Nancy Biberman

Founder, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation

Nancy Biberman is an expert on green, affordable housing and community development with over 30 years of experience in advocating for greater equity for low income families in New York City. Throughout her career, Nancy has focused on the impact of the built environment on human behavior. In 1992 she founded the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), aimed at providing low-income South Bronx families with the kind of resources and opportunities that families in more affluent communities enjoy. As a mother of three, she has been motivated by a desire to create economically vibrant and aesthetically beautiful neighborhoods in which anyone would want to raise their own families.

In her first development as WHEDco’s president she raised $23 million to restore the abandoned Morrisania Hospital building. In 1997 WHEDco reopened the building, Urban Horizons, which has become an award-winning affordable, housing complex and economic development center. WHEDco will soon complete a cellar-to-roof energy retrofit of the building. In 2009 WHEDco opened Intervale Green, the nation’s largest multifamily, Energy Star certified affordable housing development. The building’s Active Design elements, art installations and rooftop farm reflect Nancy’s belief that pride of place is a transformative force in families’ lives.

Today, under Nancy’s leadership, WHEDco reaches over 35,000 people annually through energy-efficient, affordable homes; early childhood education and youth development; cultural programs; home-based childcare microenterprise and food business incubation; and family support. Guided by Nancy’s emphasis on improving built environments, the organization has earned a reputation for creating smart solutions to systemic problems that have plagued the South Bronx for decades, which include attracting retailers and improving safety with better planning, lighting, calmer traffic and public plazas.

Nancy’s vision has inspired plans for Bronx Commons, an arts-based mixed-use development collaboration between WHEDco, Blue Sea Development Corporation and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. When it opens in 2015, Bronx Commons will include affordable housing; a grades 6-12 public charter school in partnership with Bard College; the Bronx Music Heritage Center, a community performance space and destination; and a rooftop urban farm.

Before founding WHEDco, Nancy worked for Catholic Charities, managing a $60 million 23-building City-financed housing rehabilitation project in the South Bronx. As a Legal Services lawyer for 12 years, she was part of a legal team that won the first class action lawsuit in the country to give battered women access to the court system and police protection. In 1980 she helped create the SRO Law Project and became its Director at MFY Legal Services on Manhattan’s lower east side, preventing evictions from Single Room occupancy hotels and rooming houses.

Nancy's work has received national recognition including the 2009 National Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award for Green Housing, the Paul Davidoff Award for Leadership in Housing and Equal Opportunity from the American Planning Association (2008), a James A. Johnson Fellowship from the Fannie Mae Foundation (2007), and a Revson Fellowship to study at Columbia University's School of Architecture and Planning (1987).

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