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Alders, mayor advance proposal to support wealth creation in communities of color

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Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and numerous alders today advanced a new program to increase opportunities for commercial property ownership among historically disenfranchised communities.

“Racial justice cannot be achieved without programs like this to address economic justice, which will allow African Americans the ability to become more autonomous in our destinies,” said Alder Samba Baldeh in a statement.

The Commercial Ownership Assistance (COA) program establishes a forgivable loan fund to help Madison business owners transition from renting to owning commercial property, according to a press release, and the program is being launched as a pilot with $500,000 of funding in 2020, which may increase if the pilot is successful. The program loans for buying or constructing a business space with no payment due to the City unless the property is sold.

“During our Common Council leadership meetings, Alder Baldeh and I initiated the COA program. This program will encourage and support entrepreneurship in minority communities that have historically faced barriers in accessing capital to start and grow their businesses, especially in the Park Street corridor,” said Council President Sheri Carter in a statement. “In addition, this program will integrate people of color in the business community which lacks diversity in ownership. This isn’t a handout but a pathway to entrepreneurship.”

The program will focus resources toward communities that have historically faced barriers to purchasing commercial property, including communities of color, immigrant communities, women, disabled residents, and veterans, and will also prioritize support for businesses in under-invested geographic areas.

“This is a good first step to support wealth-building and also to help prevent displacement in our communities, especially in neighborhoods at risk of gentrification,” said Mayor Rhodes-Conway. “It is one of numerous steps we must take to fully address the disparities in our community.”