Earlier this year, Michaela Ross and Brian Bills decided to donate $90,000 of their inheritance to the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. The couple, who  moved from the San Francisco area two years ago, decided it would be best to use their “unearned intergenerational wealth” to pay it forward. They learned about Maggie Walker CLT from some friends and decided it was a good candidate to donate to since they noticed that affordable housing was also a huge challenge in Richmond.

Brian Bills, who works in healthcare advocacy, and Michaela Ross, a housing attorney who represents low-income clients in eviction cases, said they realized displacement and gentrification were prevalent and saw how the shortage of affordable housing caused this crisis. They said that MWCLT’s work of permanently affordable homeownership and commitment towards racial equity motivated them to donate. “It felt meaningful to redistribute our intergenerational wealth to those who have historically been excluded from building intergenerational wealth through homeownership,” Michaela explained.

Homeownership is the common vehicle to create generational wealth. Unfortunately, racist laws and practices such as redlining effectively barred Black Americans from owning homes until the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Black homeownership rate of 42% still falls significantly behind compared to the white homeownership rate of 73%. With the rising costs of housing, Black households will have a more difficult time building sufficient credit and saving for down payment and closing costs.

Brian and Michaela were excited to learn about Maggie Walker CLT being part of the work to make homeownership a reality for moderate and low income families. Brian mentioned that it was their first time donating such a large amount and they were initially apprehensive since they are just starting out their newly wed lives. “But then I realized that we have enough. We live good lives and we’re comfortable,” Brian said. Brian and Michaela hope more privileged people who come into inheritance will strongly consider generously donating to support work that builds a more equitable Richmond.