Filene Research Institute, an independent cooperative finance think tank based in Madison, Wisconsin, has selected Veridian to lead a Racial Economic Equity (REE) Incubator in Waterloo, Iowa. It’s one of eight incubators Filene is organizing across the U.S. in collaboration with Urban Strategies, Inc. and Native Women Lead to close the racial wealth gap. The Veridian-led incubator will focus specifically on closing gaps in homeownership and access to consumer lending with existing community partners in Waterloo, including Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity, 24/7 BLAC and House of Hope.
"Credit unions – members of whom represent 18-22% of U.S. households – can play an important role in the push for racial equity by providing equitable, accessible and inclusive financial products to U.S. families,” said Josh Sledge, Senior Director of Incubation at Filene Research Institute. “Designing with – not for – communities of color is critical for ensuring products and policies are non-extractive. REE Incubator partnerships and the insights that come from their work will create a roadmap for others seeking to create lasting, structural change from the ground up.”
According to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, white households hold 86.8 percent of overall wealth in the country, though they accounted for only 68.1 percent of households in the survey. By comparison, Black and Hispanic households hold only 2.9 and 2.8 percent of wealth, respectively, while accounting for 15.6 percent and 10.9 percent of the U.S. population respectively. Data reflects that wealth in the U.S. is disproportionately skewed toward white households.
Veridian has historically worked with each participating organization individually to provide staff, funding and other resources for various programs. The credit union applied to Filene for the chance to lead an incubator in 2022, and the application was formally approved in January.
“We know that homeownership is one of the most significant tools allowing consumers to maintain financial stability and achieve long-term financial success,” said LeKeisha Veasley, Veridian’s Community Inclusion Strategist. “The Cedar Valley is fortunate to have several strong organizations and passionate leaders working to address racial disparities in homeownership and access to credit. That gives us a great opportunity to coalesce our efforts for efficiency, effectiveness, and a chance at making a replicable recipe that could also be impactful in other communities.”
Incubator participants will explore new and existing strategies in programs like Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity’s Blueprints, 24/7 BLAC’s Project HOME and House of Hope’s Driving Hope, as well as study other ways to move the needle in advancing economic equity. The REE Incubator is expected to take place over the next two years.