AHC Taps Affordable Housing Veteran Paul Bernard as New CEO

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AHC Inc., a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., has named Paul Bernard as its new president and CEO.

Based in Arlington, Va., AHC has developed more than 7,800 apartments in approximately 50 properties in the region.. 

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“I’m excited to build on AHC’s great business model and firm foundation of service to increase the supply of affordable housing in our region and build more communities of opportunity for hardworking families, individuals, seniors and young people,” Bernard told Commercial Observer. “I’m a longtime believer that affordable housing is not only the first step to a stable and productive life, but is also critical to a region’s economic infrastructure.” 

Bernard succeeds Susan Cunningham, who served as interim CEO since July 2021 and will continue to support AHC as a senior adviser. 

Bernard said his goals in the job can be summed up in three words: outreach, collaboration and partnership.

“Along with working within our existing communities and strengthening ongoing relationships, I hope to build partnerships with lots of people and organizations who appreciate how important affordable housing is to the entire community infrastructure,” he said. “That includes every aspect of affordable housing — how we can work together to plan and finance, construct, provide services people need, and of course innovate.” 

Bernard started in his new role April 4. He has nearly 30 years of experience in urban planning, real estate development, public finance and investing, community development and affordable housing.

Most recently, he served as executive vice president of advisory and educational services at the Urban Land Institute, where he managed four international  programs and provided development services to municipalities, corporations, students and real estate professionals. Part of his role was to provide clients with solutions in affordable housing. 

“Paul has a history of tackling a variety of housing challenges and a track record of leading real change,” David Barsky, AHC’s board chair, said in a prepared statement. “With his perspective in economics, finance and urban planning—coupled with his passion for affordable housing and its potential to transform lives—we’re thrilled to have him lead AHC forward in its next chapter.” 

ULI estimated that some 375,000 housing units in the area need to be built between 2015 and 2030, to meet the region’s needs—including 39 percent affordable for middle-income residents and 38 percent affordable for low-income residents.

“Not only does the lack of affordable housing mean thousands of families lack stability and security, but it also significantly dampens the region’s economic engine and individual/family mobility,” Bernard said. “The challenge is going to get tougher as gentrification, skyrocketing construction costs, the fallout from the pandemic, and a possible uptick in inflation puts additional pressure on development.”

During his career, Bernard also worked as vice president at Enterprise Community Partners, a D.C. nonprofit helping low-income residents through housing preservation, community development and by bridging the racial equity gap. One of his biggest accomplishments at the job was creating a $45 million national public sector advisory platform, which included 48 municipalities, 187 public housing authorities, and 53 foundations/nonprofits and private organizations.

“I have a blend of analytical skills and community experience, and believe my educational and professional experiences have helped position me as an adaptive problem solver,” Bernard said. “Increasing affordable housing is an adaptive challenge that will involve a lot of people. I enjoy bringing together different perspectives to move the ball forward—to connect the organizations or the large systems that need to work together to address the challenges of affordable housing.”

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.