A 44-year-old woman with a diverse background in housing and finance will be named the third CEO in the 43-year history of CommonBond Communities, the Upper Midwest’s largest nonprofit housing developer and manager.
Deidre Schmidt, a Minneapolis homeowner who grew up in a mobile home and an apartment with her mother after her father died, succeeds the retiring Paul Fate, 64, who led the St. Paul-based enterprise that houses many lower-income elderly, immigrants and the working poor and their children.
Schmidt, one of four finalists for the job, plans to build on the last seven years under Fate.
CommonBond raised $30 million in private capital, refinanced and reinvested in its existing housing stock with the lower-interest savings, and nearly doubled its portfolio to about 5,500 affordable rental units in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa that is valued at more than $500 million. CommonBond also reserved $7 million for its Advantage Services, employees and volunteers who help with education, counseling and training, sometimes with partner agencies and schools, to help families advance economically.
“I’ve done formal studies of CommonBond through my other work, and even underwrote deals with them,” Schmidt said in an interview Friday. “They have invested in the business and mission and have the capital to move forward. The organization has never been stronger.’’
Years ago, government started pulling out of the public housing business to clear the way for nonprofits such as CommonBond and Project for Pride In Living (PPL), which rely somewhat on government rent subsidies of low-income tenants, but also on private-sector philanthropy, investments and partnerships, including tax credit incentives, to build, renovate and maintain affordable housing that increasingly is demanded thanks partly to a generation of stagnant wages for the working class.
Schmidt has held management positions with Brighton Development and Artspace of Minneapolis; the National Equity Fund, which helps nonprofit developers finance deals nationally, and the Affordable Housing Institute in Boston. A lecturer on housing and urbanization at Harvard University, Schmidt most recently has operated her own consultancy, One Roof Global Consulting.
“We will continue to be nimble and opportunistic,’’ she said. “The organization has to be able to serve more people and communities in a way that’s sustainable, responsive and respectful. The nonprofits have embraced some of the disciplines and approaches of the private sector to be more efficient. I also see corporations investing beyond grant giving to improve our communities, along with government. It’s a healthy evolution.”
Tom Jasper, a TCF Financial Corp. executive who is the chairman of the CommonBond board, said in a prepared statement: “Ms. Schmidt has a prolific career bringing together individuals, organizations and corporations to develop [affordable housing] solutions. She is the perfect choice at this unique time to steward CommonBond’s significant legacy of service.”
Fate was paid about $197,000 to run a business that, in the last fiscal year, approached $70 million in revenue and hundreds of employees.
CommonBond recently acquired and moved into a refurbished vacant commercial building on a three-acre campus in St. Paul, which replaces its former headquarters, for 75 people, in the basement of a former Catholic grade school.