Executive Director, Worcester
Location: Worcester, Mass.
The mission of Worcester Community Housing Resources, Inc. (WCHR) is to help create and preserve affordable housing and to initiate and support neighborhood revitalization in the greater Worcester area.
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Worcester Community Housing Resources seeks a dynamic and experienced executive director that can take a vibrant nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization to the next level. Now in its 18th year, WCHR is positioned for growth in certain key areas. These are to increase its loan fund services; continue financially viable and timely housing acquisition, development and rehabilitation where most needed; to expand its technical assistance and property management services; and to expand into other areas of Worcester County.
Who We Are: A Snapshot of Success
WCHR is dedicated to revitalizing greater Worcester’s distressed neighborhoods. WCHR is a lender (a certified Community Development Finance Institution: CDFI) and financial intermediary between potential borrowers and lenders, providing financing and technical assistance to individuals and organizations in the greater Worcester area. WCHR also creates affordable housing and provides property management services. It works closely with the City of Worcester, banks and credit unions, religious organizations, foundations, educational institutions and other nonprofit organizations to support affordable housing and community development.
In recent years, a talented and mission-oriented staff and board of directors witnessed significant growth of the organization. This is evidenced by the addition of staff positions, an increasing yearly budget, new and innovative programs, stronger partnerships, the acquisition of new rental units and a stronger financial position. The organization’s visibility has grown both locally and across the state. WCHR recently opened Heywood Wakefield III Assisted Living Facility (Heywood Wakefield Commons) in Gardner.
This adds 78 units to WCHR’s existing rental portfolio as well as significant operating revenue. WCHR is also at the midpoint of the rehabilitation of 12-14 Lagrange Street, Worcester, which will add eight two-bedroom units. Its loan fund has grown to $4 million and their newest sub-fund, the Small Business Emergency Loan Fund, is poised to begin lending funds to deserving local businesses.
WCHR has enjoyed great success as the administrator of the Worcester Receivership Program and regularly provides receivership technical assistance to organizations and municipalities across the state at the request of Massachusetts Housing Partnership and the state Attorney General’s Office. WCHR has both a strong balance sheet and four straight years of profitable year-end revenue statements.
Looking Forward: Opportunities to realize WCHR’s potential
The executive director will be responsible for overseeing and directing the following ongoing and new initiatives and operations:
Community Loan Fund
WCHR is working to expand its home improvement lending to assist first-time homebuyers and long-time homeowners in improving their homes for themselves, their renters and the entire neighborhood. WCHR continues to take a lead role in assisting hundreds of lower-income families become first-time homebuyers and assists those homeowners who are facing foreclosure. WCHR also works cooperatively with the HomeOwnership Center of Worcester, which is equipping hundreds of new homeowners with the knowledge and tools they need to become financially stable homeowners and productive participants in our city’s neighborhoods.
The WCHR Community Loan Fund supports property development and improvement by homeowners and community development corporations. The Community Loan Fund consists of investments from concerned individuals and local organizations such as religious institutions, private foundations, investment companies and businesses. WCHR then lends these funds to individuals to improve their homes or avoid foreclosure and to organizations for community-based projects and affordable housing development.
Its lending has also helped nonprofits and private developers to develop more than 200 additional units of affordable housing. Its lending capacity has grown significantly to $4 million since the Loan Fund began in 1985.
Going forward –
- Assess and amend the parameters of the home improvement loan program in order to keep the CDBG loan capital on the balance sheet and available for future lending purposes.
- Continue to expand collaborative relationships in the WCHR third party administration of loan funds.
- Design a pilot innovative loan program with Conservation Services Group to provide financing to homeowners in need of heating system upgrades.
- Pursue application for grant capital to the Community Development Financial Institution Fund.
- WCHR has seen a decrease in the amount of cash on hand loan loss reserves in the last few years. It will be important to increase the amount of equity used for loan loss reserves in the next few years.
- The growth of lending capital should continue and be diversified with an eye to balancing the amount of loan capital available with the demand for new loans.
- Address the ever decreasing government assistance for home buying assistance, e.g. CDBG, etc.
- The development of the Small Business Emergency Loan Fund is a new and exciting opportunity that will raise the organization’s profile, capacity and investment capital.
- Strengthen the relationships with the new bank and credit union investors, and further investigate the opportunity for business lending.
- Increase the number of applicants to the WCHR Community Loan Fund, specifically those individuals needing home improvement financing, by allocating staff time towards educating those organizations in the community who have access to potential loan fund customers.
Affordable Housing Development and Rental Property Management
Since 1993, WCHR developed 142 units of affordable housing in Main South, Elm Park and Crown Hill neighborhoods of Worcester. This includes many properties that have long blighted these neighborhoods with drug, gang and other violent activity. These realities posed special challenges in acquisition, project funding, construction, and marketing. WCHR also produced difficult-to-develop single-room-occupancy (SRO) rooming houses, many projects using multiple and complex financing, and the first project-based independent housing subsidized for people living with AIDS.
WCHR continues to own and manage 87 subsidized and affordable apartments for families and individuals in addition to more than 20 condominium units. It maintains long waiting lists for both its SRO and family apartments as there continues to be a great demand for subsidized rental housing. WCHR partnered with a private developer on a $25 million project to convert a vacant Gardner mill into a 78-unit affordable assisted living facility. It recently opened.
WCHR was the first Worcester area nonprofit housing organization to develop affordable condominiums. These projects combine a high quality renovation with the construction of six new townhouses on what once was a trash-strewn vacant lot blighting the neighborhood. WCHR creates high quality homes under a combined city/state funding program that provides incentives and gives these buyers a real financial and physical stake in their neighborhoods.
Going forward –
- Implement a plan for marketing and rent up for the 12-14 Lagrange Street units and explore partnerships with existing social service referral agencies.
- Explore new acquisition/development opportunities, ideally in partnership with other agencies.
- Due to the foreclosure crisis there are a high number of foreclosed/abandoned/maintenance deferred rental units in need of strong ownership. Investigate the possible acquisition of such properties, continuing the partnership with other local agencies that serve and refer tenants.
- Ensure WCHR’s rental portfolio remains physically strong.
- Work with the city on its Receivership Program and the Attorney General’s office receivership opportunities.
- Oversee the early roll out of Heywood Wakefield Commons in Gardner, Mass., by maintaining very close working relationships and communication with its operators.
- Strategically plan for the use of the Heywood Wakefield Commons development fee.
Operations and Staffing
The office is located at 11 Pleasant Street, conveniently located in downtown Worcester. WCHR employs a staff of nine professionals (seven FT, two PT).
Going forward –
- Continue to build and align the internal operational supports, such as human resource management, important technology efficiencies and grants management, to match the size and continued growth of WCHR.
- Office space is at full capacity. Address expansion needs as future staffing levels are expected to increase. Assess feasibility of owning office space.
- Integrate and support new staff as they are hired into the well-functioning, highly motivated, and independent-spirited staff team. The current staffing levels are able to meet the programmatic demands of the organization, yet expected new programs, e.g. increase in the rental portfolio and initiating new development or receivership projects, will require additional staff.
The organization has long had an active, dedicated board of directors, which has been a result of careful planning and a strong executive committee system. The board currently seats 21 members.
Going forward –
In the next few years WCHR will be losing a number of long-serving directors due to term limits. It will be important for the executive director and nominating committee to ensure strong new candidates are nominated and current directors are put on a path for leadership positions on committees.
Partnerships and Community Relations
WCHR sees itself as a key housing partner with its funders, city policy makers and other nonprofits.
Going forward –
- Continue to maintain and strengthen existing relationships and partnerships to provide a full complement of services to housing clients and assure referrals to WCHR housing opportunities.
- Be vigilant in assuring connection to the community and its understanding of WCHR’s mission and services.
- Continue with the ‘rebranding’ of WCHR in conjunction with the board’s marketing committee.
- Establish new partnerships to fulfill WCHR’s mission and program effectiveness.
- Maintain the pipeline of interns from local universities.
The Ideal Candidate
The ideal candidate will have the following professional background and personal characteristics:
Professional background and experience
The new executive director of WCHR must be experienced in the affordable housing field and have leadership experience that demonstrates an ability to capitalize on opportunities to enhance and further the mission of the organization.
- At least five years of demonstrated leadership experience, including supervision of professional, administrative and financial staff
- An understanding of the unique community and political issues inherent in the complex housing field
- Familiarity with the field of affordable housing and with relevant federal and state housing programs, funding opportunities and their requirements (e.g., Fair Housing laws)
- Experience navigating through and managing the financial complexities of lending and large-scale development projects, including federal and state financing requirements, compliance and tax credits
- Financial acumen; demonstrated experience with stewardship of lending, development, property management and agency operations
- Demonstrated experience and success with private and public fund development and individual donor solicitation a plus
- Hands on management of organizational operations: human resources, technology, grants management, staff development, etc.
- B.A. required; advanced degree in a related field a plus
Personal characteristics and leadership attributes
The next executive director of WCHR will be a person with superb interpersonal skills and great personal integrity, who also possesses:
- Ability to work effectively and collaboratively with a wide range of people and organizations, including staff, residents, local and state political officials, and board members
- Strategic agility that leverages opportunities and optimizes innovation
- Excellent communication skills: writing, presentation, verbal, listening and inspiring
- An aspiration to build and leverage a strong team, leading by example
- Self-starter with a passion to work hard
- Ability to multitask and prioritize without compromising quality and agency objectives
Worcester Community Housing Resources is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates.
Competitive salary and a healthy benefits package, commensurate with experience.
This search is being conducted by Third Sector New England’s Executive Transitions Program with Transition Consultant Nancy Jackson. To apply, please submit application materials to WCHRsearch@tsne.org by November 11, 2011.
Please include a cover letter with salary requirements, where you learned of the position, and a description of how your qualifications and experiences match WCHR’s needs. Only electronic submissions will be considered.