Housing Our Veterans: Engaging Philanthropy and the Private Sector

Thursday, March 21, 2013 — 1:30 p.m.–2:45 p.m.     

Housing Our Veterans: Engaging Philanthropy and the Private Sector
Improving homes. Improving lives. Honoring veterans. Statistics show that many veterans face severe housing needs for a variety of reasons including a disability from combat injuries and being particularly hard hit by the economy. This session will showcase model projects where philanthropy and the private sector have leveraged public funding to develop innovative housing strategies and supportive services for homeless and disabled veterans.

Watch the Session
Below is a YouTube playlist of four short videos recorded during the session. Watch all four videos or advance using the Playlist feature.

Session Resources

Speaker Biographies 

Fred Wacker, Home Depot Foundation (moderator)
Fred Wacker has been involved in affordable housing and community development for more than 30 years. Currently, Wacker serves as director and chief operating officer at the Home Depot Foundation. Created in 2002, the Home Depot Foundation focuses its resources on supporting nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the homes and facilities that serve disadvantaged families and individuals, with a special emphasis on veterans.

Prior professional positions include southeast regional director of the Fannie Mae Foundation, community investment officer and deputy director of community investment services for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, and national director of neighborhood program development for NeighborWorks America, formerly called the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.

Select accomplishments include the following: developed the monitoring and tracking systems for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta’s Affordable Housing Program, which served as a model for other banks in the system; designed, tested, and replicated, through the NeighborWorks Network, a self-help housing construction program in five urban centers modeled after the rural self-help construction process; provided organizational development assistance in the creation of the Alabama Multi-Family Loan Consortium, Mississippi Housing Initiative, and Georgia Affordable Housing Corporation; developed a $30 million initiative with Habitat for Humanity International called Partners in Sustainable Building; and was instrumental in developing the Fannie Mae Foundation’s $80 million, five-year initiative to assist veterans and their families.

Wacker has a master’s degree in education from Ohio University and is a certified urban lender.

Thomas R. Cantwell, Jr., Cantwell-Anderson Inc. and Cloudbreak Communities

Thomas R. Cantwell, Jr., is president and director of Cantwell-Anderson Inc. (CAI), a real estate development, general contracting, and property management company. He is a licensed general contractor, and since 1979 has directed the company in the areas of acquisition, finance, renovation, development, construction, and management of condominium, apartment, and commercial real estate projects, both single-purpose and mixed-use, totaling more than $500 million.

CAI acquired, planned, and entitled a 272-lot residential community in Altadena, California, at the doorstep of the Angeles National Forest (La Vina). The company is currently in the planning stage of the last seven-acre parcel of that 240-acre project, which is a soldout community of $1 million homes. Additional development and construction projects include a 134-unit luxury apartment complex with adjacent commercial bungalows located in Pasadena, California, which is still managed by CAI. The company developed a variety of apartments, condominiums, and commercial projects, both new construction and substantial rehab. Nearly $100 million of the company’s development projects has been for-sale and rental housing targeted to low-income households, mixing below-market financing from various state and local agencies, tax-exempt mortgage bond funds, and market-rate commercial loans.

Cantwell helped develop the concept of a joint venture between his company and the United States Veterans Initiative (USVI), whose mission was to provide support services to homeless veterans with the goal of helping each veteran reach his or her highest level of independence. He served as the acting executive director of the Los Angeles Veterans Initiative (subsequently renamed the USVI) for a three-year formative period from October 1993 through September 1996. Today, the annual budget of the Veterans Initiative is well over $20 million, and the organization is the country’s largest homeless veteran service provider.

At present, there are specialized housing developments targeting homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area, Compton (under construction), Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Honolulu, and Prescott, Arizona, providing housing for nearly 3,000 homeless veterans annually. Expansion efforts are underway in Phoenix, Honolulu, and Inglewood, California. CAI and its Cloudbreak Development family of companies continue to assemble and develop land for additional permanent housing in several of these locations.

Deborah Burkart, National Equity Fund Inc.
Deborah Burkart is national vice president of Supportive Housing for the National Equity Fund Inc. (NEF), one of the largest national syndicators of low-income housing tax credits.

Burkart is an expert on affordable seniors’ housing and supportive housing financing and policy. Since joining NEF in 1992, she has assisted in the acquisition and underwriting of more than $900 million in tax credit equity for special-needs projects. In addition, since 2007, Burkart has led NEF-LISC’s initiative to combat veterans’ homelessness, “Bring Them Homes.”

Burkart has served on several boards, including those for the Illinois Housing Council, Heartland Housing Inc., and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans; has been a judge for NCSHA and CSH Supportive Housing awards programs; has participated on panels for various state and national conferences; and was an adviser to Generation United on grand-family housing issues. Prior to NEF, she was project manager at Building Diagnostics Inc. in Boston.

Burkart graduated from Duke University and received a master’s degree in business administration and city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

Chris Estes became president and CEO of the National Housing Conference (NHC) in 2012. Formed in 1931, the nonprofit NHC has been dedicated to helping ensure safe, decent, and affordable housing for everyone in America. He leads the NHC’s policy and advocacy work both in Washington and throughout the country. The NHC has earned its reputation as the “united voice for housing” by actively engaging and convening its membership in nonpartisan advocacy for effective housing policy solutions at the local, state, and national levels. The NHC’s research affiliate—the Center for Housing Policy—works in concert with the NHC’s policy, advocacy, and education efforts to highlight evidence-based learning and best practices in housing development.

Estes comes to the NHC after nine years as executive director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, one of the nation’s best-known state housing groups. Prior to his work with the coalition, he worked for CAHEC, a regional tax-credit equity syndicator, and DHIC, a nonprofit affordable housing developer in Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as several other area nonprofit organizations as a resource development officer.

In 2007, Estes and David Chenoweth wrote The Economic Cost of Substandard Housing Conditions Among North Carolina Children. In 2008, he was named a local urban community adviser for the Triangle District Council of the Urban Land Institute and a Fannie Mae fellow. In 2009, he was appointed to the Housing Study Committee of the North Carolina General Assembly. In 2011, he joined the board of directors of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. He has served two years on the board of directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond—2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and 2013 in Baltimore.

Estes graduated from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, where he double-majored in economics and industrial relations. While there, he was a member of the 1986 Men’s NCAA Lacrosse Champions. He also holds two master’s degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill: one from the School of Social Work, with a concentration on community practice, and the other from the Department of City and Regional Planning, with a concentration in housing and community development.

Elisha Harig-Blaine, National League of Cities
Elisha Harig-Blaine leads the National League of Cities’ work on housing for veterans with disabilities. As part of the NLC’s Center for Research and Innovation, he identifies, disseminates, and helps develop best practices for ensuring that all veterans have a place to call home.

Harig-Blaine has worked on the issues of homelessness and affordable housing for more than 12 years at the national and local levels. Prior to joining the National League of Cities, he was the director of state coalitions for the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Harig-Blaine has a BS in political science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a master’s degree in public policy with a concentration in housing and economic policy from George Mason University.

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