I am writing to share important news. Next year will be my 25th as President and CEO, and I have decided this is the right time for me to pass the baton to new leadership. I will continue to lead HPN until the board names a successor and after a smooth transition, hopefully by summer 2022.
It has been a tremendous privilege and joy to work with our incredible member organizations and leadership staff on this exciting journey together to build and scale the Housing Partnership Network. This has undoubtedly been the most rewarding work in my 45-year career. To you all, I express my most sincere gratitude.
Today, HPN has an enormously talented staff, a dedicated board of directors, a highly engaged membership, and close allies and partners in our sector. As a business, we are on solid financial footing with healthy net assets, an innovative earned income model based on our social enterprises, and funders and investors who are deeply committed to our network and member-driven strategy. Most importantly, the board, management, and membership of HPN fully embrace our mission, strategy and approach, and all share a deep understanding of and commitment to what makes HPN special.
HPN was founded by Bob Whittlesey in 1992 as a trade association of the emerging sector of high capacity, partnership-based nonprofits. I was running the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership then, another innovative organization founded by Bob, which operated as the backbone and convener of this nascent network. After six years of incubation, I took the jump to become the first staff of HPN in 1998. It has been my good fortune to lead two organizations founded by Bob, who is truly one of the nation’s most innovative and impactful affordable housing leaders, and I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for connecting me to the extraordinary leaders and organizations that came together to establish HPN as a peer network.
Back then, high capacity regional and statewide organizations that combined nonprofit social mission with private entrepreneurship were beginning to emerge around the country. Through a unique peer exchange model, HPN helped this growing sector share best practices in affordable housing and community development and accelerate innovation. Together we created more than a dozen social enterprises, several of which have spun off as independent companies, paving their own road to grow and make a difference.
Member-driven at its core, HPN’s distinguishing advantage, our DNA if you will, is the powerful combination of collective action, policy innovation and social entrepreneurship – built upon the foundation of the nation’s strongest and most innovative nonprofit leaders and organizations. These three pillars of our work have been driven by deep engagement and peer exchange amongst the leadership of our members who now include more than 100 impactful nonprofit developers, owners and CDFIs delivering innovative and scaled solutions to the nation’s housing and community development challenges.
HPN brought our peer exchange model to the international stage by initiating and sponsoring a multi-country peer exchange in 2003 – the International Housing Partnership - with leading housing nonprofits from England, Canada, and Australia, helping our peers in these countries establish their own networked organizations modeled after our experience in the US. We have learned an immense amount through this partnership, including how they capitalize the parent entities (rather than project financing) to achieve greater scale, flexibility, and impact.
One of the hallmarks of our membership and network of which I am most proud is how we have responded to crises and opportunities by devising and delivering creative solutions to pressing problems. The critical role our members played in the delivery system has never been more evident or more inspiring than during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Members have worked tirelessly with their partners on the front lines as emergency responders to address unimaginable challenges facing residents and communities. Given their strong operating capacity and deep community ties, some members have also been asked by their governmental partners to administer literally billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance to families and PPP loans to small businesses.
The power of our network during this crisis is underscored by one leader who recently said to me – reflecting the views of many – that her organization could not have adapted and responded so effectively without the support they received from HPN. This is just one example of the creativity and commitment members have brought to housing and economic crises over the years.
Over the past year I have conducted a virtual listening tour with more than 60 of our member CEOs. Their insights, innovation and impact have been truly inspirational and will guide HPN’s strategy going forward. Among our highest priorities, we need to forge new partnerships and devise scaled strategies to overcome racial inequities and combat the increasingly dire affordable housing shortage. We recognize that racial justice is central to our mission and strategy. That means finding new ways to advance meaningful inclusion both in how our organizations operate, and in the work that we do to deepen our connection and engagement with businesses, organizations and communities led by people of color.
I firmly believe that the next generation of leaders will exceed our greatest hopes. They will go beyond improving access to safe, decent, and affordable homes to chart and accelerate the path to more just, equitable, and inclusive communities. These leaders are filled with the drive for social justice that recognizes the worth and equity of every member of our communities and, given the conviction we share across generations, I believe that progress is possible.
In preparation for my departure, the Board has established a search committee and begun the Board’s process to identify and select a new CEO, which we expect to be completed before spring of next year. I will continue to lead and manage HPN until that time, and then work closely with the new leader to carry out a smooth transition.
After that I plan to stay engaged in and supportive of HPN and our extraordinary leadership community in whatever way that I can. I hope by summer next year my wife Lexi Turner and I will be able to do some long-awaited traveling in a post-pandemic world and spend more time with our family, including four adult daughters, while enjoying a passion for mountain biking and skiing in Vermont.
With deep appreciation and affection,