Barbara Jeanetta, Executive Director of Alliance Housing – a nonprofit developer and owner of inclusive, affordable, relational, and flexible housing – announced recently she will retire from her position in the spring of 2022. During her tenure, Jeanetta strengthened and deepened the housing and advocacy mission of the organization. She will work closely with the Alliance Board to identify and support a new leader who is inspired and motivated to create physical and political environments where individuals and families can create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background.
Jeanetta was hired as Alliance Housing’s Executive Director in December of 2013, taking the reins from Alliance’s former Director, Herb Frey, who held the position for over fourteen years. “Alliance Housing was born out of the vision of St. Stephens’ Catholic Church emergency shelter volunteers and residents,” Jeanetta recalled. “I remember Herb saying that they saw a need for more safe, affordable, long-term housing options for the adults that utilized the shelter’s services and created Alliance to meet that need. That is still the central mission for Alliance today: building and operating housing that works for very low-income individuals and households that are really left out of market opportunities. Honestly, I never wanted to be an ED, but I knew, if there was ever an organization that I’d want to lead, it would be Alliance. I always admired Alliance’s relational, no barriers-style with tenants, and that they were trying to provide quality housing, not ‘fix’ people.”
Although transitioning from a nearly founding leader to a first successor can be a challenging time for an organization, Jeanetta saw the transition as an opportunity to apply her own unique leadership style to dig deeper into Alliance’s mission. “Barb is ‘straight, no chaser,’” laughs GMHF Senior Loan Officer and Alliance Board Member Miranda Walker. “That’s what I like most about working with her. Getting work done is efficient because she delivers information and insights with full honesty and transparency.” Indeed, during her tenure, Jeanetta led the organization in acquiring 120 new units of deeply affordable housing and a contract to manage a 31 unit rooming house for Hennepin County, providing her successor with a robust pipeline of properties to develop and manage.
“I am really excited about Alliance’s future. Our latest tax credit property, 3301 Nicollet, will house Minneapolis households who fall below 50% of the area median income, with units specially set aside for tenants with a history of long-term homelessness and persons with disabilities (mental illness and co-occurring addition). We expect these units to be leasable after construction completes in about 24 months. We are also pursuing a number of naturally occurring affordable housing (“NOAH”) options to acquire so the city doesn’t lose any affordable units.” These developments offer Alliance Housing’s next Executive Director with a lot of exciting, mission-critical work to see through to the finish line, and an opportunity to apply their own unique leadership style to meet the ever evolving housing and environmental barriers very low-income Minneapolis residents face when seeking safe, dignified and affordable places to call home.
Despite the active development pipeline, Jeanetta would be the first to point out that the job of the ED goes far beyond just focusing on “bricks and sticks.” The primary commitment Alliance Housing has made to its tenants is that it will work with them to challenge the social and political environments that limit their opportunities. “I think one of my most impactful accomplishments as ED has been developing Alliance’s policy advocacy role to address system changes,” Jeanetta notes. Under Jeanetta’s leadership, Alliance Housing became an outspoken critic of common rental screening practices, at both local market-rate and affordable projects, that screen out residents with criminal and eviction histories and has proven through its own management practices that low-barrier housing can provide safe, long-term housing for those who need it most. Under Jeanetta, Alliance Housing was also one of the leading advocacy voices fighting to pass Minneapolis’ new SRO ordinance, which will allow non-profits to build and manage more “rooming house”-style projects, with common kitchens and bathrooms, that make it possible to offer units for rent at levels affordable to the very lowest income Minneapolis residents.
When surveying Jeanetta’s time at Alliance, Board Chair Ben Olk notes, “Barb has taken Alliance Housing to a whole new level. Her ability to build on what had existed and create relationships with all the stakeholders – tenants, funders, employees – has created a solid foundation on which we can continue to build. While she will be a difficult act to follow, she has created the structures and presence that will allow her successor to continue to create and develop housing so that the most vulnerable can create a home for themselves.”
The Alliance Housing Board plans to celebrate Jeanetta at their upcoming 30th Anniversary Reception, to be held Thursday, September 30th at the St. Paul Town and Country Club.