“We like to make things work”

Remarks by Larry Swanson upon receipt of the inaugural Robert Whittlesey Leadership Award at the 60th member meeting in Seattle on June 6, 2024. The award honors the legacy of Bob Whittlesey, HPN’s founder and one of the great unsung heroes of affordable housing – a tenacious and inspiring leader who died at 101 in 2023. Larry has been a board member of HPN, HPIEx, and all-around mensch. He announced he will transition from leadership of ACTION-Housing once a successor is announced.

I've gotten three gifts from HPN.

The first step was being part of an independent network. This is the only network that I ever joined. I passed up on the other ones, they were fine networks. But I wanted to be part of something that directly represented the interests of the industry. And that's what HPN is.

When I first came to a meeting, which was entirely consistent with 30 people sitting around a conference table for the whole day. That was it, there was no programming. We just talked everything to death, but it was wonderful. So that was the first gift.

The second gift was being able to get to know people a lot better by doing business together. Knowing people and doing a joint venture together is totally different.

My first experience was an insurance program (Housing Partnership Insurance Exchange). I had no interest in insurance other than the fact that my premiums went up forty percent after 9/11, even though I didn't have any losses. I thought that was unfair. So I went to a committee meeting at four p.m. in Malibu in the back of a hotel. And I was in a rage that afternoon about insurance. They said, “Well, why don't you convene a working group on this with us?”

That's how I got there. I wasn't really interested in insurance until I realized it was about a stream of income and who gets to keep it. And from that moment on, I got very interested. So I had that great experience – IMA, my buddy Ray, and, and all the members of the board. And then Michael Monte, who's leading this now.

And finally, the third gift is that I've always felt a connection with all of you. Because I've noticed that what we have in common is that we like to make things work. We’re all directly involved in making things work. That's the fun of life, right? All of us do policy advocacy, we do all this other stuff. But making something work. That gives people an opportunity to build a better life. That's what it's all about.

So, from me to all of you, thank you for having me. And I'm stepping down, I'm not retiring.

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Larry with Next Gen Talent Academy student at HPN's 30th anniversary celebration in April 2023

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Standing ovation for Larry from over 200 attendees at the Seattle 2024 Member Meeting

To Robin Hughes: The last thing I have to say is it was easy to support you because in my years of coaching, the one thing I can tell you is when I saw a true talent, who could go to the highest level, I never miss one. And you are one of them!

Closeup Larry Robin Whittlesey Award

Presentation of the inaugural Robert Whittlesey Award (left to right: Larry Swanson, Robin Hughes)

Larry Swanson


Larry Swanson is nationally-renowned expert in affordable housing development who was executive director of ACTION-Housing from 2005 to 2024,. He shaped the development of the Housing Partnership Network in countless ways as an early member, former board chair, and architect on the member side of one of our first social enterprises -- a national insurance initiative (Housing Partnership Insurance Exchange) that now provides coverage for 100,000 rental homes across the country.