Chicago Meeting Celebrates 30th Anniversary and Focuses Firmly on the Future

As one of the more than 225 attendees who gathered in Chicago last month to celebrate HPN’s 30th anniversary aptly described: “We are all in this together. We are a community of practitioners eager to support each other.”

In welcoming us to his city, Paul Roldán, the longtime CEO of Hispanic Housing, noted that Chicago truly is a “a tale of two cities.” On the one hand, Chicago is one of the world’s great cities, economically and culturally vibrant. On the other hand, perhaps more starkly than many cities, Chicago has widening socioeconomic and racial disparities and patterns of disinvestment in lower wealth neighborhoods.

This was the topic of the opening plenary as Stacie Young of the Community Investment Corporation and Anthony Simpkins of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago spoke about how their organizations are working tirelessly to both redress this disinvestment and to prevent displacement of residents in neighborhoods where investment is accelerating. As Simpkins powerfully noted: “When we talk about investment, we need to talk not about whether there is investment, but about what kind of investment will address the needs of longstanding residents.”

During the opening plenary we also heard from Erika Poethig who until late April served as Special Assistant to President Biden for Housing and Urban Policy. Poethig reflected on her years of experience in Chicago, both at the MacArthur Foundation and the city’s Department of Housing; shared powerful insights into the Administration’s housing priorities; and highlighted the White House’s increased focus on equitable community development.

Deidre Schmidt, CEO of CommonBond Communities and Chair of HPN’s Board of Directors, and Debra Schwartz, Managing Director of Impact Investments at the MacArthur Foundation, also welcomed HPN’s members to the meeting and offered their congratulations on our 30 years as a network of incredible members.

The Opening Plenary focused on inequitable investment patterns in Chicago and how to advance equitable development through housing
Featured speakers:
Debra Schwartz, Stacie Young, Erika Poethig, Robin Hughes, Anthony Simpkins, Paul Roldán, Deidre Schmidt
Board chair Deidre Schmidt (President & CEO CommonBond Communities) addresses the Network
HPN President & CEO Robin Hughes shares welcoming and celebratory remarks
In a meeting survey, 75% of returning attendees shared that they have implemented (or chosen not to implement) something at their organization based on takeaways from a HPN member meeting
Members appreciated the time spent together, noting: “Peer connection is always the most valuable part of the meeting”

“When we talk about investment, we need to talk not about whether there is investment, but about what kind of investment will address the needs of longstanding residents.”

Anthony Simpkins Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago

The meeting’s two days of celebration and conversation covered a lot of important ground. Meeting elements and key takeaways are summarized here:

Communities of Practice

Our communities of practice (CEO, CFO, COO/HR, Multifamily Developers, Property Operations/Resident Services, and Lenders/CDFIs) had dynamic peer exchanges in which they shared ideas and pain points. They discussed approaches to their work and threats the industry is facing – including how they are combatting dramatically rising operating costs, an unstable property and casualty insurance market, rising crime, and a challenging job market to acquire and retain talent.

Alongside challenges, many constructive responses were identified, including opportunities presented by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund; strategies to better structure and measure the performance of real estate development teams; engaging with residents to enhance stability; prevent evictions and encourage upward mobility; and working with community colleges to recruit staff. HPN’s partnership with Project Destined, open to all members, is another response aimed at encouraging new, diverse talent in the sector. One member powerfully summarized the communities of practice: “The roundtables always have value, sometimes in little snippets of wisdom, sometimes in big ways.”

Off-site Sessions in Chicago Neighborhoods

HPN members working in Chicago hosted six off-site tours and sessions that took peer exchange to the city streets. Participants noted that the off-sites provided opportunities for “seeing with our own eyes the work that’s been done,” and being introduced to “a wonderful example of how housing becomes the fabric of a community,” adding that “experiencing actual developments, hearing about the history of the organization and taking a journey to where it is today was enlightening.” The six sessions highlighted mixed income and mixed use community development in Woodlawn Park done by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and the Community Investment Corporation (CIC); efforts to preserve housing and prevent displacement in Humboldt Park by Hispanic Housing Development Corporation; partnership for community building in Homan Square between Mercy Housing and IFF; homeownership efforts in the South Side by the NHS of Chicago; a mixed use hub in the South Loop developed by The Community Builders; and a visit to see energy retrofits with Elevate Energy and CIC.

A tour of homeownership efforts in the South Side by HPN member NHS of Chicago
A visit to see green energy retrofits with Elevate Energy and HPN member Community Investment Corporation
Six different Communities of Practice met on conference day one

“The roundtables always have value, sometimes in little snippets of wisdom, sometimes in big ways.”

Cross-Cutting Sessions

Cross-cutting sessions created opportunities for members to share new ideas, including a focus on creative investment initiatives and wealth building efforts that support residents whether through small business owners, small landlords, or homeowners; ensuring staff and resident safety through community engagement, hiring additional security, and working more closely with police; and serving hard to serve populations more effectively by engaging with public officials to advocate for greater support for services and operating funds. Racial equity cut across multiple discussions and was the focus of in-depth conversation by members on how they are approaching diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at their organizations – and as a network – by coming together and signing on to HPN’s racial equity pledge, which creates benchmarks for tracking member progress across multiple dimensions.

Capital and Climate

The closing plenary on Friday morning centered on the opportunities presented by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). These unprecedented federal funds have enormous potential to amplify and accelerate the work that many members are already doing, ranging from the electrification and decarbonization of existing properties to green mortgage lending. Discussions focused on the importance of channeling capital and investments to ensure that communities members serve are not left behind. HPN’s CEO Robin Hughes emphasized, “If we are truly committed to climate justice, we need to be focused on the people on the ground.” This is a key effort HPN will continue to undertake on behalf of its members in the coming months.

“We are all in this together. We are a community of practitioners eager to support each other.”

To learn more about the Chicago meeting, take a look at the meeting agendas and feel free to reach out to any of the HPN facilitators to learn more about the communities of practice or other sessions of interest. We look forward to seeing you all again in virtual cross-cutting peer exchange sessions this fall (more to come), and we hope you will join us for our next member meeting in Atlanta from 11/29 - 12/1. Please reach out to our Membership and Peer Exchange team any time with questions or suggestions, including ideas for virtual peer exchange or our next meeting in Atlanta. Thank you, as always, for your commitment to HPN, and more importantly, for your work.

Margaret Scott


Margaret Scott is responsible for peer exchange among the Network’s membership. Prior to HPN, she spent 4+ years at Enterprise Community Partners, supporting program evaluation, technical assistance, and strategic planning efforts across the organization. Her previous experience includes consulting and research on affordable housing development in the U.S. and Latin America.

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