Housing Trust Silicon Valley CEO to lead United Way Bay Area
Kevin Zwick, CEO of the Housing Trust Silicon Valley speaks during the nonprofit's fundraiser and event to release the annual report in Oct. 2019 Image credit: Janice Bitters

The United Way Bay Area officially has a new CEO, but the group’s new leader will be a familiar face for Silicon Valley housing, philanthropy and business insiders.

Kevin Zwick, currently the CEO for the Housing Trust Silicon Valley, will oversee the United Way Bay Area starting July 6. The move will mark the end of his 12-year run at the helm of the San Jose-based housing nonprofit that in that time has grown tenfold and launched programs emulated by philanthropies and companies in other housing-strapped regions.

The announcement comes after former United Way Bay Area CEO Anne Wilson in February retired after 20 years overseeing the organization, which helps to fund and connect nonprofits and others fighting poverty in the region.

“Kevin has a proven track record of improving lives in the Bay Area,” Pierre Breber, United Way Bay Area board chair and Chevron chief financial officer, said in a statement. “He is the right leader to take the United Way Bay Area to the next level in uniting nonprofits, businesses and individuals together to meet the needs of our communities during this extraordinary time and beyond.”

United Way of the Bay Area in 2016 merged with the United Way of Silicon Valley in an effort to boost donations and trim costs. Public financial documents show that the strategy seemed to have worked to boost revenue in the first year, but that number has declined since.

But Zwick is no stranger to growing an organization.

He started at the Housing Trust just as the bubble burst on a previously booming housing market and the Great Recession left many out of work. At that time, the San Jose-based nonprofit had just three employees tasked with finding ways to keep as many people housed as possible.

“The Housing Trust had to significantly and completely change what we were working on in order to both address the affordable housing and economic crises we were in, as well as help create what would be better once we got out of the crisis,” Zwick said, noting that challenge isn’t entirely unlike the one the housing nonprofit is facing today during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Housing Trust is in a strong position financially, said Katia Kamangar, board member for the Housing Trust and executive vice president and managing director for SummerHill Apartment Communities.

“We're looking to continue that, and continue to grow the organization,” she said. “Of course now it's a more challenging economy with probably more more funding needs than we had before COVID (19).”

In its 20 year history, the Housing Trust has helped preserve or create more than 20,000 residential units in the Bay Area.

During its 2019 fiscal year alone, the Housing Trust loaned more than $73.4 million to multifamily developers trying build low-income housing around the Bay Area, according to the organization’s annual report. That included its largest-ever multifamily loan: $15.85 million to San Jose-based First Community Housing for 300 new affordable homes in downtown San Jose.

The group’s TECH Fund, an initiative launched in 2017 that offers low-cost loans to affordable housing developers, was among the first initiatives to pull many of Silicon Valley’s tech titans into the fold to address the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

So far, companies like Cisco Systems, LinkedIn, NetApp and Google have all donated to the $112 million fund, which will eventually repay investors after the money has been used several times over to fund low-cost homes.

In March, Cupertino-based Apple made its first move to help with the region’s housing shortage by granting the Housing Trust $150 million to use for low-interest loans for hard-to-fund affordable housing developments.

And though the group is in a stronger place today than it was 12 years ago, flush with a long list of new partnerships and a portfolio of work, the next CEO will have their own challenges “with both COVID-19 and also the major uprisings that’s happening in our region and across the country and reckoning with white supremacy and racism,” Zwick said.

“I think the next Housing Trust CEO will also have to help lead the Housing Trust through that conversation of ‘what does the Housing Trust need to be doing as an affordable housing organization to help dismantle racism and help empower all communities?'” he added.

For now, Julie Mahowald, chief financial officer for the Housing Trust will be the organization’s interim CEO, starting June 26.

The group’s Board of Directors have formed a search committee to find a permanent replacement for Zwick, according to a statement by Craig Robinson, chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors and head of social responsibility for Silicon Valley Bank.

“This is a bittersweet moment as myself, the board, and the entire Housing Trust team will miss him,” Robinson said.

Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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