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Pop Quiz with Priya Jayachandran

Last month, Affordable Housing Finance Magazine featured me in its “Pop Quiz” Q&A series. In case you missed it, here it is!

What was your path into affordable housing?
I had a background in finance, an interest and degree in public policy, and a passion for architecture and buildings. Together, they lead naturally to affordable housing. My finance experience made banking a natural entry point, and I started my affordable housing career at Citi.

What was a pivotal moment in your career?
Going to work at HUD broadened my horizons. I learned about the owner side of housing finance, and I fell in love with policy. I also learned how to be a better manager.

Share an interesting housing fact or statistic:
The population of Los Angeles County is roughly 10 million people. I’ve read that current zoning would only support around 4 million. There are too many local barriers to building supply.

What changes will you bring to NHT? 
One of the things that attracted me to NHT is how high functioning it is. It doesn’t need a lot of change. I look forward to learning from our team and building on their success.

What are your priorities for the year? 
I look forward to getting to know my new colleagues and learning about the organization they’ve built. Once I take time to do that, I hope to map out some places that I can add value to the organization based on my strengths and experience, and based also on where there is the greatest need. One of the neat things about NHT is how nimble and entrepreneurial it is. NHT has initiatives on high-opportunity neighborhoods, renewable energy, preservation, energy efficiency, community land trusts, and more. It’s fun to think about being an innovation lab and what else we can try.

What housing trend bears watching? 
I’m intrigued by modular construction and by micro units. Either or even together they have the ability to significantly reduce costs per unit and modernize housing.

What’s one housing policy that you would change and why? 
I would love to improve the voucher process so that more owners would accept vouchers, particularly in neighborhoods of opportunity.

What do you do better now than a year ago?
I’ve become a better knitter. I also look at my cell phone less.

Best advice that you’ve received: 
Pay it forward. I am lucky enough to have a number of mentors and sponsors in my life and career. I try to return the favor.

Hidden talents:
I box three mornings a week. I have a pretty good punch.

Favorite fictional character and why:
Lee in East of Eden. Lee is a wise man, and he utters my favorite phrase of all time: timshel. Translated “thou mayest”, timshel refers to our ability to control our destiny through the choices we make. I have three kids, including two teenagers, so we talk a lot about making good choices.

Last book you read: 
I just finished The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck. I’m going through a bit of a Steinbeck phase. John Steinbeck is the most famous graduate of my high school and a local celebrity of Salinas, Calif., where I grew up. The Winter of Our Discontent is very insightful but dark.

Favorite spot in D.C.: 
I love the glass atrium in the Portrait Gallery. Great place to people watch, read, or meet people. I also like the back patio of the Hotel Monaco, across the street. 


*Please note this piece originally appeared in Affordable Housing Finance Magazine*