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Staff Column: Creative Solutions to Housing Development

We asked our Loan Analyst Natalie Patterson to share a little bit about how she came to the world of affordable housing finance.  She is currently completing the National Development Council’s four-part Housing Development Finance Professional training, and below she discusses how it fits into a career journey that started her sophomore year of college.

During my years at Calvin College, my classes were centered around the idea that at some point I would be thrust into a world that was filled with injustice and need. Whether I was learning about environmental economics or GIS or business and accounting, there was a constant theme that the work I was doing in the classroom should one day be used to help the people outside of Calvin’s bubble. I didn’t really know what that meant when I received my degree in 2014, but I found out when I started volunteering with a nonprofit for people with disabilities in Durham, North Carolina. That experience led me to consider the fundamental challenge that disabled and low-income individuals have affording suitable housing.  This nonprofit found innovative ways to not just create units and provide residents with a physical place to lay their heads at night, but also address the subtler challenges of having a place that’s private, independent, accessible, and allows for friendships between people with and without disabilities to develop. Though I quickly came to believe that communities like the one in which I volunteered should exist everywhere, I realized just as rapidly that my Calvin-commissioned life goal of serving people in need was a complex task involving government intervention, community support, and, most notably, creative financing solutions.

Creating communities like the one in Durham requires commitment to service and creative solutions to bring the many pieces involved in housing development together. Thanks to a generous scholarship from the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND), I am learning the skills I need to help develop these solutions through the National Development Council’s four-part Housing Development Finance Professional trainings. I have completed two classes so far, and I am already beginning to understand the complexities and nuances in the field of housing finance. There’s not just one way to make numbers and incentives work for the bottom line. The decisions that are made at the “deal” level directly impact our residents’ experiences.

The NDC trainings are teaching me about more than just balancing a budget and making a pro forma – they’re approaching affordable housing finance with the same kind of creativity and passion that my time at Calvin and in Durham instilled in me. It’s an excitement for what’s possible combined with a willingness to be realistic and reassess when needed. I know it’s possible because I’ve seen how it can work in an incredible way, and I’m excited to be a part of the next wave of inspired, passionate, housing finance professionals ready and willing to take on tomorrow’s challenges.

6.25.2018