Buwa Binitie is big on quality of life.
“If people are spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing, they’re not saving money,” Binitie said. “And if people spend 10 hours or more per week commuting, it takes away from other things.”
Binitie knows firsthand the inconvenience of having to commute to work. He spent years working in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, New York City, and resided in a different state to afford the cost of living. He had a similar experience living in San Francisco and the District of Columbia.
These experiences put Binitie on what has now been a 16-year journey change that for others by bringing affordable housing to the District and now New York City.
As the Managing Principal at Dantes Partners, he leads the effort to create new buildings and transform existing buildings into Luxury Affordable Housing® – a phrase coined by Binitie and now the standard for his company – for low- to moderate-income residents. Since 2006 Dantes Partners has financed and developed more than 3,700 affordable housing rental units in the District.
“When we think about the quality of life, we think about the amount of money we can end up saving, schools our children will attend and community amenities available to us to make life enjoyable,” he said. “All of this plays a huge role in the quality of life, and affordable housing allows people to keep most of the money they make,” said Binitie.
“Healthy and vibrant communities need housing that’s affordable to a broad range of incomes, and everyone deserves access to essential goods and services such as education, medical care, and healthy food,” added Lionel Lynch, Director of Chase Community Development Banking Capital Solutions.
Once Binitie received a master’s degree in real estate from Johns Hopkins University, he set out to make luxury affordable housing in the District through JPMorgan Chase’s Community Development Banking, which finances affordable housing developments.
Chase has provided $14 billion in new loans, equity investments and other efforts to expand affordable housing in underserved communities across the U.S. The team supports real estate developers who are trying to make housing more affordable and accessible, especially in areas where someone with a moderate income might never be able to afford to live.
Cynthia Lomax is a classic example of the impact Binitie has on the lives of many in the district. Lomax was homeless prior to moving to Todd A. Lee Senior Residences on Kennedy Street in Northwest for residents who are 55 and older.
On her first night, she remembers going from room to room, enjoying her new space and admiring the beautiful apartment. Then she took a bubble bath.
Lomax said she applauds the developers for seeing the importance of building affordable housing.
For Binitie, it’s stories like Lomax’s that make the work worthwhile.
“I get satisfaction from seeing residents smiling,” he said. “It’s never been about the money. I found a job that allows me to make money by doing good by others.”
The Todd A. Lee complex is developed specifically to be a senior community. It holds a special place to Binitie as the complex is developed and named to pay homage to his mentor Todd Lee, who recently passed away. Binitie says Todd believed in him when at times Binitie didn’t believe in himself.
The building is in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where it has been difficult for seniors to reside in the neighborhood because of rising real estate costs of living especially with the scarcity of affordable housing.
With an expansive portfolio, Dantes Partners’ assets also include Cascade Park in Ward 8. The building had not been renovated since they were initially constructed over 40 years ago. One of the few buildings in the District with three and four bedrooms, Binitie wanted to change the inhumane conditions in which the families were living. Dantes Partners secured resources to acquire and renovate the community including LIHTC financing and debt financing from JPMorgan Chase. Upon completion, current residents will move back into newly renovated units at their current rents.
The Hodge on 7th in the Shaw neighborhood is another community Chase helped Dantes Partners finance. The Hodge provides 90 units of affordable housing for seniors 55 and older in a high-cost neighborhood where rents are roughly half those of its market rate counterparts. The building contributes to a thriving community and allows its seniors to age-in-place within in a walkable community located directly above a grocery store and proximate to metro, restaurants, retail and recreational facilities.
“Being able to put a smile on someone’s face is something money can’t buy,” Binitie said. “That’s how I was raised, my parents instilled in us a sense of giving back.”