Collective Action Toward Wealth-Building and Community Empowerment

Community Investment Vehicles (CIVs) allow residents to pool their financial resources to buy and control neighborhood real estate assets, such as shopping centers or multi-family housing. CIVs provide the legal structure and leverage the necessary capital to give communities greater control, while providing an opportunity to grow their wealth.

CIVs are an alternative to traditional real estate development and financing, which is often initiated by an “outsider” developer who may not be familiar with neighborhood goals – but who does have access to capital from large financial institutions and investors. In short, CIVs have the potential to advance neighborhood-driven development goals through alternative sources of funding and financing.

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Is a CIV right for my neighborhood?

CIVs are often motivated by a need or void within the established community. Residents organize around shared goals, often directly connected to one or many of the following drivers:

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Threat of Gentrification. Residents and small businesses are being displaced because of new developments that drive up the costs of living and make it harder to operate in the community.

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Gap in Affordable Housing. Affordable housing is declining or limited in the community, and there is a community desire to preserve, protect, and grow affordable housing options.

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Disinvestment of Business Corridors. Residents are seeking opportunities to revitalize commercial corridors that have suffered from disinvestment over the years, focusing on elevating local businesses that build local wealth.

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Desire to Keep Wealth Local. Residents are pursuing opportunities to keep wealth within the local community by ensuring local properties and the businesses operating there are owned by local residents.

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Equitable Development Partnerships. To maximize local control, it’s also important that residents participate in large-scale, developer-led real estate development. Through a CIV, residents can pool money to invest in that development – and therefore have decision-making power over the development’s outcomes.

How do I get started? Download our CIV Playbook & CIV Assessment Tool.

Community Desk Chicago studied active and emerging CIV models across the country. One result of our research is our “CIV Playbook,” which outlines what it might take to successfully build a CIV in your neighborhood. This document outlines the five key elements critical to attracting capital, engaging residents, managing properties, and much more.

This playbook is not just a research report; it’s a practical guide for communities. It includes an implementation guide that includes sample work plans, sample budgets, and an editable Assessment Tool to help you get started.

Chicago CIV Projects

E.G. Woode (Englewood) was established to help relieve the disparities of capital access that minority owned businesses experience. Their platform is an incubator for minority business owners that leverages the power of real estate to aid in the development of their businesses and enhance their operations, marketing, and branding strategies.

We The People (South Shore) is a radical new approach to redeveloping South Shore that puts control in the hands of local residents. It was formed by a collective of South Shore residents who are also business and property owners in the neighborhood.

Additional CIV Resources

Shared ownership models are great, but complicated. Below are few other resources related to shared ownership models. We hope these additional resources continue to build your “working knowledge” of CIVs and other shared ownership models that promote community ownership, empowerment, and economic opportunity.

Brookings: The emerging solidarity economy: A primer on community ownership of real estate

The Chicago Community Trust: Trust Talks Podcast Episode 8: Building Neighborhood Wealth with Community Investment Vehicles

City of Chicago: Community Wealth Building Initiative

City of Chicago: Community Wealth Building (CWB) Initiative Report (2023)

LISC: Commercial Community Ownership as a Strategy for Just Development

Urban Institute: New Models for Community Shareholding: Equity Investing in Neighborhood Real Estate Investment Trusts and Cooperatives