Leadership Profile: Alison George
Friday, February 28, 2020
Posted by: Dora Grace
Each month we profile a member volunteer who has demonstrated outstanding support for Housing Colorado's mission, either by serving on a committee or contributing their time and energy in other ways.
||Alison George is the state director of housing serving the Colorado Division of Housing (DOH) in the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), where she directs all DOH programs, ranging from statewide housing voucher programs and manufactured housing code and mobile home park regulatory oversight, to Federal and State funding for constructing new affordable housing. Alison brings more than 25 years of experience in affordable housing finance and development. Before joining DOH, Alison served Mercy Housing Colorado as its Regional Vice President of Multifamily Housing and the Michaels Development Company as its Vice President of Development overseeing housing development in Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
How did you end up working in affordable housing?
I started working in affordable housing over 20 years ago. I quickly found my passion was affordable housing while working for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) in Washington, D.C. analyzing mortgage data. It was during this time that I began understanding the significant impacts redlining has had historically in our country. The opportunities we have throughout life shape our lives. We pass this down to our children and to other people we have around us.
When I left Washington, D.C. and moved to Kansas City, I earned my Master’s degree and not long after, began working for the Michaels Development Company, the largest owner of affordable housing in the country. At the time, Michaels was developing a mixed income housing development, including public housing, in the suburbs of the city. It was highly controversial, and Michaels needed a local representative to meet and negotiate with the community. That was me. I met every other week for three years with neighbors. Although the frequent meetings were not without challenge, I continued to work on the project and now property values of the surrounding area have appreciated and the once vacant commercial buildings are filled and thriving with successful businesses. I even had a community member in KC apologize for giving me a hard time once he realized the development was an asset to their neighborhood.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love what I do; Not only do I enjoy seeing people have new opportunities, I love problem solving. I enjoy trying to make things better. The more efficiently we do things, the more people have a chance. In other words, if our, or our partners’, efficiencies can create five more units – that is five more families with an affordable home. Five more families not stressed about their next rental or mortgage payment. This creates opportunities that have a positive ripple effect.
At the Colorado Division of Housing, we administer federal and state funds for everything from emergency shelter assistance to down payment assistance. Last year we served more than 38,000 households. My most memorable experience was assisting a management company move people into a supportive housing development for people faced with homelessness. I assisted several ladies that had been homeless from two to 10 years. I was humbled to hear their stories of perseverance and resilience, and their joy to have a safe home with the support they needed to stay stably housed.
How did you get involved with Housing Colorado?
I attended my first Housing Colorado conference about 15 years ago. It was at that conference I saw a panel on Supportive Housing for people faced with homelessness. It was that panel that made me think – what a good idea, and I can do that. From there, I was able to start the development of two supportive housing developments while working for Mercy Housing.
How do you currently serve Housing Colorado, and what do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I joined Housing Colorado’s board in 2018, and I serve on its education and membership committees.
What are some exciting progressions or projects currently going on in your work?
Wow. There is a lot going on, but it is needed. Colorado continues to grow and the affordable housing challenge is keeping pace. As we look to the future, two key priorities can have a positive ripple effect throughout Colorado’s housing market: 1. An immediate solution for lower-income households, and 2. Increase attainable homeownership that moves families from rental markets into homeownership. These priorities and corresponding solutions can only become reality through public/private partnerships, collaboration and leadership.
What website(s) do you find useful in your work?
I appreciate Housing Colorado’s legislative webpage that provides summaries of proposed bills and HC’s position. Beyond newspapers for current events, I rely heavily on several list serves that push out information on hot and new topics.
What project, program or undertaking are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of the dedicated staff at the Colorado Division of Housing and the work they do to meet the housing needs of Colorado’s communities. It is not about one project or one program. It is not just about rental housing or homeownership. The needs are too varied throughout the state, and each communities’ needs are unique in their own way. DOH staff are focused on serving Colorado’s most housing challenged and working with communities to achieve their affordable housing goals.
Who has been an instrumental mentor through your career so far, or who do you look up to?
Two mentors, Ava Goldman and Pat Coyle, were pivotal in my career. They were both my boss at different times. I worked for Ava at the Michaels Development Company. She was kind, incredibly tough and an expert at her job developing affordable housing. Pat was my mentor at the Colorado Division of Housing before he retired from State service. As a boss and mentor, he was funny, inspiring and absolutely driven to make a lasting impact in his work.