Marjy Stagmeier started investing in old affordable apartment communities and quickly realized that many of her renter families were low-income single parents who needed services like after-school programs and playgrounds for their communities. She launched her own 501c3 nonprofit that provides free on-site services to families living in affordable apartments communities—and Star-C has since changed the lives of many families.
“Many children have come through the Star-C after-school program, who are now doctors, plumbers, and school-teachers, earning good wages that moved them out of poverty,” she said. “Almost 100 families have elevated from renting to home ownership because we kept rents low so families can save their money.” A chance meeting in 2017 with Bill and Melinda Gates, Mathew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Evicted—opened her eyes: Even with her rents below market, some of the tenants struggled to pay rent, so she began to build an informal resource network for families to get rental assistance. Through Star-C, her renters also have access to summer camps for their children, health care, after-school programs, meals for the children and more.
After COVID-19 struck in March 2020, many of Stagmeier’s tenants were laid off from their jobs or had to manage multiple children that were suddenly at home during the day, which made the need even greater. In April 2020, Star-C launched a $50,000 GoFundMe campaign for eviction relief. When the local municipal government of Cobb County found out about the Star-C Eviction Relief Fund, they quickly voted to donate $1.5 million of their federal stimulus funding. Other municipalities, like Fulton County, followed, and Star-C has now raised over $9 million from governments and foundations, giving the ability to help over 3,000 families avoid eviction.
Marjy’s staff has spoken personally with thousands of Atlanta families through their hotline, and has, so far, partnered with over 330 landlords representing 65,000 apartment units. “The eviction relief fund works with landlords who offer affordable rents for low-income families. Our landlords know their neediest tenants and assists them with their applications” Stagmeier said. The Star-C program has been a game-changer not only for tenants but landlords who have struggled as well. “So many of our tenants and landlords are simply grateful. Our Star-C staff often receives thank you notes and calls from families who have now found work and can pay their rent.”
The 2021 federal relief package has provided another $4.1 million so they can give even more assistance. Stagmeier is convinced her property model and brand of caring capitalism can transform communities and still make a profit for its investors. She believes it’s the logical, profitable, moral thing to do.