Joe Robinson, founder of Detroit hip-hop collective APX Management, has slowly but surely entered the real estate game.
"I always figured owning a home was better [than renting]," he says.
This year, Robinson and his team at APX have been promoting the phrase "Buy land 'cause God ain't making no more" through fashion and music. Robinson says he initially heard the phrase from Atlanta real estate maven Jay Morrison on the syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club, though the phrase has its origins with Mark Twain, who said, "Buy land, they're not making it anymore."
As a Detroit native from the east side, Robinson says his goal is to educate young people about the importance of property ownership. Both Robinson and Earlly Mac, another APX artist, own property in Detroit. The two are also part of the black-owned Tulsa Real Estate Fund that purchased a 12,000-square-foot building in Atlanta last year. The "Buy land" campaign is a staple in Robinson's brand and is currently being sprinkled into every venture produced by Robinson and his team, appearing on T-shirts and the cover art of the collective's recent record, Big Friends.
Robinson says the "Buy land" campaign aims to bridge the gap between large corporations and community members in owning the revitalization of Detroit. Although it's clear large corporations are leading these renovations, many residents would like to see a Detroit comeback that better reflects its community. Since more than 80 percent of the city's population is African-American, the hope is that local residents find a way to embed themselves into the fabric of Detroit through property ownership, as has been done in the past.
According to a study by Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Urban Institute, home ownership in the black community in Detroit dropped to 40 percent in 2018, largely affecting those between the ages of 45-64. The manufacturing industry's decline and foreclosures due to the Great Recession played a major role in the numbers, hitting black people in particular especially hard. However, there has been a rise in mortgage lending, with the city seeing 994 mortgages issued, up from 736 in 2016, according to the Detroit Home Mortgage program.
The slight increase in numbers does give hope that education curriculum on money management and retention could help Detroit see a drastic change, as people would then invest and grow their funds. Until then, Robinson says the responsibility lies within family units, the community, and it's leaders to educate beyond school.
"If more black people owned real estate, we could leverage into commercial real estate so we wouldn't feel left out," he says.
Detroit's renaissance has brought more jobs, entertainment, and safety, while also drawing people of all shades to the downtown areas. The "Buy land" campaign gains its importance by highlighting representation, and spreading the knowledge and the confidence to encourage young adults of all backgrounds to invest and own — not only downtown, but in their communities as well.
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