Patrick Clancy, former head of The Community Builders.
Eda Akaltun Patrick Clancy, former head of The Community Builders.

For more than 40 years, Patrick Clancy worked in the trenches to revitalize neighborhoods, create service-enriched mixed-income housing, and build a nonprofit organization that has served as a model for others around the country.

Clancy started at Boston-based The Community Builders (TCB) in 1971 while still at Harvard Law School and took over at the helm in 1976. He retired from the organization at the end of 2011.

“From a fairly early point, I identified with the work, and it was the technical financing and planning and execution that I found very stimulating. The outcome of doing something useful for people who didn’t have decent housing was also very rewarding.”

When Clancy started at TCB, he says there wasn’t much of a model for nonprofit community development corporations (CDCs). “For the first five years, I tried to persuade people that we would be around for a while and was a legitimate entity that they could lend money to and invest in to carry out housing efforts,” he says.

He says Boston was home to a lot of the early growth for CDCs and a place where other cities looked to as a model. “Particularly through those first 20 years, CDCs went from virtually nonexistent to becoming a pretty important part of the affordable housing industry,” he says. “To have been a part of that, to have helped to model what that looked like and could function as, was rewarding for creating housing for households that needed it but also the development of the sector.”

Tom Bledsoe, CEO of the Housing Partnership Network, worked with Clancy in those early days. “Pat was an inventor and an innovator and in many ways helped get our industry on the map in a different way,” he says. “He promoted an approach to nonprofits that had the business capabilities of the private sector but employed that model for social good.”

For the first 20 years, TCB worked in the role of a full-service developer and development partner on behalf of community-based groups. The organization then moved into a role of being a direct owner and operator.

During his tenure at TCB, Clancy was involved in the creation of nearly 30,000 homes in 14 states, making it one of the nation’s largest and most innovative affordable housing developers.

Another rewarding aspect for Clancy is the team at TCB. “It’s a place where talented people will continue to make a difference for poor families and urban neighborhoods to come,” he says. “And the organization not only continues to be useful in the work that it does, but a useful place in helping to build the industry and provide a training ground for a lot of talented people who have moved on but continue in the field.”

Even after retirement, Clancy hasn’t left the world of affordable housing behind. He teaches a Boston University School of Law graduate course on housing policy, community development, and how it has evolved over the past few decades. He also serves on the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.