As part of Black History Month, ULI is spotlighting some of the incredible work of our Black members, including Lisa Y. Gordon, president and CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, who is responsible for advancing Atlanta Habitat’s mission to create affordable housing.
A member of the ULI Americas Executive Committee, the district council chair of ULI Atlanta, and a member of the ULI Americas Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, Gordon co-chairs the DEI Council and serves on the advisory board for the Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing.
Gordon is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and serves as an expert adviser for national studies and work commissioned by the U.S. Congress. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum, Leadership Atlanta, and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).
Gordon has been recognized for her leadership as one of Atlanta magazine’s Top 500 Leaders in 2019–2020, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2018 Women Who Mean Business, the YWCA of Greater Atlanta 2017 Academy of Women Achievers, and Bisnow’s Top 40 most influential women in commercial real estate in 2014.
A real estate professional with more than 25 years of experience, Gordon began attending ULI events almost a decade ago and joined as a full member in 2015. Just in the last year, she helped organize a variety of programs including Deconstructing Segregation: Understanding Local History as a Basis for Equitable Development as part of the 2020 ULI Virtual Fall Meeting (available on demand to members in ULI Knowledge Finder.)
In spring 2020, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, which supports about 1,000 owners of single-family homes in addition to managing the Atlanta Habitat ReStore, pivoted its approaches to support its residents and the Greater Atlanta community during the pandemic and beyond. In a 2020 interview with Urban Land, Gordon described the four values that Atlanta Habitat has adopted as its operations change due to the pandemic: maintain the safety of employees and volunteers; adapt, evolve, and be flexible; minimize fiscal impact to operations; and look at ways to adapt its existing model.
“Habitat’s model is to build with volunteers,” Gordon said, “but if that is dangerous, how do we evolve? Currently, we are building with small crews of two to three contractors, without our usual volunteers.”
Atlanta Habitat has also helped its homeowners avoid losing their homes, said Gordon. The organization has helped directly by setting up a mortgage relief fund and raising over $100,000 in three weeks and by having staff members calling homeowners to check in with them. Atlanta Habitat also implemented a series of virtual classes with homeowners on crisis budgeting. Lastly, the organization is also reevaluating lessons learned as a result of changes to how it operates and supports residents.
“Atlanta Habitat has increased our communications with homeowners, providing timely and purposeful information focused on helping them through this crisis. We see our additional role as being a resource to our homeowners, but not inundating them with emails every day,” Gordon said. “We have been very intentional about when we send mail. Strategic communication is most effective right now; too many emails are becoming noise.”
Atlanta Habitat has also quickly been able to get its popular ReStore online—with a touchless payment system—to continue bringing in revenue to the organization in support of new home builds through the sale of home furnishings and appliances.
“We had conversations about an online ReStore for several months. Then, we received an analysis for launching an online store shortly after the pandemic began. Sometimes things can be slow to change, but when an emergency comes up like a pandemic, all of a sudden we got it done,” Gordon said. “Within two weeks, our staff was working with a consultant, identified the right software and solutions, and had the online store implemented.”
For additional information about ULI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, contact DEI@uli.org.