The FWD #198 • 1,224 Words
For decades, Susan Dewey has been the de facto leader of the affordable housing industry in Virginia.
Come January, we will be without her guiding light. This Governor’s Housing Conference is an opportunity for us to thank her and spend time with her, celebrating her successes. In honor of that, we share some words from those who knew her well over the years.
Bill Shelton, former Director, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
Susan Dewey has led Virginia Housing for the past 25 years. Under her leadership, Virginia Housing has become a major force for affordable housing. While financial strength has always been a hallmark at Virginia Housing, Susan has continued to improve financial performance while increasing Virginia Housing’s focus on mission and impact.
When the Great Recession hit in 2007 many affordable housing organizations struggled to stay afloat and the bond market dried up. At Virginia Housing, Susan led efforts to maintain production for affordable homeownership by shifting to the securitization of mortgages. In addition, significant efforts were made to help existing homeowners stay in their homes through loan modifications and forbearance.
In recent years, Virginia Housing has become a leader in promoting regional approaches to housing, the production of mixed-use and mixed income communities and in the revitalization of public housing. Susan’s leadership has been recognized across the country.
But more than the awards and recognitions, Susan’s legacy will be the Virginia citizens who enjoy a far better life because of her dedication to public service.
Alice Tousignant, former Executive Director, Virginia Supportive Housing
I met Susan over 25 years ago when I was at Virginia Supportive Housing and working with advocates to try and convince VHDA to give grants to non-profits, rather than just loans, from their large reserves. It took years but eventually VHDA did and continues to provide grants to non-profits, thanks to Susan’s leadership.
Susan is not just a great leader but a lovely person and a friend. Over the years Susan and I would have lunch together from time to time to talk about our kids, families, and life in general. I looked forward to those lunches and our time together and wish her the best in her retirement.
Erik Johnston, former Director, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
Susan Dewey contributed so much over her career to affordable housing. She stands out as a public official who worked with Democratic and Republican Governors and in a way that maintained affordable housing as a nonpartisan issue. Susan was trusted and respected by the diversity of housing interest groups. She was accessible and present, whether it be at community meetings, ribbon cuttings, interagency policy meetings and in supporting her team. She was involved at the national level with her association in advancing national housing policy. Her level of dedication required long hours and personal sacrifices.
Susan developed an incredibly strong and dedicated team at Virginia Housing that is committed to the mission. That culture created a team that resulted in so many positive results for the Commonwealth. Her strong financial stewardship of VH leaves our state a lasting legacy of a self-supporting housing finance agency that generates revenue that is being reinvested into innovative affordable housing solutions through REACH. We have a fair and transparent tax credit process and productive single and multi-family lending options for people and developers (both private, nonprofit and public). Susan took the time to collaborate across the economic development and health and human resources state agencies. Often Virginia Housing was the host for those meetings at their facilities.
Susan worked very closely with DHCD and partnered on all housing issues with her sister agency. She led her team on responding boldly during the pandemic in partnership with DHCD on making Virginia a leader in rent relief. She later led mortgage relief efforts. She and her team created the stay home Virginia website in partnership with DHCD. Virginia Housing also provided a grant opportunity to help nonprofit housing organizations weather the pandemic.
Virginia Housing also contributed financially to thought leadership that advanced and is advancing affordable housing in Virginia. This included multiple research efforts (including the HB854 Housing Study). It also included grants and sponsorships of key stakeholders that has enhanced the capacity of all in the sector. Virginia Housing’s flexible grant programs that assist housing organizations with strategic planning, succession planning, innovation and more are a vital lifeline to housing nonprofits and you will not find a housing event without Virginia Housing as a key thought leader and sponsor.
Perhaps most importantly, Susan cares deeply about all of us in this field and the people we serve. Thousands of Virginians will go to sleep tonight and in the future in a safe and affordable home because of her legacy of partnering with her team and us all in this critical work.
Bob Adams, former Executive Director, HousingForward Virginia
Susan brought shifts to the way that VH supported nonprofit organizations and the targeted housing projects they developed. Through her leadership, VH began to support the growth and development of Virginia’s nonprofit providers with grants and technical assistance to build capacity. That was coupled with a significant expansion of grantmaking and low interest lending that made it possible to serve homeless populations and extremely low income Virginianians.
Susan oversaw VH’s efforts to explore new technologies and creative new approaches to building and development, including, manufactured housing, 3D printing, shipping container homes, solar and net zero housing to name a few.
Susan literally changed the face of Virginia Housing and made its staff look more like the population that it served with her commitment to diversity and inclusion. For all of her professional accomplishments, Susan matched that with a personal touch. She got to know many of us working in the nonprofit field and always had a question about family, kids, grandkids. When nonprofits got together to celebrate success or to mourn loss, Susan was there. If you called her, she called back. If she couldn’t provide the requested assistance, you always got an honest, straightforward answer. But more often than not, she would find a way to help.
Lisa R. Porter, Executive Director/CEO, Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority
It is difficult to summarize the impact and contributions made by Susan Dewey to housing in the Commonwealth because it has been so far reaching. Susan is a brilliant administrator who understands people, housing needs, and funding structures and is able to manage in such a way that she makes it look easy when nothing could be further from the truth. Virginia has been blessed to have her at the helm of its State Housing Finance Agency for all these years. We will miss you, Susan! You smashed the glass, and we are so very thankful for all you have done for housing in the Commonwealth. With all my admiration and love,
Nathalia Artus, SVP, Director of Community Development and Reinvestment at Atlantic Union Bank
Susan is one of the most impactful leaders in the commonwealth. Her almost 25 years in front of Virginia Housing have provided Virginians with opportunities to attain quality, affordable housing at all levels and stages of their lives. Susan and her team navigated so many changes and brought amazing innovation to the industry. She is a passionate individual, and Virginia was so incredibly lucky to have this strong leader.