The last five years have been tough for the affordable housing business—but for the next generation beginning to take leadership roles in the industry, it’s been terrifying.

Despite the chaos and volatility of the financial crisis, many took the opportunity to make their marks in a business that needed help more than ever before.

Affordable Housing Finance’s five 2012 Young Leaders all took risks in the darkest days of the crisis. Thanks to their tenacity, deals that seemed impossible to complete reached the closing table, colleagues who seemed destined to lose their jobs kept working, and new development continues to rebuild damaged neighborhoods and provide homes to vulnerable families.

These up-and-comers, all younger than 40, are involved on the finance or development side. Natalia Williams guided thousands of units of affordable housing and the asset managers who cared for them through a difficult bankruptcy. Michael Gilliard combined Habitat for Humanity’s model with conventional construction financing to build homeownership apartments in New York City. William “Terce” Sandifer found a more efficient way to help his customers at Union Bank. Ginger Hitzke convinced the skeptical members of an American Legion Post in Southern California to share her vision of redevelopment. And Mickey Northcutt brought two neighborhood community development corporations together in Massachusetts.

All of these Young Leaders work long hours to help provide homes for low-income families. So far the return on their investments has been strong.

AHF started the Young Leaders program in 2008 to recognize leaders under 40 who are building organizations and ushering in new ways of doing things in the industry. If you have someone in mind who would be a great candidate for our 2013 Young Leaders, please e-mail Christine Serlin at [email protected] or look for the call for nominations at in spring 2013.

Daredevil Developer

Ginger Hitzke, Hitzke Development Corp.

The New Deal

Terce Sandifer, Union Bank

Bridge Builder

Mickey Northcutt, North Shore Development Coalition

Back from the Brink

Natalia Williams, Bayside Communities

The Turnaround Artist

Michael Gilliard, Habitat for Humanity New York City, Inc.