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A Dynamic Leader | Ivory Mathews
Ivory N. Mathews is a dynamic leader and motivator, offering over 20 years’ comprehensive expertise in rebranding organizations through transformational and thought-centered approaches to leadership. Ivory exemplifies a “mentor” leadership approach, providing thorough ongoing guidance, training, and feedback. She has been building capable, motivated, inspired, and highly productive teams with a razor-sharp focus on delivering high-impact results. These creative solutions consistently execute organizational goals and objectives on time and within budget.
It is pertinent to mention that Ivory is a fiscally responsible administrator with experience administering housing, workforce, and community development programs within quasi-governmental organizations and not-for-profit entities with annual operating budgets above $50 million. She has a proven track record of increasing revenues and growing the bottom line while spearheading operational improvements to derive productivity and reduce costs. The steadfast leader is committed to affordable housing advocacy, creating equitable communities, quality work performance, and exceptional customer satisfaction.
“Implicit bias is the most significant barrier that I’ve faced in my career. From corporate boardrooms to Congress, men are far more likely than women to rise to the highest paying and most prestigious leadership roles,” explains Ivory. “The affordable housing industry has long been led by men so it is easy for women to be unconscionably overlooked when a potential opportunity for a leadership role presents itself.” Fortunately, over the last few years, many organizations in the affordable housing industry are integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion training to address the implicit biases that are unintentionally harboured against women in leadership roles.
Touching upon the topic of being confronted with gender-related roadblocks in her career, Ivory explains that women are systematically placed on an uneven playing field in her profession, which is a male-dominated profession. Women and young girls are often taught to be “seen and not heard.” “I have learned to own my space, speak confidently, ask for what I want and always enter the room being my authentic self and knowing that I bring a lot to the table,” she says. “I encourage women in my circle to find their purpose and own it fiercely. Use their voice. Don’t be afraid to be heard. Their voice gives them certainty, transparency and, above all else, it gets them a seat at the table.”
Ivory’s mother, unquestionably, is the most significant influence in her life. She has and continues to make the most impact on the person that Ivory has become today, constantly supporting and influencing her in the most positive ways. “Though my mom came from humble beginnings – she instilled in me the richness of the rewards you reap from putting in the work.”
Ivory’s commitment to her work has garnered leadership roles in the following professional housing organizations such as the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO); Southeastern Regional Council of the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials (SERC-NAHRO) and the Carolinas Council of Housing, Redevelopment and Codes Officials (CCHRCO).
“As CEO of Columbia Housing, President-Elect for CCHRCO, member of the SERC-NAHRO Legislative Committee, and as one of NAHRO’s Congressional Contacts — I rallied my colleagues and housing partners in assisting NAHRO with exceeding its 12,501 August Advocacy letter submission goal by submitting over 43,000 letters. The voice of affordable housing advocacy is immeasurable,” shares Ivory. “These efforts resulted in the House Committee on Financial Services proposing historic housing infrastructure legislation on September 9, including over $300 billion in investments in housing.”
Providing Affordable Housing
Ivory has led the organizations she’s involved with to new heights. She also understands the public housing industry is changing. Her unique ideology and understanding of the transformation and challenges to the industry’s governing boards/ commissions and executive leadership, has allowed her to adapt with the speed and agility required to effectively manage the complexities of current day public housing authorities. Ivory has transformed small, medium and large public housing agencies while advocating for affordable housing on the local, state and national level.
In August of 2014, Ivory became the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Greenville Housing in Greenville, SC, (GHA) a medium sized housing agency with less than sufficient reserves and a housing portfolio in significant need of recapitalization. Through her leadership, she stabilized operations through completing a comprehensive operational needs assessment and implementing a reorganization plan while simultaneously meeting and exceeding all programmatic and strategic goals established by HUD and GHA’s Board of Commissioners. Accomplishment of these changes were reflected in the organization receiving HUD’s High Performer designations in both its Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs; producing a clean financial audit for four fiscal years of her tenure; completing the financial closing on two (2) 4% multi-family tax exempt bond deals for renovation and new construction of 316 units; acquiring the general partnership interest in three 9% LIHTC deals; receiving a Rental Assistance Demonstration portfolio award and successfully converting 5 of the 7 public housing communities; and building two (2) new construction 9% LIHTC developments totaling 115 units. Ivory transitioned GHA’s entire housing portfolio out of the public housing program and into RAD and LIHTC properties. Today Greenville Housing Authority is in a phenomenal position, holding $6 Million in unrestricted cash reserves and a 4,000 unit housing portfolio that has been completely renovated to today’s standards.
Also in Ivory’s role as CEO of GHA, she was instrumental in leading her colleagues in a 2 year legislative advocacy effort, urging South Carolina’s Congressional delegation in a bi-partisan effort to pass H.4675 Property Tax Exemption for Property Devoted to Affordable Housing. H.4675 amended SC’s property tax exemption law to cover affordable housing partnerships and incentivize private developers and investors to partner with South Carolina Public Housing Authorities and non-profit affordable housing corporations to build and rehabilitate affordable housing.
In December of 2012, during Ivory’s tenure as Deputy Executive Director of the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority in Toledo, Ohio, a large sized housing authority, she led the team in becoming one of 2 housing authorities in the state of Ohio to be awarded HUD’s new Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD), for the rehabilitation of a 134 unit affordable housing community for seniors (Parqwood Apartments).
In April of 2003, Ivory joined the staff of the Aiken Housing Authority, a small sized housing authority. In 2004, she led Aiken Housing Authority in securing a USDOL Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Program Grant. Aiken Housing Authority was the only housing authority in the state of SC to be a grant recipient of the USDOL WIA Program, providing Career Counseling and financial resources to over 430 Adults, Dislocated Workers and Youth assisting them in obtaining General Equivalency Diplomas (GED’s), High School Diplomas, Short-term Prevocational Training, Basic Skills Training, Occupational Skills Training, Work Experience, On-the-Job Training and Employment. Aiken Housing Authority became a small innovative housing authority operating in the realm of HUD’s Moving-to-Work, ROSS and FSS Programs, without having access to HUD funds or regulatory designations.
In April of 1934, the Housing Authority of the City of Columbia, SC (“known today as Columbia Housing) was established following state and federal law. Columbia Housing operates a wide variety of programs designed to provide affordable housing solutions to the City of Columbia and Richland County residents and promote community and economic development.
Columbia Housing is a committed partner in the community’s effort to revitalize neighborhoods, foster economic development and provide quality, affordable housing. Although affordable housing is its primary mission, Columbia Housing knows that housing cannot function in an environment that is not viable, nor can those they serve reach their full potential if the community’s economic condition does not continue to improve.
Columbia Housing increases access to quality affordable housing by providing over 6,500 families with rental assistance through its Housing Choice Voucher, veterans housing assistance, and public housing programs.
Today Columbia Housing is reimagining the affordable housing landscape to improve the quality of life for its families beyond bricks and mortar. Its efforts were launched under an initiative titled, The Power of Partnerships, We Are Better Together. Over 200 value-aligned partnerships in the areas of economic stability, education, healthcare, social connection, food access, homeownership programs and civic responsibility are engaging families in quality of life services like never before.
Already Ivory is seeing the benefit of those efforts. Civic responsibility is up as evidenced by a 25% increase in voter participation in recent elections. Community volunteerism among residents remains steady as many more step up to help the homeless and hungry during the COVID 19 pandemic. In the last 24 months, 14 families have realized their dream of homeownership. Our communities are better when we all do our part to sustain them.
In January 2019, Columbia Housing suddenly experienced an immediate erosion of public trust after the tragic loss of two of its residents due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The tragedy at the Allen Benedict Court public housing community in Columbia, South Carolina, made national news and set off alarm bells throughout affordable housing circles around the country. Columbia Housing’s 85 year reputation was immediately tarnished. What followed was borage of bad press; and publicly-voiced concerns and questions about the safety and security of Columbia Housing’s 16,000+ resident populations.
By March of 2019, several new members had been appointed to the Board of Commissioners, and six months later, in July 2019, the new Board hired new leadership. Restoring public trust was paramount. Transforming an 85 year-old public agency was no small undertaking, especially not the least during a year where it would also face insurmountable challenges of a global pandemic.
On July 1, 2019, Ivory became the CEO of Columbia Housing. “After 4 days on the job, I held a public meeting and launched Columbia Housing’s 12-Month Action Plan which included a comprehensive assessment of our public housing portfolio. The principles of the 12- Month Action Plan included: 1) putting residents first, 2) increasing organizational efficiency, 3) creating a climate of transparency and accountability, and out of the 12- Month Action Plan in a public setting, at Ivory’s very first Board meeting with media and the public present was important to set the stage for rebuilding public trust and transforming Columbia Housing into a valued and trusted community partner.
In May of 2021, Columbia Housing launched Vision 2030 to begin charting the path as an affordable housing provider that fulfills its mission of leveraging the power of housing to build a foundation for individuals and families to thrive. Vision 2030 is the strategic framework Columbia Housing will use as its guiding principle for the next nine years to reposition its entire Public Housing portfolio and create new quality affordable housing in the City of Columbia and Richland County through public/ private partnerships utilizing private capital.
Vision 2030 is the culmination of Columbia Housing’s nearly two years of planning in which every Public Housing property (1,684 units in 28 communities located in the city of Columbia and throughout Richland County) has been thoroughly assessed by third party professionals, including architects, engineers, appraisers, and environmental consultants. For the days to come, their plan includes over $500 Million for the preservation, redevelopment, and new construction of affordable housing. Columbia Housing’s Public Housing portfolio has capital needs exceeding well over $250 Million.
Congress has never adequately funded capital needs and statutorily prohibits Public Housing from accessing private capital to address those needs. Therefore, to manage our over $250 Million capital needs, we will transition our entire Public Housing portfolio to HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program and others that will enable access to market debt and equity for preservation and redevelopment and new construction of affordable housing.
Like many housing authorities across the country, Columbia Housing is turning to the private market to address its backlog of capital needs. Through the Vision 2030 Plan, Columbia Housing has engaged partnerships with eight nationally recognized and experienced affordable housing developers to help accomplish this aggressive plan. Vision 2030 includes leveraging private capital with conversion tools provided by HUD, resulting in the gradual elimination of all Public Housing and the transition to another affordable housing platform.
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