Yusef Freeman has been involved in several of the most transformative affordable housing developments in the nation.

Yusef Freeman, managing director, McCormack Baron Salazar
Lance Tilford Photography Yusef Freeman, managing director, McCormack Baron Salazar

Managing director at McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), Freeman recently oversaw the ambitious redevelopment of the former Magnolia/C.J. Peete public housing complex into Harmony Oaks, a new, 460-unit mixed-income development, following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Although he was based in the firm’s St. Louis headquarters, Freeman spent almost every Tuesday through Thursday in New Orleans for three years as the enormous project was being developed.

These days, the 38-year-old is leading the firm’s San Francisco office, overseeing MBS’ activities in his native California. His work includes managing the revitalization of the Alice Griffith public housing complex. The first two phases feature 184 affordable apartments, with 114 units reserved for returning residents. Another 140 units will come on line by the end of the year, with a fourth phase that started construction this month. It’s the first deal to combine the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program with the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

“I was interested in revitalizing communities and neighborhoods that suffered under disinvestment,” Freeman says. “I grew up originally in east Oakland and then south Sacramento, and in both areas I saw the decline over time. When I realized there was an industry that could address some of these issues, I became interested in urban economics, real estate development, and urban revitalization.”

Freeman’s entry in affordable housing came as an intern with the Bridge Street Development Corp. in Brooklyn when he was in graduate school in 2002.

Most of his career has been with MBS, a leading affordable housing and urban redevelopment firm. He joined the company as a Center for Urban Redevelopment Excellence Fellow out of the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. Freeman has rapidly moved up the ranks and is now part of the firm’s executive committee.

Overall, he’s been involved in the development of approximately 2,000 housing units and the closing of nearly $400 million in investment in low-income communities.

The recent newlywed volunteers on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, including Young Community Developers, a group that provides employment training and support services to people residing in San Francisco and surrounding areas.