From 1948 to1970, close to half a million people from the Caribbean were invited to what was commonly referred to as the ‘mother country.’  Arriving as British citizens (despite never living in Britain) is a trait rooted in the legacy of the Empire. Whilst there were many reasons for their arrival in Britain, many were seeking superior opportunities for themselves and their offspring. Early settlers spoke about a five-year plan to save money and return back to the Caribbean. Prohibited to find suitable accommodation, many migrants were confronted with signs such as, ‘No Coloureds or Blacks’, which was routinely used alongside the use of ‘No Irish and Dogs.’

Where Caribbean’s were permitted to rent, the standards and conditions of the dwellings were typically unsavoury. Consequently, there was a determination to purchase one’s own properties using a system popularly known as pardner, which involves the collaborating of resources to provide access to funds. This system was particularly useful when banks would not loan to black people. Early settlers from the Caribbean owned houses in what are now some of the wealthiest locations in Europe, such as Notting Hill and Paddington. It was not rare for these residents to own more than two houses that were rented out, characteristically large three or four story Victorian terraced houses. As the decades proceeded, many of these houses were sold due to the owners returning to the Caribbean, or simply moving. Similar trends occurred in Shepherds Bush, Balham and more recently in Dalston, Brixton, Peckham, leaving a decline in property ownership amongst succeeding Caribbean heritage peoples within the UK.

While the cost of properties has been exorbitant in London, where according to the last Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Census for England and Wales, 58.4% of black people reside, the cost of properties in locations such as the West Midlands (which is said to host the second largest population of black people) at 9.8%, is considerably lower.

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Black Landlords UK (BLUK) in Birmingham aims to revitalise the calibre of not only black home ownership, but also the number of black landlords. Founded in late 2017, one of the committee members Garfield Reece revealed how the organization came into fruition. ‘’It evolved (BLUK) from conversations that Rod Shield (senior investor in Birmingham) had during his networking meetings. People were asking him the same questions wherever he went.’’ Some of the questions that Reece cited were ‘’How we got into property management? How to turn a single let property into a high yielding HMO (House Multiple Occupation)? How to resolve issues and conflicts with tenants.’’

Initially, Rod Shield decided to establish a Whatsapp group to address the myriad of questions he was bombarded with and to mobilize the engagement of black people within the community. The Whatsapp group quickly demonstrated the demand for such an organization and according to Shield, “The Whatsapp group numbers exceeded the allowable quote on Whatsapp; well in the excess of 200 investors in the group. So that’s really where it all started.’’ It was during this time that the committee (who volunteer their expertise for free) decided to galvanise all those that expressed an interest in property to congregate in one room. This lead to BLUK’s quarterly meetings; “The first meeting was held back in January this year,’’ declares Reece.

The first BLUK meeting in January 2019 had approximately 50 people in attendance, and numbers have been growing rapidly. At BLUK’s last quarterly meeting for 2019, the committee expect to have 120 investors. “We are giving service providers and businesses within the community, an opportunity to sell and promote their businesses,’’ Reminiscent of a market stall, there will be six tables with businesses each discussing topics such as finance and how to raise mortgages. Half of the meeting will consist of Keynote Speakers, who will talk about the process one has to go through when acquiring property. The other half of the meeting will be dedicated to roundtable discussions, “It will be like mini workshops,’’ states Reece. “Each roundtable is going to talk about a different investment strategy,’’ Reece adds.

The next BLUK meeting will take place on Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 from 14:00 – 18:00 at the Legacy Centre of Excellence (formerly known as the Drum) 14 Potters Lane Birmingham, B6 4UU.

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