Q&A with Rebecca Louie, president and CEO of affordable housing nonprofit

Rebecca Louie
(Courtesy of Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation)

Cardiff resident Rebecca Louie took over as president and CEO of the nonprofit Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation earlier this year. In a Q&A, she discusses her resume, the housing crisis and goals in her new position.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: What is your current role and background with Wakeland?

Louie: I am president and CEO of Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation. Wakeland is a nonprofit affordable housing developer. We’ve been around for 23 years building affordable housing for families, seniors, people experiencing homelessness, anyone in need of a quality affordable home. I’ve been with Wakeland for the last 17 years. I started as a project manager and I’ve been working in various aspects of the company ever since. I became the president and CEO in June of this year.

Q: What was it like moving to San Diego from your home state of Alaska?

Louie: I’ve always loved San Diego. I knew from the minute I came here that it would be a place I wanted to stay for a long time. Alaska is very beautiful and will always be my home, but I appreciate San Diego and everything it has to offer.

Q: What first drew you to working in affordable housing?

Louie: I’ve been working in affordable housing now for almost half my life. It’s at the heart of everything, is what I quickly found out when I started working in it long ago back at SANDAG. Housing is such a basic human need, and if you don’t have a stable home, everything in your life suffers. So to think that you’re going to advance as a society or as a community when you have so many people struggling with the basic need of having a home is just unrealistic. I just see it as at the heart of everything. If you look at San Diego, so many of the problems that we’re having now are related to housing. We have employers who are struggling to retain employees, we have businesses that are leaving, we have seniors who are one medical bill or one rent increase away from homelessness. So it’s something I’ve always been drawn to and seen the importance of.

Q: How would you evaluate the current housing policies by city, county and state governments?

Louie: I don’t think we’re doing nearly enough. I think everybody talks about the housing crisis, I think that they admit that we are in a serious housing crisis and then they don’t really treat it like it is one. So I think while we do put resources toward it, it’s not nearly enough. We offer a lot of short-term solutions to what is really a very long-term problem. In the end, we don’t commit nearly enough resources to make the difference we need to in this very large problem. On the other hand, I do think cities are really trying, they’re struggling with the lack of resources just like everyone else. Many of them are working much harder now to try to address it than they have in the past, because it’s impossible to ignore the crisis we’re in when we have such a visible epidemic of homelessness before us.

Q: Proposed residential developments often lead to a debate about whether there should be more of a focus on building affordable housing, or if adding market-rate housing units also helps alleviate the housing crisis. What do you think?

Louie: I think we need both. With affordable housing, it’s funding that needs to be put toward it. So I think we need to continue really directing funding to affordable housing. I think we need to also have policies that encourage the development of all kinds of housing.

Q: Any other goals you want to mention?

Louie: I want to continue building a lot more affordable and supportive housing. I want to show people that supporting housing especially, which is housing targeted to people who are currently experiencing homelessness, is the solution to homelessness and it is something that everyone should support having in their communities because it makes such a difference. I want to build a lot more of it, I want to build more family housing to help catch people before they fall into more dire situations. And I want to do it all over California.