Affordable Housing Banquet

Last night I had the good fortune to attend the 44th Annual CHAPA (Citizens Housing and Planning Association) Dinner at Boston’s Convention Center. There were over 1000 bankers, housing developers, designers, advocates, and affordable housing managers and owners. Above is the Board of Castle Square where I’m working to help them engage with sustainability, as part of their $50M deep energy retrofit project. I work with Cherry, in the center, and Deborah, in pink (the Executive Director).  Wei is the fella on the right, he lives there, participated in the youth programming there and is now on the board, and the gals are all cantonese-speakers, all very committed to Castle Square and its legacy as an independent affordable housing complex and pathmaker in regards to public-private financing, collective owner-occupier control, and now energy efficiency and sustainability. The community is located a couple blocks from Boston’s Chinatown and is 75% asian, 1/3 under 18.

Every year CHAPA hosts a modest gala fundraiser (no open bar, nothing fancy really) to gather the luminaries of the public housing sector together and honor those who have really contributed to housing. I must say I had one of the most delicious little roasted mushrooms of my life, and some fun conversations with my table mates about tsunami debris and the best kinds of tea.  As a fundraiser, it probably pulled in a fair chunk of change – a thousand banker types at $100/seat. All for a good cause of course!  This year’s recipients of a Community Service Award included Tina Brooks, James Wilde, and Mayor Tom Menino. Here he is taking the stage:

I enjoyed his speech and tweeted a few of his remarks. He has a rare charisma of not coming off as too political sounding even though he manages to tip his hat to every possible constituency.  He even referenced the Occupy Movement and the need for major changes in this country to improve the lives of “regular folks” as he put it. Massachusetts State Senate President Therese Murray was the keynote speaker. I found her remarks very well researched and informative – take a look to get an update on the state of affordable housing in Massachusetts. You know I love every reference to “40B” I can find!

Bonus of the evening! Lauren Baumann, VP of New Ecology – an affordable housing consultancy in Boston – found me in the midst of the huge crowd. We are both Environmental Leadership Program Fellows. Please notice the sticker on her nametag and the pin on my right side. Yes, we are ELP geeks who carry around our ELP Pride Schwag wherever we go. Actually, we had just been together at an ELP Conference ten days ago so maybe it’s not so odd to have a pin in a pocket somewhere. Yay ELP Fellows! I’m looking forward to working with Lauren to figure out how to enhance sustainability for communities in affordable housing. Thanks Lauren!

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