Blend launches housing equity program

Digital lending and cloud banking startup Blend Labs has launched Blend Impact, a program focused on increasing access and equity in housing and financial services with Blend’s nonprofit partners.

Blend Impact’s first leg, the Equitable Ecosystem Initiative, was soft-launched last year and gave free access of its platform — in multiple languages — to Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) and community development financial institutions. 

The initiative will also invest all interest from a $5 million MDI deposit for economic equality, according to Nima Ghamsari, Blend co-founder.

“Historically, access to financial services and opportunities for transferable wealth have not been equally available to all,” Ghamsari said. “We have designed the Blend Impact program to enable our teams to drive meaningful change in the industry to address these systemic flaws and build better lives for those in the communities we serve.”

The company said it will be giving its employees 24 hours of paid time off to volunteer, with a current focus on homelessness. It will also try to increase homeownership and housing opportunities for the Black and LGBTQ+ communities in the next five years, said Ulysses Smith, Blend’s head of diversity.

Also part of Blend Impact was the company’s move in May to join 1,500 other companies in pledging 1% of product development and employee time toward supporting the Equitable Ecosystem Initiative.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blend allocated more than $450,000 to groups that work to address socio-economic, systemic, and social issues throughout the United States, the company reported. Those organizations include the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Urban League, the Asian Pacific Fund, the National Bankers Association, the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, and the Indian Red Cross.

“We know that marginalized communities have a better opportunity at economic equality when supporting the institutions that support them,” said Nicole Elam, president and CEO of the National Bankers Association.

Blend went public on July 16 and closed its first day of trading at $20.90 per share. The stock price hit a closing low of $17.26 on July 22 and opened trading at $17.92 on July 27. Launched in 2012, Blend raised $300 million in January 2021, not long after it introduced a series of consumer banking tools.

The company acquired Title365 from the Mr. Cooper Group for approximately $422 million in March, reflecting an enterprise value of $500 million.

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