By LISA KLEIN
No matter how booming the luxury real estate market is and how many people are purchasing multi-million-dollar homes at any given time, there are many others who will not have a roof over their heads at all.
For a North Carolina-based real estate firm, a way to assist the unhoused was found hiding in every sale and purchase it facilitated, and its nonprofit, the Homeowners Impact Fund, is now harnessing collective giving with every transaction by asking for small donations from all involved.
“I felt the call to do something more impactful in our community,” said Vicky Mitchener, broker/owner and president of Dickens Mitchener Residential Real Estate in Charlotte. “Helping the less fortunate in our community secure a home seemed like the obvious way to give back.”
More than a half-million people experience homelessness in the United States each day, with 3,000-plus of those in the Charlotte area.
“Seeing so many benefit from the industry while also watching the negative impact it has had on the homeless, I feel like it is my obligation to help solve the problem,” Ms. Mitchener, who has worked in real estate for 30 years, said.
After giving to area charities, Ms. Mitchener came up with an idea for her own, and the Homeowners Impact Fund was born, starting up operations in 2020.
The way it works is simple.
To raise money for local organizations that work with the unhoused, every person involved with a real estate closing – sellers, buyers, agents, attorneys and lenders – are all asked to make a small donation of at least $10 at the closing, with a goal of $70 per transaction.
“We think a great way to celebrate purchasing a new home is to help our neighbors,” Ms. Mitchener said.
“There are so many people involved in closing a home, and with everyone involved it’s an easy way to see that when everybody comes together as a community, you can make a big difference,” she said.
So far, the fund has raised $200,000, distributed to Roof Above, providing street outreach, emergency shelter and permanent shelter; Safe Alliance, a domestic violence and sexual assault resource center; and Charlotte Family Housing, a shelter-to-housing program for families.
The organization has plans to grow locally and expand, hopefully nationwide, with the help of other real estate brokerages in the area and “captains” who help to spread the word.
“We are so proud to work with our colleagues in Charlotte from other brokerages, agents, mortgage companies, law firms, builders and many more caring companies and individuals,” Ms. Mitchener said.
“They are from all facets of the real estate industry here in Charlotte, and they have done a fantastic job of sharing the mission of Homeowners Impact Fund in their circles,” she said of HIF’s captains.
According to the organization, if everyone in each real estate transaction in the Charlotte metropolitan area participated in the fund, it could raise more than $3 million each year. Expand that to the whole U.S. and it crosses $412 million – an amount with a lot of potential.
“I feel a responsibility to help my neighbors, and as a collective industry we can make a major impact of the homeless crisis,” Ms. Mitchener said.