Four individuals who have made lasting contributions to affordable housing were recognized at AHF Live: The 2012 Affordable Housing Developers’ Summit in Chicago.
Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust (NHT); Pat Clancy, who was instrumental in The Community Builders for more than 40 years before retiring in 2011; Michael Levitt, founder of The Michaels Organization, one of the nation’s top developers; and Sen. Olympia Snowe, a longtime advocate of the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, were inducted into AHF’s Hall of Fame.
Bodaken recalled two residents, Gertie and Dan, from his days as a young tenant organizer in Kansas.
“One was a single mother,” he said. “One was a senior citizen. Both were living in newly built Sec. 236 projects in Topeka. They helped me understand how important it was for them to have stability to reach their potential.”
Bodaken helped established a housing rights commission and then became a Legal Aid lawyer to sue Sec. 236 owners. He has been with NHT since 1993 and has overseen the preservation of more than 20,000 affordable homes.
“I’m fortunate enough to have worked with 25 unbelievable individuals who every day work to try to make sure that housing policy in the United States focuses on saving affordable housing for people who earn less than $12,000 a year,” he said.
“Probably everyone in this room has had a Gertie or Dan moment in their life, where you decided for whatever reason to get into this crazy business,” Bodaken said. “My guess is all of you had something in your life that turned it toward doing something important for people like Gertie, and people like Dan, and for the millions of other families in the United States for whom we provide affordable housing. That’s not a small thing. It’s a large thing.”
Clancy helped build The Community Builders into one of the nation’s top nonprofit affordable housing developers. He joined the organization in 1971 and then took over the helm in 1976.
During his tenure, Clancy and the organization worked in the trenches to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. They have been involved in the creation of nearly 30,000 homes in 14 states.
Like Bodaken, Clancy recognized the residents of those many properties.
“I accept this honor on behalf not of myself but of the over 400 committed folks at The Community Builders, on behalf of all of our many partners–financial, public, design, construction–on everything we do and did, and the communities and community leaders we work with, but particularly on behalf of the families that we serve, the residents, the folks struggling to make it in this the richest nation on Earth for whom a decent and affordable home that they can take pride in is such an invaluable cornerstone of building a better life.”
Levitt has built one of the nation’s largest and most prominent affordable housing firms. Michaels has developed more than 55,000 units in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands.
“How lucky are we, those of us in this room who are in the business of developing and managing affordable housing?” he said. “We can not only make a good living, but we can also give back.”
The Michaels Organization houses more than 100,000 residents “better than they have been housed before,” he said.
Levitt spoke of the residents and the firm’s many social programs aimed to help them improve their lives.
“I’m especially proud of our computer learning centers, where we partner with local and national companies who then hire our graduates,” he said, noting that 14,000 residents have gained meaningful employment through the program.
Snowe (R-Maine) has been the key Republican champion for the LIHTC program since its establishment in 1986.
“As you all certainly well know the housing market has been a source of tremendous concern for the past several years with the number of foreclosures remaining high, home sales continuing to languish, and new housing starts failing to accelerate, and regrettably as is typical of all downturns it is the most vulnerable who are hit the hardest,” she said in a video to accept the award. “That’s exactly why I have been a longstanding advocate for housing-related tax provisions like the low-income tax credit, which is designed to assist the most economically disadvantaged communities.”
She is leaving Congress at a time when tax reform looms large for the industry.
“Considering how minimal the cost of the credit is relative to its tremendous impact, the program must be extended,” she said.
The 2012 Young Leaders and winners of this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards were also honored at the luncheon, which was sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.