How Rebuilding Together Is Tackling Affordable Housing
Caroline Blakely spent a corporate career working in affordable housing and multifamily projects as an attorney and finance expert. Now she’s taking a full-time, nonprofit leadership role that will benefit affordable housing more profoundly.
Caroline (above) was recently named president and CEO of Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit that helps low-income homeowners stay in their homes by helping with home repairs. Over 2.6 million low-income homeowners live in homes deemed physically inadequate, which means they're missing siding, have broken windows, holes in the foundation, sagging roofs or holes in the floor.
The DC-based national organization has a network of 150 affiliates that complete 10,000 rebuild projects per year with 100,000 volunteers. In 2014, the Rebuilding Together network did repairs for over 17,000 low-income residents.
Caroline, who was snapped during the organization’s event in San Francisco last weekend, says Rebuilding Together is expanding its strategy to help its local affiliates become more sustainable. The organization is partnering with local organizations with similar and complementary missions. “We hope to be more of a community revitalization partner,” Caroline told us in an interview last week.
For example, she says Rebuilding Together could partner with more financial literacy organizations to train people on how to manage their household expenses.
The organization, with a staff of 32, teaches low-income homeowners how to do their own repairs and maintain their homes. Rebuilding Together also focuses on seniors and giving them and their families the home repair skills to allow them to age in place. There’s also a focus on veterans, people with disabilities and families with children.
The ultimate goal is to preserve affordable housing, which has been shrinking around the country. The organization started as Christmas in April, an annual event where volunteers would fix up someone’s home.
Its national annual budget is $12M—from corporate sponsors and individual donors. Many of the corporate sponsors also use the Rebuilding Together mission to set up service days for their employees. The organization also partners with AmeriCorps, which provides volunteers for its Rebuilding Together affiliates.
Several events, such as Building A Healthy Neighborhood and Kickoff To Rebuild, also raise money for the organization and bring it some national attention. Kickoff To Rebuild, a partnership with the NFL, provided football players to help repair six homes and a community center in San Francisco during Super Bowl weekend. The organization also has another key event called National Rebuilding Month in April. Volunteers repair houses throughout the country.
Caroline most recently worked in real estate finance at Cassin and Cassin in NY and previously served as VP in Fannie Mae’s multifamily business. She also practiced real estate, banking and corporate law in the DC area. Caroline says she’d like to establish more partnerships with residential developers. “It’s an incredible mission to solve the problems that exist in society,” she adds. “If people have good shelter and homes, that’s a fundamental building block.”