Growing up, Mel Carter had a very loose connection to the concept of secure housing.

After immigrating to New York City from Port of Spain, Trinidad, his mother got sick, and his family fell on hard times. They often faced eviction.

“We got evicted when I was 14, when I was 15, when I was 16,” he recalled. It became the norm to only expect to stay in an apartment for a year, because his family knew they could only keep up with the bills for a few months and would soon have to search for a new place to stay.

Fast-forward to today and Carter is the founder of Second Estate Records, a label distributed by Warner Records. He is also part-owner of the Black-owned franchise development company Melanbo, which is set to acquire more than 32 Bojangles fast food franchise stores. He’s even co-hosting a new finance-based podcast called “Business Untitled” with two other business entrepreneurs: Mike Novogratz, founder of the technology-financial services firm Galaxy Digital, and real estate developer Dave Barry.

Carter occupies a world that’s almost completely different from what he knew growing up. When his mother sent for him and his sister when he was 12, he was not eager to leave Port of Spain, Trinidad. “I remember crying a lot. That was when I was leaving my grandmom: I lived with my great-grandmother at the time; she was all I knew,” he said. “I remember just crying the night before––they had to drag me to the airport; I didn’t want to leave. I came up here [to NYC] and I was very unhappy.”

Adjusting to a new life in the U.S., dealing with his mother’s illness, facing homelessness, and later dropping out of high school in 10th grade was rough. But today Carter is at peace with his past and excited about how far he has come financially. For that reason, he’s eager to share what he knows now.

“The reason I wanted to do this ‘Business Untitled’ podcast is because I’ve learned so much,” he said. His co-hosts are both billionaires––one was born into money, the other attended Princeton University on a scholarship. “I’m not a billionaire by any means, but the conversations we have are so powerful and I’ve learned so much from them that I just wanted a way to have my community, and entrepreneurs and young kids, to hear these conversations. I wanted to open up my network to them as much as I possibly can, and I figured the best way to do that was to have this platform for a podcast.”

Carter is also teaming up with the young real estate tycoons Steve and Daniel Manocherian to create affordable housing units. Working together, the three plan on creating Section-8 voucher-oriented affordable housing buildings that will feature free onsite assistance for tenants. They have so far planned to construct four buildings in the Bronx and an 86-unit building in Far Rockaway, Queens. 

Sure, constructing affordable housing is not going to make the three investors a ton of money, but Carter said, “It is very feasible to make a good living and still do a lot of good.”

Carter’s background was the inspiration for this project. “The idea came to me because of the things I went through,” he reflected. “...housing was probably one of the most traumatizing things for me when I was growing up—being evicted so many times. It’s something I always wanted to help [others] with. I never thought I would have an opportunity to help with it at all, but I met with one of my best friends, Steven Manocherian, who comes from a very, very prominent real estate family. We spoke about what I went through and how we [could] help, and we decided to get into affordable housing.

“My partners and I—we all have different outlets of making money, we all do pretty well. And if we’re not maximizing the profit from [affordable housing], it’s okay for us, because as long as we make money and we are still able to do good, we’re happy with that.”

The new housing units are expected to be completed by 2025.

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