Every month, WHC is excited to spotlight a leader, stakeholder or resident and their answer to “Why WHC?” This month, we feature one of our Board members, Carol Thompson Cole.
As a Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) board member, Carol Thompson Cole is turning her experience and focus to an issue close to her heart-–preventing the displacement of long-time DC residents who are priced out of the homes and communities they love.
Carol has devoted her life to making the greater Washington region a better place for everyone. She has worked at the intersection of policy, politics, and philanthropy to address social and economic challenges around housing, health care, youth and families and community empowerment. Following a distinguished career in the highest levels of DC government and the corporate world, Carol has spent two decades leading Youth Invest Partners (formerly Venture Philanthropy Partners + Raise DC), a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. And she’s bringing the benefits of her experience, talent, and commitment to WHC.
“I experienced housing need firsthand when my family decided to leave Washington after my high school graduation, because we needed an affordable home for a family of eight,” says Carol. “My father told me that, after watching me graduate from DC public schools and head for a good college, he wanted to provide the same opportunity for his other kids.”
After her family’s move to Silver Spring, MD, and a successful college career, Carol returned to work on Capitol Hill for the House District Committee. One of her first jobs was at the Department of Housing and Community Development. Later, she became Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and then City Administrator.
When she began working with families at Youth Invest Partners, she says she saw her family’s journey replicated, as others left the city in search of affordable housing and economic opportunity.
“I remember my parents saying that once they got us through high school and college, they were moving back to Washington. But by then, the cost of housing had gone up so much, they couldn’t realize that dream,” Carol says. “I am the only one in my immediate family who has been able to live and work in DC. I understand wanting to stay in the hometown you love yet being priced out of the market.”
After learning of the Washington Housing Conservancy, Carol says she was intrigued by its model to fuse commercial real estate expertise with social impact strategies to build wealth, opportunity, and a sense of community.
“Although I’ve been involved in many projects over the years to improve the quality of neighborhoods and lower housing costs, they fell short. I wanted to be part of the Washington Housing Conservancy’s innovative plans. And five years later, I feel good about what we’ve accomplished,” she says.
What’s unique about WHC’s work, she says, is its focus on preservation, keeping market-rate buildings affordable, or, as exemplified by WHC’s first acquisition Crystal House, converting a market-rate building to affordable housing.
Another differentiator for WHC’s work, she says, is its approach to property management. At a WHC community, the property managers meet people where they are and connect them to amenities, services, and other residents, while also giving residents voice and agency in shaping the places they live. This inclusive property management is at the core of its social impact strategy.
“Because of WHC, residents in the buildings we acquired have been able to stay in the communities they didn’t want to leave. WHC has provided a proof point for real estate with social impact. We’re now a model for other parts of the Mid-Atlantic—and across the country.”
Preserving housing affordability and promoting economic mobility in the DC-region
The Washington Housing Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your investment helps us expand our work. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible. EIN 83-1866109
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