LOS ANGELES—When her colleagues describe Alice Carr, what emerges is a perfect balance between heart and mind.

Carr's genuine passion for affordable housing, combined with a deep understanding of sound underwriting practices, propelled her to become the first female managing director at Citi Community Capital (CCC).

“She's generous with her time for people in the community development industry,” says Steve Hall, a managing director at CCC and Carr's first manager there. “She's not coy about sharing knowledge, and that's a leadership trait that you really can't fake.”

Cecile Chalifour can attest to that generosity. Chalifour was just starting her career with a small affordable housing developer when she first met Carr a decade ago. Chalifour was charged with getting quotes from lenders for a particular deal, but being new to the process, she wasn't quite sure what to expect.

“Alice was the only one who took the time to answer questions, give advice, and make herself available for more questions,” says Chalifour, who now reports to Carr as an originator for CCC. “That made a big difference to me.”

Two perspectives

Carr graduated with honors from Occidental College and received her master's degree in urban planning from UCLA's Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning.

During grad school, Carr caught an inside glimpse of the industry from two very different perspectives. First, she joined Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corp., a small affordable housing developer that worked in South Central Los Angeles. She then moved on to the Los Angeles Housing Department's policy and planning division in her second year of grad school.

After graduation, Carr spent four years at the Low Income Housing Fund (now the Low Income Investment Fund) before joining California Federal Bank's (Cal Fed's) community development department as a loan officer.

Carr came over to CCC when Citibank acquired Cal Fed in 2002, and she quickly ascended the ranks, rising from loan offi- cer to manager to her current position as managing director. In this capacity, Carr directs CCC's Western Region, which includes California, one of the bank's largest markets, as well as Nevada.

Inherent leadership

It wasn't long after being named managing director that Carr exhibited an extraordinary level of leadership. In December 2008, the state of California faced a budgetary crisis and announced that its Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) would suspend funding permanent loans for affordable housing projects.

The state was unable to issue general obligation (GO) bonds, which is how it had paid for those loan commitments. As a result, much affordable housing development in California ground to a halt.

Carr couldn't sit idly by. She began talking with Citibank's municipal securities division and came up with a great idea: What if Citibank guaranteed that it would buy those GO bonds that backed the deals on which the bank provided construction lending?

Carr spent the next seven months in heavy negotiations with the state and, in the end, forged a forward bond purchase option wherein Citi purchased GO bonds and delivered the proceeds to HCD, which would then pay down the construction loan. The path-blazing agreement served as a template for other banks and financial institutions in California.

“We came to a solution that allowed us to move forward on projects that had been stalled for more than a year,” Carr says. “It definitely was a major step forward for the industry and solved a huge problem that, six months before, nobody could find a solution for.”

Carr was also instrumental in the creation of the New Generation Fund, which offers acquisition and predevelopment loans to affordable housing developers in Los Angeles. Working with Enterprise Community Partners, which oversees the fund, and the city of Los Angeles, Carr pledged Citi's support as the fund's largest investor and promoted the fund to other institutions.

Carr also serves as chair of Enterprise Community Partners' Southern California Leadership Council; sits on the board of governors for the California Housing Consortium and on the board of directors of nonprofit developer Abode Communities; and is a committee member for the Local Initiatives Support Corp.