Dan Valliere is not only new to Portland and to REACH Community Development, but he is new to housing development in general. However, he is no stranger to organizational collaboration, and that is the direction the organization is going.
Last month Valliere was elected executive director of REACH, Portland’s largest independent non-profit housing developer. He succeeds Dee Walsh, who resigned last year after 24 years with the agency to head the National Housing Partnership in Boston, and Kathy Kniep, who has been serving as interim director for the last six months while REACH conducted a nationwide search for Walsh’s replacement.
Born in New York City, Valliere’s family moved to Indianapolis during his childhood. He worked in St. Paul, Minn. as Public Policy Advocate for the Minnesota Housing Partnership. He later worked for Chicago Commons, a 119 year-old organization that began as a settlement house that now focuses on neighborhood services and revitalization, providing pre-schools, community centers and senior home care. Since 2005 Valliere has been its Executive Director and, he says, “turned it around” from some financial problems.
“My wife grew up in Portland, and I’ve been visiting here for years,” he told the Examiner. “That was one of the reasons I looked for a job here. I heard about the REACH transition, and I went for it.”
As to the job, Valliere says, “Housing is a new thing for me, and I’m learning a ton. My experience is in managing a growing non-profit, and working in collaboration with others.” With regard to the state of REACH he says, “I’m impressed. It’s very strong. There are some major challenges on the horizon, but the people here are very good, and the finances are in good shape.”
REACH, which currently owns a total of 1600 affordable housing units, began in Buckman and for many years was focused on the inner southeast. In recent years it has expanded to other areas. Symbolically, it moved its headquarters last year to the new Gray’s Landing building in the South Waterfront.
. It has also worked in partnerships with other organizations. When financing becomes available, it will add a senior housing component to the Glisan Commons project in East Portland, where it will partner with Innovative Housing (a housing and social services non-profit) and Ride Connection, which provides free transportation to low-income people. It has not even confined itself to Oregon; Vancouver’s Affordable Community Environments will shortly become a REACH subsidiary. Will Valliere continue these trends?
“I think so,” he says. “There’s a demand for housing solutions everywhere, and there’s only a handful of organizations that can do significant projects. We need to go where the needs are, although the focus will still be on Portland”
As to social service work he says, “Housing is still the focus, but stand-alone isn’t right either. Connection with services doesn’t mean REACH has to do the services itself. You’re better off combining with people who know the area than going in blind.”
He adds, “I had that experience in reverse in Chicago. I ran a preschool in a building owned by a group very much like REACH.”
As to the challenges alluded to above, Valliere says, “The future of new (affordable) housing presents a major challenge. Federal assistance isn’t going away, but it will be reduced, and federal funds for things like home repair are under siege. For existing housing the commitments (of funding) are there and very firm. But tenants who receive Section Eight assistance may have to pay more.”