Every quarter, TSAHC spotlights a staff member or partner to help our readers get to know our mission and industry a little better.
This week we interviewed Donna VanNess, President of Housing Channel, a non-profit that aims to revitalize distressed neighborhoods and increase the the amount of decent, affordable housing for famillies and individuals with low-to-moderate income and special housing needs. TSAHC is partnering with Housing Channel on the Riverside Homes project described below.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the affordable housing industry.
I started with Housing Channel (formerly Tarrant County Housing Partnership) in 1995 supporting the executive director in marketing and development roles, then moved on to private consulting for nonprofits. However, I continued to stay connected to the organization as an officer on the board of directors for over 8 years before then becoming the interim director for the agency, and then the president in 2007.
Tell us about Housing Channel and the work that you do there as President.
Housing Channel is unique in that it's a "one stop shop." We provide homebuyer counseling and financial education, administer down payment assistance program, and also develop affordable housing through new construction, acquisition and rehabilitation, and multifamily rental programs.
My role as president is to lead the agency to meet the needs of our community while responding to changing market demands. We have to be flexible and innovative and always put our clients first. My primary responsibilities are fundraising, program development, relationship building, and financial management.
Can you tell us more about the Riverside Homes project?
We are building 5 new single family homes with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, each with an average of 1,500 square feet. These homes will be sold to low to moderate income families whose income is at (or below) 80% Area Median Income. Housing Channel will also be providing up to $20,000 in down payment assistance and an average 12 hours of homebuyer training and pre-purchase education.
Which professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
This past summer, we completed a new subdivision in North Fort Worth with 21 new single family homes that were located across the street from a high school. The site had previously housed an abandoned nursing home with barbed wire fencing, graffiti, and trash, so it was incredibly satisfying to witness its transformation into a beautiful new neighborhood.
Also, I'm especially proud of our new mixed-use housing development project in East Arlington, which will include 47 new townhomes and commercial/retail frontage. The prices for land have risen so significantly in the last two years that we've initiated a new medium-density residential model in an effort to continue to generate quality, affordable housing opportunities for our clients.
Who is your professional role model, and why?
I have many role models, but what inspires me most are people who have overcome challenges and obstacles, and have still come out happy, compassionate towards others, and hopeful for the future.
Is there anything you wish people knew about the housing industry or about Housing Channel?
Housing Channel’s mission is to help people build wealth through homeownership. We create educated and empowered homeowners in order to lift up neighborhoods and strengthen communities. It is our goal to produce affordable housing for hundreds of low-to-moderate income families, to mobilize private sector capital, to create jobs, to generate millions of dollars in economic activity, and to be a force for positive change.
What is your favorite thing about the work that you do?
I love the ripple effect of helping people succeed in homeownership, and how it continues to improve the lives of their future generations. Each unit of homeownership, whether it’s new construction or redevelopment, affects not only the family we served, but the adjacent neighbors, surrounding neighborhood, and the broader community and city as whole. It's a concept that’s symbolized by the Housing Channel logo, which features the house in the middle surrounded by reverberating ripples that spread beyond the house itself.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
"You get what you settle for." I have a reputation for being somewhat tenacious and for not giving up until Housing Channel succeeds in getting what we set out to do! (Even if that success may look a little different from the original vision).
On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.