do we do more to reduce barriers and engage directly to support the growth of minority businesses, minority contractors, minority developers? This program is the answer.”

BSA Collaborates on Other DEI Efforts

The work does not stop at the signing of the compact. There are other barriers for minority- owned businesses that are crucial to confront if this program is to be successful. In the coming months, the BSA will host workshops to explore ways for minority-owned business to access bonding and insurance coverage necessary for some of the region’s upcoming development projects. The BSA will also leverage its network and convening power to support the formation of meaningful partnerships between minority-owned businesses and larger businesses that align with the CommonWealth Compact’s policies and aspirations. As Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said, “Our development projects must look like our people: diverse, creative and bold.”

To get involved in these workshops and learn more about the work the BSA is doing to make the region’s real estate development sector more equitable, diverse, and inclusive, email Jennifer Effron at [email protected].