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Walker Webcast: Turner Impact Capital’s Bobby Turner on Social Impact Investment’s Importance

Bobby Turner believes that many of today’s social impact investors talk the talk, but don’t necessarily know how to walk it. “It’s really full of a bunch of liars and charlatans out there who are claiming to be truly responsible for the betterment of our society, and they’re not,” Turner said during the Nov. 9, 2022 Walker Webcast.

Turner knows a great deal about social impact investment. As founder of Turner Impact Capital, Turner is leading the charge to use market forces and capitalism to help drive social change in underserved communities. But Turner Impact’s activities go beyond donations and philanthropy. Rather, the company’s funding support focuses on a rolling-up-the-sleeves-and-getting-into-the-trenches approach. This is three-pronged strategy involves acquiring workforce rental housing, developing and developing education facilities for high-performing charter school operators. The company also spearheads the development of healthcare clinics that offer high-quality healthcare access to underserved communities.

The company’s first housing fund, consisting of 8,000 units that spanned 22 properties helped “change the opportunity set for 14,000 residents by enriching their communities with after-school services and health services,” Turner commented.

During the 45-minute webcast, Turner shared grim statistics with Walker & Dunlop Chairman and CEO Willy Walker that 78% of U.S. families are living paycheck to paycheck, while one out of four families spend more than 60% of their income on rent. “It’s not sustainable to have 50% of renter households burden,” Turner said. “It’s not sustainable in this country to have 14 million families spending upwards of 60% of their income on rent, at the expense of food security, health security and retirement security.”

This is why the Turner Impact Capital funds try to focus on the three-legged stool of education, housing and healthcare. “All three have got to be addressed at the same time, so our funds are focused on those things,” he said. The activities involve buying and enriching housing projects, building schools and then creating preventative healthcare clinics within close distance of the housing.

But there is the misconception that “doing well” as a business and “doing good” are mutually exclusive. “There’s the idea that profits and purpose don’t play nicely in the same sandbox,” Turner said. “The reality is, I can refute that with 30 years of experience.” When done correctly, he went on to say, investing in social change can actually generate better risk-adjusted returns than traditional real estate investment strategies. Why? “It’s not based on speculation,” Turner explained.

Additionally, the business model is fairly simple. In order to buy a property and preserve affordability without raising rents, the key to doing so is to reduce expenses. And the key to reducing expenses is lowering turnover. “Let’s be serious,” Turner said. “No one who works two jobs a day comes home to a shoddy apartment in a shoddy neighborhood on which they spend 40% to 50% of their income and says ‘God, I love living here!’” Lack of pride in a community leads to high turnover and transient residents. Instead, by building community pride, renters will “treat properties better, which reduces your capital improvements,” Turner said. “You’ll make money without increasing rents.”

Turner noted that a social impact investor has two responsibilities. First, to deliver strong, market-rate returns. And second, to provide deliverable opportunities to underserved communities. This involves more than paying lip service to social impact investment.

“We need to figure out how we can think a little more differently and a little more progressively . . . on how we can incorporate socially and environmentally responsible practices into our businesses,” Turner said. “At the end of the day, it’s good business to employ these practices.”

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Inside The Story

Turner Impact Capital's Bobby TurnerWalker & Dunlop's Willy Walker

About Amy Wolff Sorter

I love content. I love writing it, visualizing it, and manipulating it to fit into different formats. I have years of experience in working with content, both as creator and editor. The content I create and edit provides assistance with many goals, ranging from lead generation, to developing street cred through well-timed thought-leadership pieces. Content skills include, but aren't limited to, articles and blogs, e-mails, promotional collateral, infographics, e-books and white papers, website copy and more.

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