Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust.
Eda Akaltun Michael Bodaken, president of the National Housing Trust.

When a tenant association from the R Street Apartments in Washington, D.C., found out its building was being sold, residents fought to remain in the building by bidding for the property themselves and finding another developer to circumvent the sale. Along with a for-profit developer and help from the National Housing Trust (NHT), the building was rehabilitated in 2009 to offer mixed-income housing. It was also able to create “balance” in a heavily gentrified neighborhood.

“R Street is a good example of what we do well,” says Michael Bodaken, NHT president.

The building’s rehab represents the seamless integration of NHT’s business and policy segments, which have worked in tandem for 19 years, beginning at the start of Bodaken’s tenure as president.

When he first took the position with NHT in 1993, the agreement was set for only a year. But he took the opportunity to build something greater.

The board agreed with Bodaken about needing to change the trust’s financial dependency, which was hanging on foundation funding. In the first year, NHT hired a housing developer, and it took about five to eight years before its lending arm carried significant weight and was able to run on its own.

Bodaken previously served as a deputy mayor in Los Angeles from 1989 to 1992, where he worked under Mayor Tom Bradley. There, he created and ran the housing department. He also had a hand in setting up the housing commission for the city, which includes a community development component, and hiring a general manager for the city’s housing department. He coordinated all of the work of the city housing authority and the redevelopment agency, and prior to that was a former housing lawyer for the Legal Aid Foundation in L.A.

His long housing career stemmed from a job with what is now known as AmeriCorps in his early 20s. There, he helped place low-income families into newly built affordable housing, which taught him about how important housing is to people’s lives.

“It always kind of baffled me how our country, with so much greatness and so much wealth, couldn’t afford to house these people,” he says. “It was just kind of an eye-opener for me.”

Since being with NHT, Bodaken has overseen the preservation of more than 20,000 affordable homes and the growth of NHT’s Community Development Fund, which has administered $16.2 million in loans. A significant portion of NHT’s portfolio includes mixed-income communities.

“You take the buildings as you find them and try to figure out what’s best for the people who live there,” he says. “We don’t formulate a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Bodaken says NHT is his proudest accomplishment. He built an organization that will be here long after he’s gone—and he’ll stick around as long as he enjoys it.