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Affordable housing director to leave CPAH

Sheila Greenlaw-Fink to take reins at Community Housing Fund next month

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Sheila Greenlaw Fink has been the executive director of Community Partners for Affordable Housing for 20 years. She's leaving next month after taking a new job in Beaverton.Sheila Greenlaw-Fink, the woman behind Community Partners for Affordable Housing for the past two decades, announced this week that she would be stepping down as executive director.

Instead, Greenlaw-Fink is taking a position as the new head of the Community Housing Fund, a Beaverton-based organization that raises money for apartments for low-income families.

Since 1995, CPAH has been building apartment complexes for low-income individuals and families in Tigard, Beaverton and Southwest Portland, and Greenlaw-Fink served as its head for nearly its entire run.

“When you think about CPAH, you think about Sheila,” said Tracy Stepp, the group’s fundraising and outreach manager. “She is so humble, she doesn’t truly appreciate how important she is. There are many dedicated people here, but she’s the face of CPAH.”

Greenlaw-Fink said she was drawn to the Housing Fund because of its county-wide reach.

“It allows me to do what I love doing, but on a slightly broader basis,” she said Monday. “I can help grow resourses county-wide and still work with the likes of CPAH.”

Community Housing Fund doesn’t get as much attention for its work as CPAH, but the organization supplies much-needed funds in the early phases of construction projects, Greenlaw-Fink said.

“They fill the niches that private lenders won’t fill,” Greenlaw-Fink said. “In the early stages when there is not yet a full amount of information, lenders aren’t ready to underwrite a project, but they are set up to help CPAH and others get project started. It’s risk capital.”

The Fund has issued about $3 million in loans and grants to support two dozen affordable housing projects across Washington County since its formation 11 years ago.

“It’s seed money to get things started,” she said. “It gets the process started when we need someone to take that upfront risk.”

Greenlaw-Fink replaces CHR executive director Ramsay Weit, a Portland attorney who became the organization’s first executive director when it was founded in 2004.

Hired in 1995 to lead the then-fledgling Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Greenlaw-Fink helped bring the company from its earliest beginnings to one of the most respected affordable housing developers in Washington County, with just under $40 million in assets, according to the organization.

“In the beginning, I was the only staff person,” Greenlaw-Fink said.

Stepp said that Greenlaw-Fink’s leadership at CPAH changed the fabric of the community.

“Before CPAH, Greenburg Oaks was a very run-down property, and through her relationships that she helped build, the city asked us to take it over and that’s how we got our first property,” Stepp said. “Her vision, her dedication, her tenacity and compassion really made CPAH what it is.”

That tenacity has paid off in more ways than one, said Shannon Wilson, CPAH’s director of operations.

“She’s relentless and optimistic,” said Shannon Wilson, CPAH’s director of operations. “We started to build The Knoll right before the recession hit, and the board thought ‘Maybe this is not a great time.’ But she saw the possibility and had a vision and pushed, and it was successful.”

Although Greenlaw-Fink is leaving CPAH, she isn’t going far. The two organizations work closely together, she said, to finance housing projects in the Tigard and Beaverton areas.

“My heart is with making sure that there are resources for folks in Washington County that have been closed out of the private market,” she said. “The way to do that is on a broader level and grow the base so that groups like CPAH can access what they need.”

CPAH has been preparing for a change in leadership since 2013, Stepp said, and the transition is expected to be smooth.

CPAH is currently constructing The Barcelona at Beaverton, a four-story, 47-unit apartment complex on Southwest Lombard Ave. Construction is expected to wrap up this fall, and CPAH is already hard at work planning another new low-income housing project, this time in the Tigard Triangle, which should break ground in 2016 or 2017.

“We’re trying to be a catalyst,” Greenlaw-Fink said. The city of Tigard is planning to re-develop the area between Pacific Highway, Highway 217 and Interstate 5 in coming years.

“It can be challenging to be on the front end of that development,” Greenlaw-Fink said. “The amenities aren’t as great to start out with, but between the Southwest Corridor and other projects in the area, it has potential to really offer a lot.”

Stepp said Greenlaw-Fink knows more about affordable housing than anyone in Washington County, and said she couldn't think of a better person to take over at CHF.

“Working with her every day, it makes you a better person,” Stepp said. “It makes you more dedicated and passionate. She’s a little spark, and we know she’ll continue to be a passionate, passionate advocate for affordable housing.”

A new CPAH director is expected to be named by late fall.

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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