Real Estate Developer Envisions Building Inclusive Communities with Affordable Housing

Real Estate Developer Envisions Building Inclusive Communities with Affordable Housing

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Brandon Gibson was a teenager when he began his entrepreneur journey in real estate. Today, he’s a successful businessman and a visionary committed to helping solve the affordable housing crisis.

A Brooklyn native of Barbadian descent, Brandon tells Inside Brooklyn Podcast that his father was his hero and role model. He watched his dad climb the corporate ladder at the investment bank Salomon Smith Barney. It taught Brandon that there are no limits to what he could achieve in life.

His dad’s Wall Street job also served as Brandon’s “entrée into the world of finance and entrepreneurship.”

Early in his life, Brandon developed an interest in real estate development. It’s rooted in his father’s purchase of a Nehemiah Home in Brooklyn. In the 1970s, the community-based Nehemiah Project built affordable houses in the blighted East New York and Brownsville neighborhoods.

Forbes magazine featured his family in an article about people buying houses in previously undesirable neighborhoods.

“Since then, I wanted to see what it would be like to build a community from the perspective of inclusion and not exclusion,” Brandon says.

At 18, he bought his first property in East New York. Early on, Brandon focused on making a profit, so he bought properties and flipped them.

Today, the founder and CEO of Light Rock Holdings develops property in Bedford – Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and more recently in Newark and East Orange, New Jersey.

Brandon’s keen awareness of the need for affordable housing informs his property development strategy.

It’s an understatement to say that it is nearly impossible to find affordable housing in New York City. Some lucky New Yorkers win affordable-housing lotteries, in which tens of thousands of people compete for a handful of below-market priced housing.

Brandon says the lack of affordable housing is particularly dire for seniors on fixed incomes. There’s also a massive shortage of quality low- to moderate-income housing.

A part of his solution it to take an unusual approach to mixed income development. Instead of the typical 80/20 split, in which developers set aside 20 percent of units for low-income renters, Brandon envisions building communities closer to a 50/50 split.

Brandon muses about how to “create a reality where we could coexist” in terms of different socio-economic standings in the same community. It’s a reality that he wants a part in bringing to fruition.

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