From a podium placed between the massive marble pillars at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Bart Harvey, the National Housing Conference's 2008 Housing Person of the Year, called the affordable housing industry to action.
"We as an industry need to take an act of faith," said Harvey, former chairman and CEO of Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners, who accepted the Person of the Year award at a gala on June 5. "These [changes] are all possible. I now believe what [Enterprise founder] Jim Rouse said: 'What ought to be can be, with the will to make it so.'"
Harvey offered four affirmations for the future of affordable housing. First, he said, the affordable housing industry must address the environmental challenges of the world. "Environmental initiatives make economic sense; it is the wave of the future," he said.
Second, Harvey asserted that the nonprofit and for-profit building community must find a way to come together and establish inclusionary zoning ordinances that work. Third, HUD must take more initiative to establish successful public/private partnerships. "The moral hazard is not to act when you can do so prudently and responsibly to help families in need," Harvey said.
Finally, he called upon the 600-plus member audience, which included some of the housing industry's leading authorities, to contribute significant resources to the cause of affordable housing in the United States. "This can be done even in a time of fiscal distress," Harvey asserted.
Earlier in the evening, several individuals offered tributes to Harvey and his work at Enterprise. "[His] is a legacy that is almost unmatched in nonprofits," said Hollis McLoughlin, senior vice president for external affairs at Freddie Mac. "Bart truly knows how to make a business case for affordable housing and services."
The energy of the evening was echoed by attendees, many of whom said Harvey's leadership in affordable housing is unparalleled. J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Trammell Crow Residential, compared Harvey's passion for housing to the inspirational life of former President Jimmy Carter. In fact, due to Harvey's influence, Enterprise is one of Terwilliger's largest personal charities.
Others agreed. "When you are with Bart, you know he's only talking to you," said Jonathan Rose, president of New York City-based Jonathan Rose Cos., who has known Harvey since the 1980s. "I salute the balance of wisdom and selflessness that you find in Bart."
The gala helped raise more than $650,000 for NHC's work -- it was the highest fundraising gala the organization has held to date.
Patty Rouse, the widow of Enterprise founder Jim Rouse, was also in attendance to introduce Harvey's successor as Enterprise's chairman and CEO, Doris W. Koo, who was formerly the CEO of Asian Americans for Equality, the largest nonprofit owner and developer of low-income housing in New York City. Rouse also announced the formation of the company's first annual Bart Harvey Fellowship Award.