CYNTHIA A. PARKER is president and CEO of BRIDGE Housing, one of California's leading affordable housing developers.
She took over the post earlier this year after serving as a regional president for Mercy Housing. Parker has also worked as a senior vice president for Seattle-Northwest Securities, a public finance firm, and for the city of Seattle, where she helped establish the Office of Housing.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE recently caught up with Parker to find out more about her and what's happening at San Francisco–based BRIDGE.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job was as a kid, picking raspberries in berry fields during the summers. My first adult job was working as an intern/planner for a metropolitan regional planning agency.
Q: What was your first job in affordable housing?
A: I headed up a group that saved from demolition a large number of housing units around the university in Portland, Ore. We later rehabbed and operated the units, and I served as general manager and CEO.
Q: Now that you've had a chance to settle in at BRIDGE, what goals have you set for yourself and for the company?
A: Continue to grow the company. Be a leader in sustainable development. Work to expand our partnerships that provide economic opportunity for our residents.
Q: Looking ahead to next year and beyond, how will BRIDGE be different?
A: Different approaches to development and finance of affordable products that adapt to the current market. Expansion into new geographic markets. We're bringing on line some very large-scale projects that are centered on transit-oriented development. These projects have been in the pipeline for a number of years, but I plan to help bring them over the finish line. We're looking at several ways we can improve our community impact using housing as the economic platform. This includes both exterior connectivity to the community as well as providing education and skill set growth opportunities for our residents.
Q: We hear that the organization is expanding in Southern California. What are your plans there?
A: We've created a separate business unit in Southern California and hired some very talented people. Building on our existing portfolio of Southern California product, we're targeting strategic opportunities that will help us grow and have a larger impact in that market. We're excited about the expansion of the transit systems in Southern California and the need to integrate and transform the public housing system. We'll remain committed to our goals to continue to look at mixed-income models that emphasize sustainability.
Q: What's a move that BRIDGE has recently made that other developers can learn from?
A: Start to move away from such heavy reliance on the low-income housing tax credit program and other traditional subsidies.
Q: What do you look for when you visit an affordable housing development?
A: Design, use of sustainable features, operation, and signs of happy residents.
Q: What's the best business advice you've received?
A: Look at the bottom line, and try to keep the big picture in mind as an end goal.
Q: Where would we find you when you're not working?
A: Hiking, sailing, hanging with my dog and/or family.
Q: Who is your hero?
A: My grandmother. She raised 11 kids and ran a company as a single mother.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I'm focused on implementing the goals in front of me for BRIDGE. Completing those will take some time.