KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Community Investment Trust (CIT) is a way for people to become property owners without breaking the bank.
For as little as $10 a month, people who live in Kansas City's Historic Northeast neighborhood could be a part of this program.
They can put a minimum of $10 and up to $100 per month into a piece of property bought by a group of "impact investors" who can pay for the building upfront.
Over time, the community investors will own the property once the total cost of the property is accounted for and investors will be able to grow their wealth and even get dividends.
"This is a way for existing residents to participate in the broader economic development that's happening around them," Emily Lecuyer, director of impact investments at AltCap, said.
Lecuyer said this neighborhood was chosen because of its diversity and the changing landscape of the area.
"We were looking for a neighborhood that is seeing some of that potentially negative impacts of gentrification and wanted to put the CIT in place at a time when we can still get an affordable property," Lecuyer said, "make some improvements that the community would like to see and really help everyone participate in that growth."
The only CIT in the nation is in Portland, Oregon, where there are more than 100 community investors with nearly $40,000 put into their piece of property – a strip mall with various businesses inside.
Since it's just an idea for Kansas City, Missouri, a piece of property or building has not yet been selected. Groups still are gauging interest in the concept.
"Imagine a commercial, retail kind of strip mall," Lecuyer said. "So we’re looking for a total of maybe 20 tenants, a place that would attract nonprofit service providers, as well as some businesses that the community has told us that they want to see in their neighborhood."
To calm fears of losing money, Lecuyer said, protections are in place.
"There’s a guarantee against losing your invested capitol, which is very substantial to help protect folks as they build their investments," Lecuyer said.
Some residents who live in the historic district, like Jordan Schiele, who runs Jerusalem Farm, are helping spread the word about the program.
"Particularly, we were reaching out to folks that their voices aren’t perhaps always heard, immigrant and refugee groups that we work with," Schiele said.
Schiele said he believes as more people learn about the program, they'll be excited to be investors.
"I think this program has the potential of also being another tool to ensure that the residents that have been living in these neighborhoods long term also reap some of the benefits of the gentrification and the change of property values in the area," he said.
An educational component also would be part of the project, teaching new investors how to manage their money and how the program works.
The goal here too is by the community investing in this particular property, the whole neighborhood will benefit.
"I think it's a great opportunity for the economics of the northeast, and especially for the people of the northeast," Bobbi Baker-Hughes, president and CEO of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said. "They can not only shop local, buy local but they can own local and have a stake in it and that's important."
It's a way to build the community by investing in it.
"Keep that wealth within our communities and work together as neighbors," Schiele said.
The group still wants to hear from Northeast residents. They can provide input through a survey.