Yolette and her three children spent months living at the shelter. Other times, they stayed at churches, sleeping in choir rooms or offices. They played games together to keep their spirits up, and they had one another. But hot water and other essentials weren’t always guaranteed.
Yolette had a bachelor’s degree and worked as a recruiter but rising rents in the Orlando area put most decent apartments out of reach. Nonprofits serving families experiencing homelessness kept her and her children off the street. But what she needed was a place to call home.
A little more than four years ago, she got one in Pendana at West Lakes, a housing community created by the nonprofit Lift Orlando and Columbia Residential, with support from Truist and other businesses. Rent there started at $400 a month.
Yolette found more than affordable housing. She found stability and community. Her daughter went to the West Lakes Early Learning Center. Sometimes management would leave groceries and gift baskets at the family’s door.
She used the business center there to polish her resume. She got a better job. She saved money and took financial planning classes through the West Lakes Financial Wellbeing Center, which is supported by Truist.
“If I can get myself out of a shelter, I can get myself into a home,” Yolette told herself.
Fast forward to early 2022, when she closed on a house near the apartment community. The Pendana at West Lakes staffers, who had been cheering her on, shared in her tears of joy.
“Homeownership seemed so impossible for a Black single mother of three children,” she says. “I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a two-income household. I’m not rich. So, when I got it … it was like a miracle.”
"If I can get myself out of a shelter, I can get myself into a home."
The bedrock of community is an affordable home
It’s estimated the U.S. has a shortage of more than 7 million affordable rental homes, and low-income renters are under stress in every state and metro area in the country.¹
To comply with the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, many banks invest in affordable housing. For Truist, there’s more to it.
With its capital and expertise, Truist is equipped to truly make an impact—and uniquely committed to making a difference by investing in affordable developments, awarding grants to housing nonprofits, and partnering with community leaders to create innovative solutions for building and preserving homes. In the past year alone, Truist has awarded a $5 million grant to the nonprofit Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and invested $10 million in the Dallas Housing Opportunity Fund.
“We’re doing it because it’s a part of our purpose, and it’s innate to us to do this in the communities we serve,” says Anthony Weekly, Truist chief CRA and community development officer.
Building better lives and communities means building better homes.
“There’s a few bedrock, foundational things that people need,” says Keitt King, head of Community Capital at Truist. “They need good health care, they need good education, they need housing. It’s like a four-legged stool. Remove one, and the stool is going to be real wobbly.”
The impact of affordable housing
Truist’s dedication to taking on the affordable-housing crisis is showing results in cities throughout the country.
In Charlotte, Truist invested $15 million in the Housing Impact Fund, which buys and fixes up aging affordable apartments—without raising rents and displacing longtime neighborhood residents.
As the music director for two Charlotte area churches, Stevie worried about making rent when work dried up during the COVID-19 pandemic. He had other reasons to be unhappy with his old apartment. It was in bad shape, and he sometimes felt unsafe.
He recently moved into a refurbished apartment at Maple Way, a Housing Impact Fund community that rents to residents making 30% to 80% of the area’s median income.
“I’m able to make ends meet. I’m at peace,” Stevie says. “I sleep better. It’s just so much better.”
The superpower of purpose
About a decade ago, business leaders in Orlando came together to help strengthen what’s now called the Communities of West Lakes. While rich in history and culture, the once prosperous Black communities there were subjected to decades of disinvestment.
“It occurred to us that investing holistically in the community would be the first way to try to reverse what had been cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity,” says Eddy Moratin, president of the nonprofit formed to support the Communities of West Lakes.
In West Lakes, Lift Orlando has led the development of hundreds of acres of apartment homes with on-site community services.
Truist has been there almost every step of the way. Teammates helped secure tax credits and financing for initial construction and have continued to provide guidance.
Moratin credits Truist’s purpose-driven mindset for helping bring Lift Orlando to life. “That may be Truist’s superpower,” he says.
"Investing in the community would be the first way to try to reverse what had been cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity."
The safety of home
Yolette enjoyed renting a home in West Lakes. But she’s even happier in her own home.
“I’m on the lakefront, and I love the water,” she says. “It’s very calming to sit in my backyard and light up my grill. It’s very soothing to know I have a garage and four bedrooms. Every kid has their own room, and we’re not in a one-room shelter.”
Yolette has big plans. She’s interested in pursuing real estate investing, in buying more property. She may go back to school to get her master’s degree. She can see herself running for public office someday.
Affordable housing helped her get back on her feet. The next steps are up to her.
“I feel like I have my power and my control back because this is my space,” she says. “No one can take this away from me.”
1 “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes,” National Low Income Housing Coalition, April 2022.
2 “Truist Social Bond Impact Report,” Truist, March 2022.