‘Start Where You Are. Use What You Have’: Building a Stronger Community Through Affordable Housing Solutions
In 2017, Bill founded Polaris American, an affordable housing real estate developer based in the predominantly African American and culturally-rich “Teen Streets” neighborhood of East Orange, New Jersey where he and his sister lived and attended elementary school. The Teen Streets are located in the designated redevelopment area of Greenwood in East Orange. After receiving a $500,000 acquisition and construction revolving line of credit from New Jersey Community Capital, Bill was able to initially purchase two vacant, scattered-site properties in his hometown to rehabilitate and renovate into quality affordable housing units. “My experience in having grown up part of my life in East Orange and as an African-American, has sensitized me to the challenges that a lot of the residents are faced with along with the people that we’re trying to support in our project.”
“Helping in a small way to create economic opportunity is key. It’s about being a part of a larger effort to strengthen and improve community and that’s why we say we’re a mission-driven development business.”
— William (Bill) Crawley, co-founder of Polaris American
As a minority-owned small business, Bill understands the role of leveraging local partnerships and strategies to accelerate impact and equitable development. “We take the approach of ‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can,” says Bill, inspired by a famous Arthur Ashe quote. “We sought out and were able to retain a great development team including our architect, attorney, surveyor—all African-American professionals. We continue to work with an East Orange based, Jamaican-American owned construction firm equipped with over 30 years of experience.”
While several mission-driven, minority-owned enterprises that wish to enter for-profit real estate continue to face barriers to capital and technical capacity, Bill remains optimistic. “That’s why it’s so special to have a relationship with NJCC because the opportunity to forge partnerships has been really important to achieving our mission.”
Today, as a successful entrepreneur and small business owner, Bill continues to leverage capital and resources to build scale and create job opportunities that strengthen and improve the community at large. “Helping in a small way to create economic opportunity is key. It’s about being a part of a larger effort to strengthen and improve community and that’s why we say we’re a mission-driven development business.”
Small businesses can create space for collaboration and champion greater local economic opportunities. Driven by vision and a deep-rooted commitment to people and place, Bill and his team are expanding access to quality, affordable housing for residents of East Orange and beyond.
To learn more about Polaris American, please visit www.polarisamerican.com/.