Walter Webdale, president and CEO, AHC
Lauren Bulbin Walter Webdale, president and CEO, AHC

Walter Webdale has devoted his career to affordable housing and urban renewal, leaving his mark on communities in New York and the Mid-Atlantic region for over six decades.

Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and a graduate of the local Canisius College, his interest in development started early when he joined a nonprofit that dealt with local governments. During that time, he worked with cities and watched development occur, leading him to tackle a project of his own.

At the age of 22, he and his brother borrowed capital from their grandmother to purchase and redevelop a barn into three townhomes. The rest is history.

“I’ve had an interesting path,” he says. “I latched on to a job that led me to development and the government world.”

His early career was spent focusing on urban renewal in New York cities, such as Batavia, Glen Cove, and Yonkers. He then joined the New York State Urban Development Corp. as director of projects for its Westchester County office.

In 1974, he moved his family to Reston, Va., where he became the first director of the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development, where he remained for 25 years, garnering national recognition as a leader and innovator in affordable housing. And then, for the last 20 years, he has been at the helm of Arlington, Va.–based AHC, a nonprofit that provides housing for low- and moderate-income families in the Mid-Atlantic region and helps those households create more stable and productive lives.

During his time at AHC, he has helped to almost quintuple the nonprofit’s affordable multifamily portfolio from 1,600 units at 13 properties to approximately 8,000 at nearly 60 properties today. He led the firm to expand its geographic footprint and develop its first project outside of Arlington in 2001; the nonprofit now has developments in the Northern Virginia region; Washington, D.C.; Montgomery County, Md.; and the Baltimore area.

“As a pioneer in the affordable housing industry and founding member of the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND), Walter’s leadership at AHC has facilitated expansive growth of the organization’s portfolio, providing homes and critical resident services to individuals and families across the Capital Region,” says Heather Raspberry, HAND’s executive director. “As HAND continues to strengthen the capacity of our cross-sector membership that collaborates in the preservation and development of communities where all can live and thrive, we do so by standing on the shoulders of giants like Walter, who have paved the way for the next generation of community development leaders.”

Walter Webdale, president and CEO, AHC
Lauren Bulbin Walter Webdale, president and CEO, AHC

For Webdale, who has been active in Rotary International since he started out in Batavia, the organization’s motto “Service Above Self” has helped inform his and AHC’s work. The nonprofit has a robust resident services program, focusing on education, with after-school, summer, teen, and college readiness programs, and an emphasis on health and wellness as well as financial literacy. And it started its property management subsidiary under Webdale’s leadership in 2000.

“AHC and the residents the organization serves benefit from Walter’s breadth of knowledge and commitment to ensuring that individuals and their families live in safe, affordable homes,” says Marietta Rodriguez, president and CEO of NeighborWorks America, of which AHC is a member organization. “Under his leadership, AHC has significantly increased both its multifamily housing portfolio and its resident services community outreach programs. AHC’s accomplishments show the power of the national NeighborWorks network at creating local impact and transforming lives.”

AHC’s Woodbury Park campus, which features mixed-income living near transit in Arlington, is a shining example of the nonprofit’s hard work and its commitment to the residents and the communities they live in.

The AHC team saw promise in an underutilized parking lot on the site of Woodbury Park, a mixed-income, historic apartment community acquired by AHC in 1987. “We took that parking lot and turned it into a garage and two nine-story towers,” he says. “One tower was market-rate condos, and the other building was 100% affordable.” The profits from the 99 for-sale condos provided part of the project’s financing for the 108 affordable units. In addition, a 3,000-square-foot community center for resident services, a Montessori school, and AHC’s headquarters reside on the campus. And, AHC subsequently applied for housing and historic tax credits for a $110 million interior and exterior renovation of Woodbury Park.

“That we consider a real accomplishment,” Webdale adds. “That is successful mixed-income living.”

He notes that his philosophy is to run the nonprofit like a private business, with a good finished product and no shortcuts. It’s also key to have a good staff. “You hire people because they know finance, they know construction, they know resident services,” he says. “With those things, I’ve gotten a reputation as a guy who gets things done.”

In recognition of Webdale’s leadership, he was honored in 2015 with HAND’s President’s Choice Award, which honors lifetime achievement in the affordable housing industry; inducted into the 2017 AHOME Housing Hall of Fame, a nonprofit coalition that is helping to meet community needs in Northern Virginia; and was been named a distinguished alumnus at Canisius in 2017.

Webdale and his wife of 49 years, Judith, still reside in Reston. They have two children and three grandchildren. They enjoy spending time at their beach house in Lewes, Del.