Daryl J. Carter, MArch ’81, SM ’81 grew up in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Core City on Detroit’s west side during the ’60s and ’70s, when redlining practices that reinforced segregated housing were still commonplace. The Federal Housing Authority and private banks denied low-interest loans to buyers in such neighborhoods, solidifying economic hardship for generations. Some Black people were still able to buy homes, but the majority were compelled to rent.
Despite a popular belief that Black communities are less stable, Carter saw Core City’s strengths. He noticed that everyone in the neighborhood had a role: keeping an eye on neighbors’ children, or helping the elderly maintain their independence. Those observations inspire him as chairman and CEO of Avanath Capital Management, where he and his partners focus on transforming the affordable-housing sector. Currently, Avanath owns more than 80 properties in 13 states. The majority of its 12,000 apartments are targeted to renters earning 40% to 80% of the area’s median income, many of whom qualify for Section 8.
Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers are the federal government’s largest program for assisting low-income families, elderly people, and those with disabilities to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. The vouchers cover up to 70% of rent. “There’s a myth that Section 8 housing is a risky investment,” says Carter. “The data doesn’t support this.”
Carter says Avanath’s focus on providing services and amenities that aren’t typical in affordable housing contributes to both its mission and its ongoing financial success. For example, the company built a free app that residents can use to report maintenance issues. “That way we can respond right away,” he says. “By doing so, we not only protect our investment, but we build trust and community with our residents.”
“Our strategy is to look beyond the building’s site to the entire community footprint,” Carter continues. “We want our residents to have access to public transportation, grocery stores, and health care. Some of our properties include an outpatient clinic on the first floor. When covid vaccines became available, residents only had to take an elevator to get their shot.”
Carter says MIT helped him along his path—and “not only because of the knowledge I gained in finance and architecture. I had classmates that motivated me to dream bigger, and MIT invested in me with a fellowship,” he says. “I’m glad to be able to pay that forward by investing in housing for the underserved and building a better world.”
This article also appears in the November/December 2021 issue of MIT News magazine, published by MIT Technology Review.