Bringing Hope and Optimism Amidst Challenges

At our Spring Member Meeting, over 220 members from across 68 member organizations came together with HPN staff, peers, and partners to learn and brainstorm in the city of Seattle. Against the backdrop of a high-growth, high-cost city, members grappled with shared challenges – increasing housing costs, housing scarcity, growing homelessness – and the most promising solutions, among them climate-ready development, creative public-private partnership and financing, and effective community collaboration. Christopher Persons, CEO of Community Roots Housing, welcomed members to the “emerald city”, declaring:

“This room gives me hope. Together we are going to find the solutions to housing in this country.”

Deidre Schmidt, HPN Board Chair and CEO of CommonBond, formally opened the 60th member meeting by welcoming new Board members and member organizations, all of whom embody “the great diversity of geography, individual experience, and housing type” of the network. Deidre reflected on how this richness of diversity is multiplied when the network comes together in person to connect over shared experiences. One member echoed this sentiment, noting: “I felt supported talking to professionals with the same passion and weight to carry.”

HPN CEO Robin Hughes underscored the many HPN milestones already achieved in 2024, with highlights such as affordable housing emerging as “a major winner” of the recent Environmental Protection Agency funding through the National Clean Investment Fund, and the launch of a new 100% loan-to-value mortgage product, Inspire100, through the work of HPN members’ Equitable Homeownership Collaborative. Robin also recognized the retirement of longtime HPN leaders: Julie Gugin of the Minnesota Homeownership Center, Larry Swanson of ACTION Housing, and Lisa Alberghini of HPN.

CommonBond CEO and HPN Board Chair Deidre Schmidt welcomes HPN members to Seattle
Thought-provoking remarks from Gregg Colburn during our opening plenary and a lively discussion with HPN Member CEOs
Members enjoy thought-provoking remarks from Gregg Colburn during our opening plenary and a lively discussion with HPN Member CEOs
Members pose questions to Gregg Colburn during our opening plenary and a lively discussion with HPN Member CEOs
Gregg Colburn in conversation with HPN Member CEOs

The meeting's open plenary featured thought-provoking remarks from Gregg Colburn, an associate professor at the University of Washington and co-author of the book, Homelessness is a Housing Problem: How Structural Factors Explain U.S. Patterns. Colburn’s work disproves the conventional beliefs about the drivers of homelessness – including mental illness, drug use and poverty – and finds that none explain why homelessness is more prevalent in some cities or regions, Seattle among them, than others. Rather, his research engages thoughtfully with the realities of housing market conditions, and the challenges of the cost and availability of rental housing as a main driver of homelessness in cities across the country.

Professor Colburn was joined in a lively discussion led by Robin Hughes along with HPN members Susan Boyd (Chief Executive Officer at Bellwether Housing), Rebecca Louie (President & CEO at Wakeland Housing & Development Corporation) and Kevin Nowak (President and Chief Executive Officer at CHN Housing Partners). The three HPN CEOs and Colburn reflected on the harsh realities and opportunities presented by a national homelessness crisis.

Colburn noted the importance of understanding the interconnectedness of housing and homelessness:

"We often segregate housing and homelessness, but they are absolutely linked. If we don’t think about them as a singular concept, we aren’t going to fix this problem."

The discussion emphasized the need for more permissive zoning to build housing at higher densities where required, public funding and investment that is commensurate with the scale of the challenge, and broader recognition of the structural challenges that perpetuate housing instability and homelessness.

Learn about the meeting’s many sessions below.

Communities of Practice

In Seattle, HPN’s signature communities of practice brought together colleagues in similar roles to share obstacles and best practices. CEOs, CFOs, COOs and HR, Multifamily Developers, Property Operations + Resident Services, and Lenders + CDFIs all joined with their communities to discuss strategies and emerging successes.

In addition to meeting virtually throughout the year, the chance to engage in-person among colleagues is a critical feature of HPN meetings and one that members repeatedly share that they appreciate:

“There is a lot going on in our industry. It felt like the best leaders were there to discuss.”

Off-Site Sessions

Seattle Members and local partners hosted HPN members for six different off-site sessions across the city, as well as a walking and transit tour with the transit-oriented development team from Sound Transit.

Off-sites highlighted partnerships between HPN members Mercy Housing Northwest and Bellwether at Cedar Crossing, a transit oriented development just steps for a newly opened light rail station; adaptive reuse and community partnerships at Mercy Housing’s Magnuson Place, a historic naval housing redevelopment; environmentally sound design and a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ seniors at Pride Place, owned and operated by Community Roots Housing; a joint development between Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing for an affordable high-rise known as The Rise on Madison/Blake House, featuring workforce and permanent supportive housing units; public housing and neighborhood redevelopment at Yesler Terrace, with Seattle Housing Authority, the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, and Community Roots Housing; and a window into affordable homeownership opportunities and strategies to close the Black homeownership gap with HomeSight in South Seattle.

Members enjoyed the chance to get out into the city – especially given a beautiful few days – and experience development firsthand, highlighting that the sessions were “very informative, with multiple dimensions of learning” and offered a range of successes and challenges: “I appreciated hearing about the challenges experienced – very impressive work.

Concurrent Sessions

Cross-cutting sessions marked the final day of the meeting, covering creative land disposition approaches, strategies for state and local affordable housing advocacy, climate funding, and more.

Members noted that these topical sessions “provided insight into the struggles of other organizations and communities and how they have navigated changes,” and emphasized the reality that:

“The challenges we are experiencing at our organization are not unique to us and there are opportunities to work via HPN to find solutions.”

HPN members came together for dynamic peer exchange
With over 20 sessions to choose from over two days
More than 220 attendees joined, with 68 member organizations represented
Members enjoyed a reception and dinner at the Seattle Art Museum
Thank you to IMA Financial Group's sponsorship of our Thursday night dinner program and celebration of the Housing Partnership Insurance Exchange (HPIEx)'s 20th anniversary
Informal peer exchange brought members together at meals
Members enjoyed a visit to Community Roots Housing’s Pride Place
Members met with local affordable homeownership leader, HomeSight
A beautiful few days made for great off-site sessions and a TOD tour across Seattle

Thank you to our lead sponsor, Wells Fargo, and partners, IMA Financial Group, Inc., AAFCPAs, and Smith NMTC Associates, LLC, for their support of our member meeting. And, to our members Bellwether Housing, BRIDGE Housing Corporation, Community Roots Housing, and Mercy Housing Northwest, for hosting us.

To learn more about the Seattle 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 summer and fall, and we hope you will join us for our Fall Member Meeting in Austin, TX (12/04 – 12/06).

Please reach out to our  Membership and Peer Exchange team with questions or suggestions, including ideas for virtual peer exchange or our next member meeting. You can also check out other upcoming Member Events. 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.

Related stories