Benson “Buzz” Roberts, president and CEO of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders (NAAHL), has announced that he will retire at the end of the year.
The move comes after a prominent 45-year career in affordable housing and community development, including the last eight years as head of NAAHL, a national alliance of banks, Community Development Financial Institutions, and other capital providers dedicated to expanding economic opportunity by financing affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization.
Throughout the years, Roberts has been an important voice on housing policy. He has helped create and improve key programs, including the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), HOME Investment Partnerships grants, the Capital Magnet Fund, and the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC).
Roberts, who began his career at a national association of nonprofit neighborhood development groups, was a consultant to the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) in the formulative days of the LIHTC program.
“LISC and other organizations like Enterprise [Community Partners] and the National Low Income Housing Coalition were very concerned about the effects of tax reform on affordable housing,” recalls Roberts, noting that low-income housing tax incentives had a bad reputation with many members of Congress at the time.
He and others helped fight the cynicism and advocated for a better targeted and longer-term benefit that became the popular LIHTC program. Years later, he would help incorporate many of the key components of the housing tax credit into the NMTC, which aims to spur investment and economic growth in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.
Roberts worked at LISC for more than 20 years, serving as senior vice president for policy and program development, before becoming director of the Office of Small Business, Community Development and Housing Policy at the Treasury Department from 2011 to 2015.
At Treasury, he was influential in the Federal Housing Administration risk-sharing mortgages as well as efforts to expand the LIHTC program and provide relief to homeowners during the financial crisis.Roberts has been at the helm of NAAHL since 2015.
“Buzz Roberts has been a driving force behind the success of NAAHL and has selflessly worked to ensure that the policies continue to be in place for the benefit of NAAHL members and the millions of people who need affordable and sustainable housing,” said Merilyn Rovira, senior vice president of capital and strategic initiatives of The Community Development Trust and NAAHL’s chair, in a statement. “For the remainder of his time, I know Buzz will continue to lead the organization and help find a worthy successor who will be committed to advancing NAAHL’s mission.”
Before retiring, Roberts says he hopes to have the “third leg” to the community development tax credit stool in place—the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which aims to take the lessons of the LIHTC and NMTC programs and apply them to the challenge of building and rehabbing homes for ownership in distressed communities.
He hopes to see the Neighborhood Homes legislation along with the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which would expand and bolster the LIHTC, included in an end-of-year tax package.
In anticipation of the leadership transition, NAAHL has hired Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA), a global executive search and leadership advisory firm, to partner with them on the search for Roberts’ successor as the CEO of NAAHL.