Coming Together

The nonprofit housing development field has myriad intermediaries and support organizations, but no one unified voice. Should it have one?

“The housing development field could benefit from having a national trade association.” Calvin Holmes, executive director of the Chicago Community Loan Fund, made this suggestion earlier this year at a meeting of housing and community development practitioners and intermediaries, noting that community development financial institutions have such an association.

Holmes’s suggestion was timely. With the new administration, there is a great opportunity to shape federal programs and expand resources. One could argue that now is the time for the nonprofit housing sector to step forward and redefine the system within which it works. But there is a big drawback to making this happen: There is no single voice, nor a unified agenda or strategy, for promoting such change.

While the nonprofit housing sector has greatly matured over the past 40 years in size, experience, and sophistication and is currently supported by myriad networks, associations, and intermediaries, it doesn’t have a single representative trade association. Each of the existing entities has its strengths and allies, but collectively there is duplication of effort and a fracturing of the message. Without a single voice for the field, it has been difficult to formulate or respond to national policy initiatives.

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Dee Walsh
Dee Walsh is the executive vice president and chief officer of strategic development for Mercy Housing (MHI). Walsh oversees the work of the Mercy Loan Fund and MHI’s four regional offices. She previously held leadership positions with the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing, REACH Community Development, and Housing Partnership Network.
Robert O. Zdenek
Robert Zdenek is a community development consultant and principal investigator at the Public Health Institute. He is the co-author of Navigating Community Development.

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