Member Highlight: Brian Collier
Since 2018, the Foundation for the Carolinas has made affordable housing a priority through its Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund. Started with a $5 million program-related investment from the foundation, the fund received a big boost earlier this month when it announced commitments from BB&T, SunTrust and the SunTrust Foundation.
Those commitments bring the fund to $31 million - well on its way to meeting its $50 million goal. The foundation's executive vice president, Brian Collier, said the fund will be able to address a growing housing crisis in Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg County.
"Mecklenburg County faces a deficit of more than 30,000 affordable housing units, and nearly half of our residents – including moderate, low and extremely low-earning households – are cost-burdened, which means housing costs exceed 30 percent of their income," he said. "This is unsustainable and a major reason increasing access to affordable housing was a key recommendation of our 2017 Leading on Opportunity report, which analyzed causes of our community’s lack of economic mobility."
BB&T, SunTrust and the SunTrust Foundation are collectively investing $30 million in support of affordable housing in and around Charlotte - $10 million of that will go directly to the investment fund. Once the fund reaches its $50 million goal, it will be paired with $50 million in public sector funds from the City of Charlotte.
"The Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund aims to lessen the growing affordability gap to develop housing that serves residents in a range of incomes – including moderate, low and extremely low-earning households," Brian said. "It is one of a series of local initiatives to increase access to affordable housing, all tied to recommendations in the Leading on Opportunity report."
The Leading on Opportunity report led directly to a community-wide initiative tasked with implementing and overseeing the report's recommendations. Yet it is only one of several projects Brian and the rest of the foundation team are focused on. Other priorities are aimed at boosting third-grade reading, reducing homelessness and supporting returning veterans and their families.
Brian says his work is driven by a desire to see that everyone, no matter their life circumstances or connections, is able to move their way up the socioeconomic ladder.
"In addition to helping increase economic mobility, I’m also hoping it will add a touch of humility across the community by getting everyone to recognize that our successes are often highly correlated with knowing the right person, at the right place, and at the right time," he said.
That perspective was instilled in him through his work with none other than Paul Newman, the late actor and philanthropist.
"It was incredible to interact with someone with such fame and wealth but someone who was also very humble and genuinely dedicated to righting injustices in the world—financially and as a volunteer," Brian said. "Mr. Newman was also one of the first people I heard talk openly about the role of luck in life and how fickle it can be – incredibly good to some, like him; undeservedly cruel to others, for many of the children at his camps."