SAN FRANCISCO A man sitting by a freeway off-ramp asking for spare change. A woman pushing a shopping cart down the road. These are some of the images associated with homelessness, but they fall woefully short of telling the whole story about one of the nation’s most serious and growing issues.

Despite the recent housing boom and a homeownership rate that’s nearly 70%, there’s a portion of the U.S. population that is falling behind.

At least 1.35 million children are homeless during a year’s time, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

On a given day, 800,000 people are homeless in the United States, including 200,000 children.

“Families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population and now constitute 40% of the overall homeless population,” said Ellen Bassuk, president of the Center. “In the 1980s, it was about 1%.”

The problem may be even more severe in 2006 in the wake of the recent hurricanes that swept through the Gulf Coast, she said.

“The impact of homelessness on kids is devastating and far-reaching,” she said. “It affects all aspects of their lives – health, development, performance in school, self-esteem.”

About half of the homeless children are under the age of six, according to Bassuk.

With these sobering facts in mind, Affordable Housing Finance magazine has decided to step up and make the issue of homeless children one of its causes in 2006. That means the magazine will periodically report on the issue during the year as well as make a financial commitment in an effort to help alleviate the problem.

If you have an interesting housing development or a program that is assisting families and children that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, contact Donna Kimura, senior editor, at [email protected] or (415) 315-1241, ext. 309.

It takes a solar village

THE NATIONAL MALL was turned into a solar village recently as energy-efficient homes were displayed during the Solar Decathlon.

The event featured teams of college students competing to design, build and operate the most attractive and effective solar-powered houses. The entries had to be powered entirely by the sun. In addition, each house had to produce enough power to operate an electric car.

The students learn the lesson that energy is a precious commodity, and visitors get to see the latest high-tech materials and designs.

The University of Colorado, which transported its home with the help of biodiesel fuel, beat out 17 other teams to take top honors. The team’s house was built almost entirely of recycled and natural materials, including new bio-based structural insulated panels for the walls. Following the competition, several of the homes were donated to various organizations to be used for housing or educational purposes.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is the primary sponsor. For more information, visit


Fannie Mae names new executives

Fannie Mae appointed Robert Blakely as chief financial officer (CFO) and made other key executive changes.

Blakely joins the firm from MCI, where he had served as executive vice president and CFO since April 2003. Before that, he was executive vice president and CFO of Tenneco and of Lyondell Chemical, and a managing director of Morgan Stanley.

In addition, Fannie Mae promoted Mike Williams to chief operating officer. He has been with the company since 1991, most recently serving as executive vice president for regulatory agreements and restatement. It also promoted long-term employee Rob Levin to be its first chief business officer, where he will oversee and integrate the single-family business, portfolio business and housing and community development business.

David Worley also joined Fannie Mae as senior vice president of housing and community development credit risk. And Carolyn Groobey was hired as senior vice president of strategy, a new position.

Sebastian heads GMAC’s TC division

David Sebastian was appointed to GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp.’s newly created position of managing director in charge of its low-income housing tax credit division. One of GMAC’s subsidiaries is Paramount Financial Group, Inc.

Sebastian is president of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. He was previously president of PNC Multifamily Capital, where he headed its affordable housing division.

Enterprise hires new SVP

Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., formerly Enterprise Social Investment Corp., has hired Bruce Rothschild as senior vice president (SVP) and general counsel. Rothschild joins Enterprise after a 19-year career with The Rouse Co., where he was general counsel.

Cabrera confirmed for public, Indian housing

Orlando Cabrera has weathered his confirmation hearings to become assistant secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing, the highest-funded division within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Before joining HUD, he served as executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp.

Todd joins Beacon

Beacon Realty Capital has formed a new multifamily group and chosen Michael Todd to oversee it as senior vice president. Todd was formerly director of the multifamily programs department at the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which he joined in 1992.

Pop Quiz

MEET DON FALK. He recently became executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. (TNDC), one of San Francisco’s most active affordable housing developers. Before stepping into the top post, Falk served as the nonprofit organization’s director of housing development.

Q How did you get into the housing biz?

A I studied economics and urban studies in college, and did my thesis on discrimination in housing. After graduate school, I couldn’t find a job in the field, so I offered to volunteer one day a week for a small group in West Oakland (Calif.), Jubilee West. They said they could afford a 20% FTE (full-time equivalent) administrative assistant, and it progressed from there.

Q As an affordable housing developer, what do you see as the biggest challenge for the industry in 2006?

A Sustainability. We’ve built housing and organizations, but without reliable sources of ongoing funding, the former will deteriorate and the latter will fail to thrive. The second biggest challenge, from my perspective, is developing sufficient capital or rental operating subsidies to create homes for people at the lowest income levels where the country’s housing crisis silently lives.

Q How do you plan to overcome that challenge?

A Politics. We can only be successful as part of a movement, working with allies across the spectrum to move resources toward those who lack power and influence – it’s a long-term effort. And in the short-run? Fundraise. It’s a heck of a way to live, like driving cross-country while filling the gas tank one gallon at a time.

Q A cool touch at one of your recent developments?

A The roof garden at Curran House, in the middle of the Tenderloin, where families can sit amid citrus trees and enjoy the sun, or garden in the big planters or look over the wall and get a fantastic view of San Francisco.

Another example: the ground level at Curran House, where the expansive lobby opens up (by means of a huge glass roll-up door) onto a beautiful courtyard with a bubbling fountain. The edge of the courtyard is defined by large bamboos growing against the adjacent buildings and moss and ferns surround the smooth concrete floor. Sitting there, you would never know you’re in the middle of one of the densest neighborhoods in the country.

Q Favorite business book?

A Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter Bernstein; and by Jerry Adler, High Rise: How 1,000 Men and Women Worked Around the Clock for Five Years and Lost $200 Million Building a Skyscraper.

Q What’s in store for TNDC in 2006?

A TNDC currently has nine projects in its pipeline, and we'll be focused on keeping those on schedule and budget, while starting one or two new ones, not to mention operating more than 20 supportive housing developments and serving 3,000-plus adults and children who live there, and, of course, raising $2 million in charitable contributions to sustain the effort.

PHA boss stays in unit

THE TOP MAN at the Hartford Housing Authority decided he wanted to know firsthand what life is like at one of his properties, so Lancelot Gordon Jr. recently spent the night at the Nelton Court project.

“I wanted to be sensitized to the culture and the life that goes on in the developments,” said Gordon, who lived in public housing years ago.

Nelton Court is the oldest public housing project in Hartford, Conn. A year ago it was a fairly stressed property, but the housing authority has worked to improve the development, according to Gordon. He proudly reports that the environment was safe and clean even after a big basketball game there.

During his stay, he examined the property, visited with residents, ordered barbecue from a nearby restaurant and slept in a vacant unit that was modestly furnished. In the morning, he had coffee with his neighbors.

The visit opened his eyes to a few physical problems at the development, including some lights that did not work, a situation that may have gone unnoticed during the day.

More important, it was an opportunity to connect with residents, according to Gordon, who was interim executive director at the time. “I thought it was the only thing to do,” he said.

Gordon has since been named to the top post at the authority.

Who lives downtown?

ONE OF THE BIG trends that developers have been hearing about lately is the return to downtown living.

To find out what’s going on in American cities, The Brookings Institution took a 30-year look at residential trends in 45 downtown neighborhoods.

Some of the key findings include:

  • During the 1990s, downtown population grew by 10%, a resurgence following 20 years of overall decline.

  • Downtowns are home to some of the most and least affluent households of their regions. Twenty of the sample downtowns, including Midtown Manhattan, Dallas and Miami, have at least one tract where the median income is higher than that of their metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) as a whole. On the other hand, 38 have at least one tract 50% or lower than their MSA medians.

  • In general, downtowns have a higher percentage of both young adults and college-educated residents than the nation’s cities and suburbs. In 2000, 25- to 34-year-olds represented nearly a quarter of the downtown population, up from 13% in 1970. About 44% of the people living downtown had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

For more information, visit


“When new construction is called for, it’s important to make sure that it fits. This means insisting that new buildings respect the character of their surroundings and draw on historic architec-tural styles. It means making sure that new retail development supports existing downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. It means making sure that new development addresses the need for quality affordable housing. It means protecting historic landscapes and open space.”

— Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, at the Louisiana Recovery and Rebuilding Conference, the first major conference to be held in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.


“There should be no doubt that we are committed to making certain that New Orleans’ public housing residents will have a place to call home. Working closely with our local partners, we will put hammer to nail and restore this great city.”

Alphonso Jackson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, announcing plans to revitalize public housing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.