You may know Blanca Ramirez as the Co-Chair of Women in Housing and Finance of Pennsylvania (WHF-PA), but do you know her path in the industry and to WHF-PA? We caught up with her and explored these topics.
Industry Career Path
Blanca, a New York native, was a history major and, until her senior year, a pre-med student, at Binghamton University. Following graduation, she participated in the AmeriCorps VISTA program in New Bedford, Massachusetts where she created a community service program within the career center at UMASS Dartmouth.
Believing her passion and future career lay in policy work, particularly social welfare issues, Blanca obtained a MBA in Management and Public Policy from The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. While at Brandeis, Blanca had a professor who also served as the President/CEO of a nonprofit in Boston. Through this connection, she began her career with what is now Hearth, Inc. (formerly Committee to End Elder Homelessness). She originally managed the operations of two buildings before taking over administration and processes for a portfolio covering 5-6 different buildings and creating centralized tenant placement.
Blanca’s next step was as Director of Member Services at Supportive Housing Network of New York. In this position, she was introduced to broader housing issues and the array of professionals working in this industry in New York state. Blanca moved into a primarily development role when she started the development office for supportive (homeless) housing as Director of Supportive Housing at Lower Eastside Service Center. There, Blanca developed housing, managed staff and learned the inner workings of a nonprofit.
During her journey, Blanca began to rethink her emphasis on policy. While she was passionate about the policy issues, the slow progress of change led her to make a move. She served as a Senior Program Officer – Loan Officer for The Corporation for Supportive Housing where she worked on predevelopment acquisition and financing. In this role, she learned how financing can help policy makers and advocates obtain resources to do more. This also offered the opportunity to work nationally, experience jurisdictional differences as well as see a variety of projects and approaches. Blanca shared that she loved working with developers and their partners and thinking through projects, strategies and challenges.
When Hudson Housing Capital approached Blanca, she had not been looking to make a move – particularly to the for profit side of the industry. Hudson reached out to her based on her experience around supportive housing. Blanca took the new position for the opportunity, knowing that the role was to be figured out collaboratively, and it has been a great fit. Blanca now has the opportunity to work on the bigger picture with more properties under the affordable housing umbrella keeping in mind both the mission and the best interest of Hudson.
Thus, Blanca slowly expanded from the idea of helping one individual at a time in her days as a pre-med college student to impacting many people at once – with the projects in which Hudson is involved and the organizations, like WHF-PA, in which she is involved.
So, how did WHF-PA fit in to Blanca’s journey, particularly given her location in New York City? It started there. Blanca was a member of Women in Housing and Finance in New York and found it to be a great network that made comfortable conversations possible and connected her with others beyond the financial segment of the industry.
When Hudson assigned Blanca to cover the Pennsylvania market, a former colleague tipped Blanca off that she had heard a group of women were planning to get together during the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania’s Homes within Reach Conference to discuss starting Women in Housing and Finance in Pennsylvania. Blanca attended that meeting and met other founding members of WHF-PA. They planned their first networking event. Subsequently, the President of Women in Housing and Finance in New York spoke with the WHF-PA founders that led to the current structure with officers, bylaws and discussions with the Housing Alliance.
Blanca credits WHF-PA for providing a role and space for her in Pennsylvania. She is also thankful for the introductions and connections it has afforded her as well as the comradery of its members who understand the challenges and barriers one sometimes faces as the only woman in the room.
As Blanca steps down at the end of the year as Co-Chair of WHF-PA, we are all grateful for her role in the creation of WHF-PA and her ongoing efforts to support the organization and its members so that we all have that opportunity to connect.