Affordable housing developers constantly face community groups that maintain the "not in my back yard" (NIMBY) philosophy – they oppose the development of affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

But, William Brisben, chairman and CEO of The Brisben Cos., sees this philosophy as one of the worst forms of discrimination – housing discrimination based on income and race. Brisben, who is known by some in the industry as "Attila the Hun" for his constant court battles to build low-income housing in properly zoned neighborhoods, will never walk away from a project.

William Brisben, Chairman and CEO The Brisben Cos.
William Brisben, Chairman and CEO The Brisben Cos.
William Brisben, Chairman and CEO The Brisben Cos. "The fair housing fight is always worth it and I won't walk away from NIMBYism," says Brisben. "Housing discrimination is not acceptable, it hasn't been acceptable since I've been in the business [30 years]. I've had battles that go back 20 some years where I have filed suit because of discrimination in housing. And unfortunately, right now I have suits going on because of discrimination in housing in three cities."

The Brisben Cos. has been involved in a handful of lawsuits over the past three decades and only has lost one. The company is in the process of deciding whether it should appeal that defeat. The company's victories have always been based on the fact that the [land] was zoned properly and the municipalities had no grounds to oppose development.

"Bill's familiarity with the entitlement processes and zoning laws, through the school of hard knocks, allows him to drill down into the organization when a problem arises," says Don Paxton, senior vice president and director of development at The Brisben Cos. "He is a quick study and is able to provide clear direction to navigate through the issues. We have been able to tackle some extreme circumstances involving NIMBYism and complicated development projects, which probably would not have turned out so well without his hands-on guidance."