Archive for category: HAND Thought Leadership

Five Minutes With Lauren Marcus

March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024
The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. 
In this edition, we had the pleasure of chatting with Lauren Marcus, Partner at Tiber Hudson. Take a look at our dialogue below to discover Lauren’s journey in the industry, her work with institutional lenders, bond underwriters, developers, and municipal issuers, and insights on public speaking and the importance of mentorship.
HAND: Congratulations on your new role as Partner at Tiber Hudson! Can you tell us about your journey to this point, particularly your work with institutional lenders, bond underwriters, developers, and municipal issuers?
LM: I love talking about my journey to this point because, looking back on the spring of 2016, when I graduated from law school, I never thought I would be here. I graduated from GW Law without a job offer and a “B” grade point average, which seriously felt like the kiss of death. During that summer, I studied for the bar exam, and once the exam was over, I started my job search. I saw a posting for a fellowship position in the Official of the General Counsel at the DC Housing Authority (DCHA); I applied and was hired within two weeks! I really enjoyed my time at DCHA, and it was especially meaningful because I was given the opportunity to interact with so many residents. There is nothing more gratifying than helping someone put their voucher to work after being on a waitlist for 10+ years.

After about 18 months, I was ready to make the jump to the private sector. While working on an affordable housing deal (representing DCHA as the developer), I had my first interaction with Kent Neumann, a founding member of Tiber Hudson LLC. He explained a complex bond structure to the working group, which immediately caught my interest. After that meeting, my resume made its way to Kent (thanks to one of my amazing mentors), and the rest is history! This June, I’ll celebrate 6 years at Tiber Hudson. From day one, I was thrown into all of the action. At certain firms, younger associates aren’t given the opportunity to interact with major clients at meetings, conferences, etc. But at Tiber Hudson, the partners were intentional about building my confidence early on. We’re a boutique law firm, so associates are tasked with managing deals from start to finish early in their careers. That allowed me to start building key relationships with our underwriter, developer, and lender clients. I’ve gained their trust and respect over the last 6 years, and I attribute that to the latitude I was given to be so hands-on and independent during my early days at Tiber.

HAND: How did your previous role prepare you for this new position?
LM: Although my title is new, my day-to-day hasn’t changed. At Tiber Hudson, we close about 250 deals a year. In light of that volume, all of the attorneys take a very hands-on approach to our transactions. Whether it’s document drafting and negotiation, cash flow preparation, or obtaining a rating from a rating agency, we oversee it all. As I’ve progressed at the firm, I’ve taken on more client relationships and business-building opportunities. My prior position as a senior associate certainly helped me hone my skills in these areas. Now, as a partner, I have even more confidence in my abilities as a public finance attorney.
HAND: The announcement mentions that you have been a featured speaker at industry conferences. Could you share some insights or key takeaways from one of these speaking engagements?
LM: Answering this question makes me smile because I used to HATE public speaking! As I alluded to earlier, my partners have always been intentional about including me in every aspect of our business. With practice, I’ve become more confident in my abilities as a public speaker and subject matter expert. One of my main takeaways is that accepting these opportunities is an excellent way to promote your firm and your “brand” as an attorney/expert within the industry. I am always pleasantly surprised at the positive feedback I receive from industry folks when they’ve listened to one of my presentations. Public speaking has given me a greater appreciation of how speaking engagements drive business and distinguish Tiber Hudson from others in the industry.
HAND: Tiber Hudson is described as a leader in the affordable housing industry. What do you think sets the firm apart from others in the industry, and how do you see yourself contributing to its ongoing success?
LM: Tiber Hudson prides itself on being proactive—as opposed to reactive—when it comes to changing trends in the industry. Inside and outside of the firm, I feel so fortunate to work with an amazing group of thought leaders and innovators in this space. I never want to be the smartest person in the room, and I believe that good people and good energy attract the same. Having a mastery of bond finance is certainly important, but ultimately, I believe that being a good person goes a long way in attracting and maintaining client relationships. My work at Tiber Hudson has connected me with many talented individuals, many of whom have become great friends. The cultivation of genuine friendships in the industry is one way I hope to continue to add to the success of the firm.
HAND: Since it is this month is Women’s History Month, can you discuss any contributions or advancements made by s in the field of affordable housing that have inspired or influenced your work?
LM: I’m so happy that this question gives me a chance to shout out two amazing African American women in this industry: Alethia Nancoo, Partner in the Public & Infrastructure Finance practice group at Squire Patton Boggs and Anitra Androh, Partner in the Real Estate and Affordable Housing practice group at Polsinelli PC.  Alethia and Anitra have been mentoring me since the spring of 2018. Back then, I was doubtful about securing a job at a major law firm because I didn’t graduate at the top of my law school class. Both women have been so selfless in their mentorship, including reviewing my resume, connecting me with members of their network and even conducting mock job interviews! They’ve both created such big names for themselves in DC and around the country, despite facing adversity and unique challenges in their careers. I’ve certainly been a beneficiary of their dedication to supporting younger Black women in the field and as I progress in the industry, I hope to pay it forward and do the same.
HAND: What is your “why”? What keeps you motivated to continue your work in this space?
LM: My early days practicing at the DC Housing Authority laid an amazing foundation for my work in affordable housing. As a Legal Fellow and later Associate Attorney in the General Counsel’s office, I was often given the opportunity to work one-on-one with public housing residents. Public housing residents are some of the most vulnerable individuals in our city because for generations, many have been victims of economic disenfranchisement and gentrification that fails to incorporate their voices and values into the fabric of their revitalized communities. Working at DCHA really solidified my goal of building more equitable neighborhoods. It is the end-user of the housing product that I help to create that serves as my “why” each day.


HAND: What might you be doing if you weren’t working in this industry?
LM: If I wasn’t working in the industry, I would be living and working on an animal sanctuary. I LOVE animals, big and small. My husband and I foster dogs through the local Humane Rescue Alliance, and it brings me so much joy. With more free time and a larger space, I would foster and rehabilitate animals fulltime. The idea of an innocent animal suffering breaks my heart, so I’ll take as many animals as possible!


Five Minutes With David Nisivoccia

December 13, 2023
December 13, 2023

David Nisivoccia

The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In this edition, we had the pleasure of chatting with David Nisivoccia, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Volunteers of America National Services. Take a look at our dialogue below.

HAND: Congratulations on your new role with Volunteers of America (VOA)! Tell us more about your background and your organization’s work.
David: I’m happy to be returning to the DMV, having grown up in Northern Virginia. I’ve spent most of my career working on behalf of public housing authorities, including Fairfax, San Antonio, and most recently serving as the Executive Director of the Denver Housing Authority. I’m just wrapping up my first 100 days in this position at VOA, and I’m already amazed at the breadth and depth of housing, healthcare and human services provided by the team. I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country, visiting our programs and housing sites, and a key commonality across these communities is the consistent undersupply of affordable housing.

Founded in 1896, Volunteers of America is a national, faith-based nonprofit organization that serves more than 1.5 million people in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. VOA National Services is a wholly owned affiliate and one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of quality affordable housing, with a portfolio of 13,000 units across 38 states and Puerto Rico, as well as senior healthcare facilities and other related community health programs.

HAND: Having worked all over the country, you certainly have seen the housing landscape in different markets. What are some of the trends you have noticed?
David: More than 20 million American renters today are burdened with housing costs. As a result, the average family is extremely sensitive to economic volatility and is even susceptible to homelessness should their household face acute financial challenges. This is especially true here in the District and the surrounding region. With significantly more of the average household’s income going toward housing, that means less money is available for transportation, groceries, healthcare, childcare, and especially savings that could protect folks in times of crisis. Affordable housing is one of the most significant societal challenges of our time – and we aren’t going to build our way out of it fast enough using traditional methods or doing business as usual.

HAND: What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to building more affordable housing for those priced out of the current market?
David: The National Multifamily Housing Council estimates that 4.3 million new rental homes are needed by 2035 to meet the demand. The challenges are stark: rising interest rates and construction costs, tumultuous equity markets, strong opposition to densifying neighborhoods, limited soft funding and oversubscribed bond cap, an overwhelmed and under-resourced workforce. We must use every single tool in the toolbox, and invent new ones that address the challenge from both the supply and demand sides. We need both carrots and sticks … accelerated entitlements and expedited permitting; efficiently-designed housing; modular and manufactured housing solutions, and new capital stacks that can work well together. And we need new partnerships, and opportunities for mixed-use projects that leverage capital markets and affordable housing programs.

HAND: There certainly is no shortage of challenges facing our sector. What is Volunteers of America doing here in the Capital Region to increase the supply of supportive affordable housing?
David: In partnership with Hoffman & Associates, D.C. United, and the D.C. Government, Volunteers of America is thrilled to relocate our national headquarters into the emerging Buzzard Point neighborhood of Southwest D.C., where we will bring together more than 100 full-time employees, co-located with 110 units of deeply-affordable senior housing operated by Volunteers of America National Services. Of these units, 69 out of 110 units will be set aside for seniors earning 30 percent AMI or less, which we believe is the most critical tier of residents to house.

We are currently exploring strategies to implement best-in-class technology supports to help address social determinants of health. The building is designed to achieve LEED for Multifamily certification, and every single unit will be accessible, allowing residents to age in place and take advantage of built-in infrastructure as their mobility and health needs change. The project also will include market rate multifamily and retail. We are excited to expand our reach in the District of Columbia and bring our national expertise to support local initiatives in the city.

HAND: Why is it important for Volunteers of America to move from your current headquarters in Northern Virginia into the District of Columbia, at Buzzard Point?  
David: In a time of significant office vacancy and hybrid work, Volunteers of America will bring a commercial office presence to DC, as one of our greatest strengths as an organization is being “in-community,” leveraging relationships, trust and connections in the communities we serve. We recognize the value of human connection, as that is what we do every day with the people we serve. Co-locating our staff teams with affordable housing and services in the District is a reflection of our commitment to ensuring we are “in-community,” connected on a daily basis to the communities we live in, work in and have the pleasure to serve. We plan to continue our work as a public policy partner and thought leader in advocacy efforts around affordable housing, making our voices heard and ensuring policies work well for industry practitioners like yourselves.

I look forward to growing our presence in the DMV, and working with all of you to answer the call for meeting the region’s affordable housing needs.


Five Minutes With Ronette “Ronnie” Slamin

March 7, 2023
March 7, 2023

The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In this edition, we had a conversation with Ronette “Ronnie” Slamin, founder of Embolden Real Estate. Check out our dialogue below to learn about her development firm, what she believes women leaders of color in the real estate industry can do to move the needle in a different direction, and the importance of explaining the multiple levels of housing affordability.

HAND: Can you tell us about Embolden Real Estate and about how you landed in the real estate development industry?
RS: Embolden Real Estate is the company that I founded in 2021, a development firm with consulting services related to project management, entitlements, and community engagement. The name of my company came to me when I was reading a book on education, as I’ve always wanted to work at the intersection of housing and education to improve educational outcomes.

I landed in the industry of real estate by way of an undergrad professor Joseph E. Corcoran at Boston College, who was a successful developer and a pioneer of mixed-income housing. I had returned from a summer service trip to Jamaica and was interested in ways to improve the infrastructure in the remote town I volunteered in. Coincidentally I took his class and realized that real estate development was a great tool to address infrastructure issues such as roads, homes and schools.

HAND: What excites you about working in the real estate development industry?
RS: I am excited about how every day in real estate development is different and how many hats you must wear, from project management, financing, design, construction, property management and sometimes even a social worker. As a person who gets bored easily, I love that it’s always changing and keeps you on your toes. I also love that you can see the result of your hard work just by walking past projects you have completed. 

HAND:  Keeping in mind the history of racism and its impacts on housing, how can leaders of color or, more specifically, women leaders of color in the real estate industry move the needle in a different direction?
RS: The history of racism in the housing industry is a painful reality with deep-rooted impacts that continue to be felt today. I think as an industry, we can move the needle in the right direction by being intentional about creating diverse work cultures and pushing for affordable housing to be in high opportunities neighborhoods.

As a woman of color, I believe we need to be intentional about creating a welcoming space for women and people of color, and by doing so, we will create a welcoming space for all. Research shows that women usually take on more family and household responsibilities. As an industry, we can make an effort to support women by scheduling events at different times (not always in the evening), offering better benefits, and flex work from home. To support people of color in the industry, I think it first starts by increasing exposure to the field. The real estate field is an unknown industry to many, so I think we will start seeing more diversity by creating that exposure and awareness of the opportunities.

HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability and creating more equitable communities in our region? If so, what do you think that is? What do you think is the most significant obstacle?
RS: I don’t think there’s a secret sauce, but I would say I think it requires creativity and collaboration. Housing affordability is a huge issue that will not be fixed overnight and requires different tools based on the deal. I think if we can work together we will be able to have a huge impact. I would consider the largest obstacle to be marketing and optics. I think the word affordable housing has just become such a loaded term, and with many definitions, we often do not realize that we may not be talking about the same thing. When you mention the word affordable housing, you can sometimes raise red flags where, even if many in the community would qualify for that affordable housing. So, I think marketing needs to explain the affordability levels, the quality, and the great positive outcomes that can come from affordable housing.

HAND: What is your “why”? What keeps you motivated to continue your work in this space?
RS: I stay motivated to work in affordable housing because of its impact on residents and communities. Knowing that you’re providing families a home, a place to create memories, a place to feel safe, and a place to grow is very rewarding and motivating.

HAND: What might you be doing if you weren’t working in this industry?
RS: I would probably be in the sports industry if I were not in real estate. I was working towards being a sports broadcaster or agent before taking that real estate development class in college.

Five Minutes With Christy Zeitz

March 15, 2022
March 15, 2022

The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are excited to share this special edition of Five Minutes With. In this edition, we had a conversation with Christy Zeitz the CEO of Fellowship Square. Check out our dialogue below to learn more about Fellowship Square’s farewell tour, Christy’s advice on how to make affordable housing projects work, and her words of wisdom for the next generation of female leaders!

HAND: As CEO of Fellowship Square, you bring extensive leadership experience in management, fundraising, marketing, and program development. Can you tell us about your journey to this point?
CZ: I do my best work when interacting with others, so I’ve always sought opportunities to meet new people, learn from them, and take the next step forward in my career. Along every step along my way to my current position as CEO of Fellowship Square, I’ve proactively learned from others, embraced challenges, and worked hard to attain stretch goals. Those priorities have served me in every position I’ve ever had – across all the organizations I’ve worked with and functions that I’ve had. The guiding focus of my professional life has been to make a measurable difference in the lives of others, and this is truly the most rewarding part of my journey.


HAND: What strategic financing and collaboration strategies can you share to ensure that affordable housing providers like Fellowship Square can continue to serve vulnerable residents with dignity over the long term?
CZ: To make affordable housing projects work, it takes smart, creative people working collaboratively. Fellowship Square is one of the leading providers of affordable housing and services to low-income seniors in the region, operating 670 units and serving roughly 800 residents. We’ve put structures in place so that the rental cost is never more than 30% of a resident’s annual income – making our communities some of the most affordable in the region for seniors. The key strategies that underly our work: collaboration, creativity, and openness to new approaches. Whether for the benefit of an owner, investor, residents, or the community as a whole, there are news ideas and options that must be uncovered and teased out in some way. If we go into a project thinking we are going to do it the way we’ve always done affordable housing projects, there will be a missed opportunity somewhere. Openness to new ideas is key. We and other housing nonprofits like us have the unfortunate challenge of competing against the for-profit developers for things like land and construction costs. These costs can be staggering – and create major barriers to building more affordable housing. We must be open to new ways of thinking, new partnerships and the unexpected twists and turns that get our projects done. Sometimes the “right” approach requires writing a new playbook.


HAND: Fellowship Square has launched a “farewell tour” of the 1970’s Lake Anne Fellowship House in preparation of moving 300+ residents from the original 50-year-old building to a brand-new state-of-the-art residence across the street. Can you tell us more about this undertaking, why it’s important and any challenges you may foresee?
CZ: Lake Anne Fellowship House, originally built in 1970, was the first senior housing and first affordable housing developed in Reston. Over the past 50+ years, the property has provided housing to more than 1,300 low-income seniors. Yet the building was showing its age and upkeep of the property was exceeding the amount residents pay in rent and the subsidies received from HUD. About seven years ago, our Board decided that the best path forward was to replace the existing 240-unit building with a new facility. 

This is where creativity and openness to new approaches came in. We embarked on a joint venture with Enterprise Community Development with whom we were able to craft a novel solution: instead of relocating the residents temporarily until a new building was built on the existing footprint, we would construct a new building on an underutilized portion of the current site. This would substantially reduce logistical demands as well as the number of relocations our residents would need to make. Under this creatively structured deal, once our residents are moved into the new building this spring, Fellowship Square will demolish the original building, market rate townhouses will be developed, and the land sales proceeds will be reinvested as part of the overall financing package. 

Of course, financing for affordable housing is never simple. The development team needed to secure project based rental vouchers for 100% of the units and create the right mix of financing for such an ambitious goal. In addition to our partnership with ECD, financing also came from diverse arrangements with Virginia Housing and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, Virginia Community Capital, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity provided through Enterprise Housing Credit Investments by Capital One, Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and, of course, HUD. In fact, much time and effort were expended convincing HUD as to the critical need to preserve the deep subsidies for the existing very low-income residents and making sure they would be eligible to move to the new building so that all residents who wished could be accommodated.

All of this was accomplished. We broke ground in 2020 (in the middle of the pandemic!) and residents will relocate this spring to the newly built Lake Anne House. The property comes with some of the best amenities, services, and environmentally sustainable features. Residents will appreciate its gym, arts room, game room, wellness clinic, beautiful outdoor terraces, wifi throughout the building and more. We will also continue to have a full time Service Coordinator onsite to serve our residents.

But the grand finale is bittersweet – for the residents who have lived at Lake Anne Fellowship House for many years, for long time staff who have worked in that building for years, and for Reston community members who have visited the property, strolled through the hallways, and visited friends and family there. This is a major change, and I know there will be some tears shed. Sometimes it’s hard to say good-bye even when a bright new future lies ahead. We have a ”farewell tour” of programs to communally and collectively celebrate our community, this building, and our memories here as we prepare for the move to the new residence.


HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability and creating more equitable communities in our region? If so, what do you think that is? What do you think is the largest obstacle?
CZ: There’s no “secret sauce” to housing affordability. In my mind, it’s more like a “Las Vegas buffet” of options, opportunities, considerations, and collaborations – and the plate for each region may be filled quite a bit differently. In the Washington DC Metro area, our housing needs span the spectrum of price points, amenities, services, and financing. The affordability factor is a core fundamental part of supporting the local workforce. As such, creating more affordable housing has to be a community effort – it can’t just be left to the housing advocates to fight for. The community as a whole has to come together to embrace housing affordability for all.  The more collaborators at the table, the more varied our buffet of options and the more success we can have.

The type of affordable housing will vary community to community, but collaboration across organizations will always be key.  For example, very low-income residents, especially those below 30% AMI, require significant subsidies.  Beyond rental assistance, this often includes the need for the provision of services including transportation, healthcare, food assistance, healthcare, mental health services, and more.  This means that affordable housing management must also be able to access public and private resources to augment standard housing management activities.  Fellowship Square accomplishes this by building a deep network of resources within our local community to plug into. Our vulnerable residents can access care managers who can provide or refer the residents to appropriate services in our community. This is important to build and foster.


HAND: In March we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Given your extensive leadership experience, what advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders? What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership, and how have you overcome those barriers?
CZ: Few things make me prouder than to see young women asserting themselves and stepping up when they have an opportunity to lead. There are so many valuable traits and perspectives that we all benefit from when women are in leadership positions. For today’s emerging female leaders, they cannot sit by and wait to be asked to lead – it’s much more important that they seek out and even create those opportunities.

Sometimes the biggest barrier to reaching the next level in our careers is how we hinder ourselves. Whether through self-doubt or even other commitments, it comes down to priorities and having a vision for our own professional futures. Nothing will be handed to us on a silver platter – nor should it. Working hard and getting ahead is where you learn to grind it out and become a true inspirational leader. Leadership comes from experience, it comes from perspective, and those both come from hard work. But hard work that results in great leadership cannot be achieved in the shadows!

Women must always put themselves at the table – and in my experience, there’s always a way to have your voice heard in those circles, whether directly or indirectly. Regardless of someone’s position on a staff flowchart, each individual person can be a leader in some respect. Young women who may feel they aren’t in a position of leadership can still have an important impact on the trajectory of projects, assignments, teams, and workplace culture. Show initiative and you will be rewarded.

As you can tell, I’m very much an optimist. I always believe that what I want to happen can happen, it’s up to me to figure out how to make it happen. And the only thing holding me back is my own ideas of what I can and cannot accomplish. I hope other women can learn from this.

HAND: What is your “why”? What keeps you motivated to continue your work in this space?
CZ: Working in the affordable housing space is a little like making dreams come true. For too many people today, having a safe, affordable, and stable home can seem out of reach. Being a part of helping to make this dream of housing happen is a daily motivator for me. Nearly every week, I get at least one call from one of our 800+ residents who wants to tell me about what’s going on in their life. They never hesitate to say how thankful they are that they live at Fellowship House. This is what keeps me motivated every day. I am so proud of the work my organization does, and really appreciate the time and effort the Board and staff put into our mission.


HAND: If you weren’t working in this industry, what might you be doing?
CZ: I’d be living in the Caribbean, working on my side hustle as a fiction writer…and helping anyone who asked!




Five Minutes With Gregory Hare

January 27, 2022
January 27, 2022

The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In this edition, we had a conversation with Gregory Hare, who has recently transitioned to his new role as the Assistant Secretary and Director, CDA, for Maryland DHCD. Check out our dialogue below to learn about Gregory’s journey in the affordable housing space, what he believes is the “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability, and his views on how leaders of color in the real estate industry can tip the scales differently.

HAND: Congratulations on our new role as the Assistant Secretary and Director, CDA, for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development! What excites you about your new role? Do you foresee any challenges?
GH: Thank you, I appreciate all the well wishes. There are so many things that excite me about coming into this role. First, I have the opportunity to work with talented and high-performing people – who’ve I’ve grown and learned alongside since I’ve been with the Agency. This position gives me the freedom to incorporate new perspectives into CDA’s approaches. I realize the potential and the opportunity in front of us – to intentionally do more – and knowing how we can positively transform communities excites me. 

Like any organization, if you want to be effective in today’s environment, you have to be innovative, open to new ways of doing and new ways of thinking; and that’s not just from an operations perspective; it has to be deeper, which takes time with any organization, but especially in State government.

HAND: You have extensive experience in the affordable housing space – can you tell us about your journey to this point?
GH: Like many things in life, your spark is often your frustration. I wanted to impact the community, so after college, I joined Baltimore Housing, working in various capacities before ultimately serving as the Administrator for the Rental and Assisted Housing division. Early in my career, I recognized the power of policy and its impact on our communities. When I joined DHCD in 2014, I quickly realized that if you listen to people, they’ll tell you what’s at the heart of problems, and, in most cases, they’ll also share how to fix them if you keep an open mind. So, my journey has really centered around what people say their needs are and creating or improving programs to respond to those.

HAND: What is one thing you wish you would have known at the beginning of your career?
GH: At the beginning of my career, I wish I’d known to narrow myself before looking to expand. Being really good at one thing will serve one well throughout an entire career. So, taking my time to reach mastery in one space has been significant. Subject matter expertise will serve you for a lifetime.

HAND: Keeping in mind the history of racism and its impacts on housing. How can leaders of color or in the real estate industry tip the scales differently?
GH: I think we’re fighting a trillion-dollar problem with a one-hundred-dollar mindset. Leaders often take what is happening in the world today, and they don’t look back. They look at the surface-level ways to help disadvantaged people and think they’ve fixed the problem, but the deeper issue to solve is why they are disadvantaged. And when you start to understand those institutional issues, you realize this work won’t move until we work intentionally and collectively to tip the scales.

HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability and creating more equitable communities in our region? If so, what do you think that is? What do you think is the largest obstacle?
GH: The activist Jane Jacobs’ quote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” If you have a goal you can do by yourself, it’s not big enough, so we must change our mindset and come together on solutions as big as our problem.

HAND: What is your “why”? What keeps you motivated to continue your work in this space?
GH: People are my why. Everything I do is to serve people in a way that makes circumstances better for them.

HAND: If you weren’t working in this industry, what might you be doing?
GH: If I weren’t working in the affordable housing industry, I would probably be an inventor. Over twenty years ago, I built a device to measure “how well” one was driving, like today’s insurance devices that reward good driving. During a presentation of the concept, I glanced down at the executive’s notepad and realized he was drawing stick figures, so I canned that idea.

We Thank You For Your Life’s Work, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.!

January 18, 2022
January 18, 2022


Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Letter from a Birmingham Jail

On Monday, January 17, 2022 we commemorated the birthday, life, and work of one of the most prominent African-American civil rights activists, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many remember King as a Civil Rights Movement leader, but fewer are familiar with the role he played in the fair housing movement. During King’s time, black Americans were systematically excluded from living in certain areas. This process of redlining relegated black people to low-income areas with poor quality housing. In his role as a Civil Rights leader, King recognized that housing was a core component of racial injustice in the United States and decided to take action!

In the late 1960s, King began leading a campaign to advocate for open housing, to grant black Americans to buy homes anywhere. After King’s assassination, The Fair Housing Act was enacted in honor of his work and made it illegal to discriminate in the buying, selling, or renting of housing because of a person’s race, color, religion, or national origin. It has been over 50 years since the passing of The Fair Housing Act and there is still a lot of work to be done. While we have made strides, the need for such advocacy has far from disappeared – especially within black and brown communities. As we wrap up our celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. let us not leave behind some of the lessons he taught us. Let’s carry King’s message of “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Let that message frame how and why you work to aid the people who are living in the communities that we collectively serve.

Five Minutes With EagleBank

September 27, 2021
September 27, 2021

Pictured:Rich Devaney and Dara Koller 

The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In the latest edition, we have a conversation with EagleBank‘s Rich Devaney, Senior Vice President and Dara Koller, SVP & Deputy Director. They chatted with us about their extensive experience in the affordable housing and community development industry and how they landed in this space. Rich highlights past challenges, lessons learned, and his advice to emerging leaders seeking to make an impact. Dara shares key takeaways from her experience, what she is bringing into her new role, and other her interest outside of affordable housing. Check out our dialogue below:

HAND: Both of you have extensive experience in the affordable housing and community development industry  – Can you tell us about your professional journey and how you landed in this space?
DK: I have 20 years of industry experience, working in leadership roles at Freddie Mac and agency lenders supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac multifamily executions, primarily focused on affordable rental housing executions for both agencies, including new construction and preservation of affordable rental housing properties.  While at Freddie Mac, I was also involved in the development and roll-out of  a few new products supporting the affordable rental housing industry as well.  When I first began working on affordable rental housing transactions, it was not the most well understood or popular asset type in the industry compared to market rate rental housing, but I always believed it was extremely important and I was excited to be part of an industry focused on solving the growing need for affordable rental housing in the U.S.  
RD:  I began my career just after the passing of the CRA legislation and immediately prior to LIHTC legislation being rolled out, working with and for some of the most respected and innovative industry icons in the DC market.  It was an exciting time, fusing the tension between regulatory pressure in the banking industry and innovation and expansion of and in the community development and non-profit sector intent on increasing its impact in significantly underserved neighborhoods.  My focus and vision was grounded in building high-impact community development and affordable housing businesses within and with large institutions (Bank of America, Fannie Mae, top 5 Life Companies) under the rubric of profitability, sustainability and scalability.  My experiences took me through the capital stack and from neighborhoods to national presence.  Throughout, my greatest experience to date was setting up this FHA business within EagleBank, coupling the best of financial strength, innovation and flexibility in its ability to deliver capital within the community it serves. 

HAND: Rich, you launched EagleBank’s FHA Multifamily Lending Division in 2015, in addition to several other investment initiatives for the bank. Can you tell us about one of your largest challenges over the past six years and what you have learned?
RD: Our FHA Multifamily business is a product line that falls squarely within the Bank’s commercial real estate span of lending.  As such, our task was to integrate this business in a collaborative way, not competitive, with the balance sheet lending activity, getting the buy-in from the line lenders and alignment in goals and objectives…..”Enlightened self-interest”.  Having set up multiple businesses over my 35- year career, this one presented unique challenges, including how to integrate.  It took a solid 3 years of repetition, “proving the thesis” and trust building to get to the point where the value chain is clear and tangible.  Presently, every single transaction within the FHA pipeline will touch the Commercial Real Estate balance sheet.  Lesson learned was that you can get buy-in strategically at the highest level, but you must get buy-in tactically where the rubber hits the road with the people who make the business happen. 

HAND: Dara, you are fairly new to the bank – what key takeaway(s) from your experience thus far are you bringing into your new role?

  • There is a continuing need for safe, decent affordable rental housing and supportive services in our local communities and EagleBank has made a significant contribution to the growth across the Washington D.C. market and in communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic over the last 20 years. EagleBank continues to play an important role in financing affordable multifamily rental housing, which has helped build and maintain safe and economically stable communities which significantly improve the quality of life for its residents. 
  • We have a tremendous opportunity to continue to make a contribution to the local community to provide much needed affordable rental housing through our deep relationships with affordable housing developers and investors, as well as EagleBank’s FHA multifamily business, which allows us to do business anywhere in the U.S. We are a community bank, with national capabilities with our FHA multifamily licenses.  I think that is a powerful combination.
  • My strong affordable housing and multifamily experience will augment EagleBank’s growing FHA multifamily business. In this new role, I will be dedicated to FHA loan originations, business development as well as serving as a resource for the Bank’s focused efforts on affordable rental housing. 

HAND: Rich, do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability and creating more equitable communities in our region? If so, what do you think that is? What do you think is the largest obstacle?
RD: I believe the private financing vehicles and resources are readily accessible and in sufficient amounts to have great impact.  There needs to be, and always has been, focus on equity in the delivery and availability of affordable housing.  One of my greatest mentors emblazoned in my mind “you are what you measure”, so to solve issues related to equity, we need goals, transparency and accountability….period!  My perspective is that the largest obstacles in the production of affordable housing are the public entitlement process, zoning, planning, and permitting.  Some municipalities have processes that take up to 3-5 years which infuses risk, uncertainty and viability to the process. 

HANDRich, what advice would you give to emerging leaders who are seeking to make an impact in this space?
RD: Be flexible – issues are rarely binary choices, every situation is a learning experience – accept set-backs as a gift and surround yourself with diversity – holistically.

HAND: Rich and Dara, what are you most looking forward to over the coming months at EagleBank? Are there any projects or programs that you are particularly excited about?
RD & DK: Furthering the synergies within the Bank, our investment in the Washington Housing Initiative and further coupling our balance sheet and FHA business. 

The FHA Multifamily Group is an emerging contributor to the strategic goals and objectives of the CRE Group and EagleBank. 

EagleBank financed a handful of key affordable housing projects in the Washington D.C market including:

  • More than $81 million in financing to support a key affordable housing project in Bethesda MD, which includes 401 multifamily housing units situated on five separate land parcels.
  • Phase I of Addison Row Apartments, Capital Heights, MD a planned community consisting of a 321 unit multifamily building. The project is currently in lease-up. The community caters to workforce housing needs and in addition to affordability, offers large unit sizes compared to new construction in Washington, D.C. Phase II will add 327 units. 
  • A construction loan used in conjunction with 4% LIHTC to rehabilitate a 60 unit LIHTC affordable community located in the Barry Farms neighborhood of Southeast Washington, DC. After completion, a HUD FHA Section 223(f) refinance application to exit the bank construction loan.
  • A $50 million construction loan for a to-be-built low income housing project above retail space located in the Capital Hill area of Washington, DC. The project will utilize 4% LIHTC and a long-term rental subsidy contract with the DCHFA.
  • EagleBank is currently working on a few notable affordable housing transactions, including the renovation and recapitalization of a project-based Section 8 property located in the Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast Washington DC utilizing 4% LIHTC.

HAND: Rich and Dara, if you weren’t working in this space, what might you be doing?
DK:  I have always been interested in architecture and design, focused on creating and transforming spaces to meet the needs of a building’s occupants and looking for solutions to present and future issues, such as climate change.  Incorporating sustainable and green building design in construction projects is increasingly important to reduce the carbon footprint and use our energy and water resources more efficiently.
RD: I have been consistent in responding to this question when asked over the past 30 years.  I would be dedicating 100% of my time working in programs that focus on disadvantaged youth, focusing on education and financial literacy.  To me, one of the biggest gaps we have racially and socio-economically is knowledge of and access to financial tools, products and services. 

COVID-19 and Health Equity: It’s Deeper than Preexisting Conditions

April 21, 2020
April 21, 2020

This blog post was originally posted by American Public Health Association.

Author: Tia Taylor Williams, Director of APHA’s Center for Public Health Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more attention to the field of public health. Every day, people are seeing and hearing from epidemiologists, clinicians, laboratory scientists, researchers and more. While the spotlight is on the field, we should seize this moment to bring national attention to our greatest imperative: reducing health disparities and advancing health equity

The public health field has an opportunity to shape the discourse about COVID-19 inequities to ensure that the root causes of the problem are acknowledged and addressed within, and well beyond, the pandemic.

As calls for race and ethnicity data in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality are heeded, we’re learning more about the communities and populations being disproportionately impacted. The prevalence of preexisting conditions — such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease — among people who are dying from COVID-19 is also being emphasized.

As public health professionals, we know these same chronic conditions plagued low-income and communities of color at alarmingly high rates for decades before the current pandemic. We also know that these health disparities are the result of years of intentional disinvestment in communities. Lack of access to basic services, living wage jobs and affordable quality housing, education and health care are all veiled by a system that assigns value and structures opportunity based on how a person looks, i.e., racism.

At the same time, we know that as a country we are reluctant to understand, acknowledge and address how America’s legacy of racism, discrimination and exploitation has created present-day conditions of racially segregated and under-resourced neighborhoods.

If history is a predictor, as the pandemic persists and more data are collected, our suspicions about who is being hit hardest will be further substantiated. We can also expect that there will be many different arguments used to downplay or detract from the real issues. 

As health equity champions, we have to be ready to redirect those diversions. By applying an equity lens, we can shift the narrative to focus on the root causes of COVID-19 disparities:

  • Racism, not race. Yes, it is important that disparities in COVID-19 testing, treatment and death rates are identified so that resources are funneled to where they are most needed. However, it is not being black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander that causes poorer health outcomes; it is how individuals and communities are treated because of their race or ethnicity. 
  • Social and economic factors, not genetics. There may be some genetic differences among those who are able to recover from COVID-19 and those who succumb to it. However, until the research is definitive, we should avoid overemphasizing the influence of genetics on COVID-19 outcomes and disparities.
    What we do know is that overall health status is heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors, including place of residence, educational attainment, income and wealth. While there’s not much we can do about genetics, we can change socioeconomic factors through policies and systems changes.
  • Environment and neighborhood conditions, not just behaviors. Health behaviors are important. They are also shaped by environment and access. Asking communities to eat healthily is futile if there are no affordable options — or healthy options at all — in their neighborhoods. This may seem like a no-brainer to those of us who live and breathe this work, but it’s important that this message is conveyed to broader audiences. 

At a time when family resources are dwindling and being spread even thinner, we must avoid finger-pointing and placing the blame on the behaviors of individuals in marginalized communities. We know racism is a driving force for the social, economic and environmental conditions, i.e., social determinants that influence health. For example, black and Hispanic communities have higher rates of exposure to air pollution, which has recently been associated with increased risk of COVID-19 death

We are public health. Social justice is in our roots. We look upstream to identify the causes of the causes. It is critical, during the pandemic and after, that we bring attention and action to addressing systemic and structural factors that shape who has power, where and how people live and, ultimately, what access and opportunities they have for good health.

For more on health equity and COVID-19, visit APHA’s COVID-19 and Equity page.

PODCAST: Grant Funding for Affordable Housing via the Federal Home Loan Bank

January 3, 2020
January 3, 2020

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Listen to this Areaprobe podcast which details financing affordable housing using grant funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

You can also listen to it in segments here:

About the Speaker
Megan Krider started working at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh in 2013 in the Community Investment Department and now serves as Manager, Affordable Housing and Community Development. In this position, Megan has the responsibility of managing the Affordable Housing Program which has supplied more than $263 million in efforts to support affordable housing development. Additionally, by managing the Bank’s Blueprint Communities® initiative, Megan has been able to support community development and the capacity building for communities. Megan received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from John Carroll University as well as a Master of Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Urban Institute features HAND’s Annual Meeting & Housing Expo

July 9, 2018
July 9, 2018

(left to right) Gustavo Velasquez of Urban Institute, Ernst Valery of SAA | EVI and Nicky Goren of Meyer Foundation discuss the causes and consequences of redlining at HAND’s Annual Meeting & Housing Expo.

On the heels of HAND’s Annual Meeting & Housing Expo, the team under the How Housing Matters Initiative at Urban Institute was inspired to author a piece reflecting on some of the policy changes that would be needed to address issues of housing discrimination and equity. An excerpt from the piece titled, “Rethink Housing and Community Development to Advance Racial Equity and Inclusion” is as follows:

In the US, descriptions of housing affordability challenges and differences in wealth, health, and education need to include a racial equity lens, or the picture is incomplete. Legally authorized and mandated housing discrimination through federal lending and investment policies laid the cornerstone of complex socio-spatial issues that historically segregated communities continue to face. Many of the inequities within and between neighborhoods, particularly in large metropolitan areas, trace their roots to redlining.

Such discriminatory lending practices have left a legacy of disinvestment predominately in black and brown communities. Although the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 sought to undo forced inequalities within neighborhoods by creating strong incentives for positive investment activity, the ramifications of housing segregation and economic exclusion will take additional policy attention to address…

…Meaningful and inclusive community revitalization can break down some of the barriers instituted through disinvestment and discrimination. This can be done through equitable development, but it requires intentional engagement and community input. Community development corporations (CDCs) and community land trusts (CLTs) have facilitated this engagement. While CDCs and CLTs usually have residents on their boards, CDC leadership often does not represent those they serve, which can leave residents feeling disengaged.

At the annual meeting of HAND, a membership organization for housing providers in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, Ernst Valery, founder and president of EVI Equity, addressed this challenge. He said, “We think so much about renovating the building, we need to also renovate the people.” EVI purchased Essex Village, an apartment complex in Henrico County, Virginia, that was far from providing its residents with a platform for success in life; according to Valery, it has been deemed the county’s worst apartment complex. EVI and the property manager CAPREIT quickly formed a tenants’ association to ensure that Essex Village residents were involved early in the planning process. Residents expressed excitement that the new owners wanted to hear their voices and to collaborate on creating lasting change in the housing development. When tenants are offered a seat at the table, they are eager to get involved, but developers need to provide the space to be heard.

You can read the article in full here.