Up Close with Joy Horak-Brown
New Hope Housing CEO Joy Horak-Brown began part-time as the affordable housing developer’s first employee in 1996, when the Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral congregation downtown raised $1.25M in seed money to build 40 single-room occupancy (SRO) efficiency units. Almost 20 years later, New Hope Housing is approaching 1,000 units.
Joy was working in corporate management in the land department of an oil company when affordable housing came calling. She’d always wanted to contribute to a nonprofit mission, but intended to work in the Med Center or the arts; ballet is a particular love of hers. She had no affordable housing background, but felt drawn to the “clear practicality and humanity” of the SRO concept for people with extremely low incomes. (She’s hooked on real estate now; this weekend in Australia, she made sure to check out the Victorian beach boxes at Brighton Beach, some of the hottest real estate you can find.) Most New Hope residents earn about 30% of the median income. Joy says that investing in the properties up front and avoiding debt helps keep the operating costs and rents low for the people they serve.
New Hope will be shuttering its first property soon; it’s across from Minute Maid Park, and the Houston Astros approached New Hope to purchase the land. It was perfect timing: The community needed remodeling and Joy’s excited to build new instead. New Hope is developing NHH at Harrisburg in replacement. It’ll be much larger—175 SRO units—and the first mixed-use development on the light rail in EaDo. The community will also feature 4k SF for retail and 7k SF Class-A office for nonprofits, including New Hope’s HQ. Next summer, the org will break ground on NHH at Reed Road, New Hope’s first community for families. Joy’s also considering mixed-income development; she believes it will be viable as Houston densifies, and the concept interests her.
Joy says New Hope is primed for growth, citing an “infinite need for affordable housing” and an estimated 36% increase in rents since 2011. Joy also loves seeing her projects become catalysts. NHH at Rittenhouse in north Houston, the newest complete property, has won tons of awards, and right next door, a for-profit developer has built a new property based on its success. Joy is confident Harrisburg will also spur more activity in its community. Pictured, Joy with Flagship Properties' David Mincberg, City Council member/mayoral candidate Stephen Costello, City of Houston Housing & Community Development’s Neal Rackleff and Houston Housing Authority board chair Lance Gilliam at New Hope’s 20th anniversary celebration.
When she’s not working on the next New Hope development, Joy loves to travel. She’s in Australia for two weeks for Thanksgiving, visiting Melbourne and Sydney with her husband, Ron, an attorney and former banker and Naval aviator. He snapped this photo for us this weekend in Rowena Corner Store, in the hip Richmond section of Melbourne. Her favorite place so far is Rome, where she loves the energy, people, art and food. She hopes one day soon to see Machu Picchu in Peru.