Deborrah Willard, Co-Founder and President of Foundation for Affordable Housing (the “Foundation”), met the New Year with a new adventure: retirement.
While she will remain with the Foundation as President Emeritus in an advisory role, she is stepping back from its ‘day-to-day’ operations.
Deborrah began her career in affordable housing in the early 1990s working in the for-profit housing sector. Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (“LIHTC”) had been available for only a few years, and the industry and Deborrah learned the regulations and mastered the application process.
Deb was attracted to the industry because she knew that safe, affordable housing is fundamental to having a stable family. Her highest value has always been family, and she soon realized that she could be more effective by focusing on the nonprofit side of the industry. To this end, she and her husband Tom aspired to create a family-centered nonprofit company that would maximize the number of affordable homes, support the people who live in them, and create a healthy environment for Foundation employees.
The formula worked. Over the last 30 years, the Foundation has engaged in the creation of almost 30,000 affordable homes in 17 states. In 2018, Affordable Housing Finance Magazine named the Foundation number three in its “Top 50 Affordable Housing Developers”. Embrace, its CORE certified resident services provider, supports low-income families, seniors, and special-needs households with life changing programs, and encourages Foundation employees to have productive, family- centered lives. Supported employees do great work, and the Foundation’s success comes from the commitment and effort of its extraordinary staff.
Because Deb was a child of the 1950s, she met initial resistance as a woman in the business world. For this reason, she developed empathy for underrepresented minorities and determined early on that the Foundation would hire on merit and seek to be as inclusive as possible. In 2021, GlobeSt.com named Deborrah a “Class of 2021 Diversity Champion.” The award recognizes her work toward seeking progress and advancement for all women throughout the commercial real estate industry. According to Globe Street, Deborrah has “taken significant steps to support and stand up for her female colleagues through her efforts in pushing diversity initiatives forward. Deborrah was chosen for both instigating cultural change in the workplace as well as the industry as a whole.”
Deb adds, “Knowing that more than 60,000 people sleep under our roofs each night is by far the most rewarding part of our involvement in the affordable housing industry. Housing insecurity takes a terrible toll on individuals and families. Being able to alleviate this pressure in a meaningful way is the reward for our years of hard work and focus.”
Deborrah is excited about stepping back from operations, as she has complete faith in the Foundation’s leadership. They are a talented, committed, and remarkably experienced group of people. But, most importantly, they support the values on which the Foundation was built. Knowing that the Foundation is in good hands, frees Deb to join her husband Tom in retirement. She looks forward to exploring new, creative ventures, and spending precious time with the family she loves so much.