Mark McDaniel has helped steer more than $3.7 billion of equity and loans to affordable housing and community development efforts during his 30-year career.

Mark McDaniel, president and CEO, Cinnaire
Mark McDaniel, president and CEO, Cinnaire

Picked to launch the Michigan Capital Fund for Housing (MCHF) in 1993, he's the only CEO and president the organization, later known as Great Lakes Capital Fund and now Cinnaire, has known.

McDaniel has built a fledgling nonprofit into a leading provider of affordable housing finance. He and his organization have had a hand in developing approximately 60,000 homes for needy families and individuals.

For his many contributions, McDaniel is being inducted into the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame.

The MCFH was created in partnership with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) as a way to raise equity for difficult low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) developments. Large national equity funds were active in the state but weren't always meeting the needs of smaller projects or those serving special-needs populations.

McDaniel, who had become passionate about affordable housing while working as a developer early in his career, originally turned the post down. He was working at MHT Housing, a statewide nonprofit that had been involved in the acquisition of properties, and was getting into developing new projects. “I loved it there,” he says. “I was able to live my dream, working on the ground and helping people realize their visions.”

Jim Logue, head of the MSHDA at the time, approached McDaniel about the idea of starting a statewide equity fund in early 1993. Jeanne Peterson, head of the LIHTC program and legal affairs at the MSHDA then, also worked to convince McDaniel to take the position.

“He believed in the mission,” Peterson says, adding that even early in his career McDaniel had a great deal of compassion and the abilities to be a good leader.

McDaniel eventually accepted the job, even though it meant taking a pay cut as well as a leap of faith on a nonprofit equity fund that hadn't previously been done in Michigan.

Despite the risks, he was swayed by the opportunity to raise financing for needed affordable housing in his home state and to create a business with a culture that was important to him. “I can finally have a chance to do it, in my mind, right and build a company based on how I would want to be treated,” he recalls telling his wife, Mary. “It would put people first—people on your staff, your development partners, and the people who reside in what you're developing.”

After starting the business as a one-person shop in Lansing, Mich., McDaniel has grown the company into a major enterprise with close to 100 employees and offices in nine states. While the MCFH was conceived to be a LIHTC syndicator, McDaniel has diversified the organization to provide permanent debt financing, construction lending, technical assistance, and predevelopment lending. It’s a recognized Community Development Financial Institution, as well.

McDaniel and his organization have been involved in the financing and development of tens of thousands of affordable units for different populations. He’s especially proud of Cinnaire’s involvement in creating housing for homeless veterans in Indiana and Michigan, some of the earliest projects of their kind.

As the organization expanded its scope and reach, it changed its name to Cinnaire in 2015.

In a testament to McDaniel's principle of putting people first, Cinnaire has been recognized several times by The NonProfit Times and Crain’s as one of the top nonprofits to work for. Specifically, the organization has worked to be transparent to its staff about its operations in tough times as well as good. It has also tried to provide competitive wages and benefits, leadership training courses, wellness programs, and an unlimited personal time-off program.

“The No. 1 thing is you invest in your people,” McDaniel says. “You make sure you take care of them. Make sure they’re treated right, and you'll have a successful company. If you can create a vision that those people can see themselves in, they'll do anything to help that company grow and be successful.”

The organization has also done extensive work for the communities it works in, such as supporting programs for youths. “The spirit of the place is really one of giving back,” says Peterson, also a member of the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame.

McDaniel is active in the industry beyond his own company, having held key board positions at several organizations, including the Michigan Housing Council, the National Association of State and Local Equity Funds, and Habitat for Humanity Michigan.

He received the prestigious Terrence R. Duvernay Award, which recognizes lifetime achievements in the affordable housing industry. The father of four was also named the 2016 Children’s Advocate of the Year by the Children’s Trust Fund.