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We are only as strong as our members

For the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several of our current and future members from Cleveland, Ohio to Oakland, California. The work our “unlikely coalition” of homebuilders, lenders, civil rights advocates, nonprofit housing producers and individual housing professionals are doing is inspiring and enlightening. We often say we are only as strong as our members, and there is nothing as gratifying as seeing how powerful a statement that is.

In the Bay Area of California, I got to spend an afternoon with Linda Mandolini, president of Eden Housing and the chair of NHC’s Board of Governors. Eden is one of the largest nonprofit affordable housing producers and property managers in the country, serving more than 100,000 people in its 50-year history. We visited a wonderful rehab project at Faith Tennyson in Hayward. There, 158 units are being restored with residents largely in place. In addition to unit and façade improvements, the site will have a much-improved community center and play area. We also toured the Alta Mira Senior and Family Apartments, a beautiful project with 151 family and senior units, adjoining a 206-unit market-rate development that shares common areas. The affordable units are one, two and three bedrooms targeted to households earning between 20 and 50 percent of the area median income and are a tangible example of what success in our fight for affordable housing for all can look like.

In Sacramento, I was able to get together with NHC member and Housing Visionary Awardee Lisa Hershey, executive director of Housing California, to discuss how we can use the successful experience of the California housing bond initiatives to support our effort to develop and enact a national housing act for the 21 st century. In Oakland, I met with Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. We talked about the unique issues driving the affordable housing crisis in California, especially in the Bay Area, and how zoning impacts housing affordability. Our national housing crisis extends from areas where workers of nearly all income levels cannot afford housing to areas where prices are so low they are hard to build, rehab and mortgage.

In San Diego, I met with NHC members and affordable housing leaders from across the country, including Julia Gordon, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust; Lindsey Johnson of the US Mortgage Insurers; Chrissi Johnson of Quicken Loans; Barry Zigas from Consumer Federation of America; Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals; Jim Park, co-founder and CEO of the Mortgage Collaborative; Carol Bouchner from Genworth Financial; Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending; and Lisa Rice from the National Fair Housing Alliance, to name just a few. We discussed the latest data from organizations like Moody’s Analytics and the Urban Institute, and how to move forward on housing finance reform and the growing minority homeownership gap. We also met with Congresswoman Katie Porter, a member of the House Financial Services Committee and expert on affordable housing in her own right.

In Cleveland, I got to catch up with Jim Rokakis, director of the Thriving Communities Office of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and a national leader in land banking and blight elimination. Jim and I worked closely on the creation of the Hardest Hit Fund’s blight elimination program, and he continues to be a leading figure in the fight to help those neighborhoods most devastated by the housing crisis recover. While in Detroit, I had the opportunity to catch up with Erica Raleigh, executive Director of Data Driven Detroit (D3). D3 was a key leader in the effort to survey every parcel of land in the City of Detroit during its bankruptcy crisis, a project that has empowered the city and its stakeholders to attack neighborhood decay with precision, and an ongoing effort that has resulted in the stabilization of many of Detroit’s neighborhoods.

These trips are the highlight of my work here and always remind me how important all of our members are to ensuring safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America.

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