Personality: Todd B. Waldo

Spotlight on Better Housing Coalition board chairman

1/18/2024, 6 p.m.
When Todd B. Waldo moved to Virginia in 2002, he wanted to establish a life and home to work with …

When Todd B. Waldo moved to Virginia in 2002, he wanted to establish a life and home to work with students at Hampton University while continuing his career as a touring musician.

Ten years later, another calling arrived when he discovered the work of the Richmond Better Housing Coalition.

The 35-year-old organization, now known as the Better Housing Coalition, is the Richmond region’s largest nonprofit community development corporation. Its hallmark is creating “high-quality affordable homes for residents of modest means and empowering them with programs and tools to help them reach their fullest potential, at all stages of life.”

Impressed and inspired by the coalition’s work, Mr. Waldo connected with the organization through his neighbor, friend and former board member, David Conmy. He joined its Young Professionals board in 2013.

Today, Mr. Waldo is the first African-American to serve as chairman of the coalition’s Board of Directors.

“I am deeply committed to the mission of the Better Housing Coalition and was honored when invited to serve as chair,” Mr. Waldo said. “I want to bring my experience, talent and expertise to this role and help ensure the staff and partners have what they need for deeper and wider impact in an environment that continues to be challenging.”

During his two-year term, Mr. Waldo wants to establish strategic objectives and tactics for the board. He also plans to increase collaboration among board leadership and provide more support to staff and volunteers. Those steps will help improve the coalition’s service to communities where homeownership can be elusive. It also supports the organization’s foundation.

The Better Housing Coalition was founded in 1988 by Mary Tyler Cheek McClenahan and Carter McDowell.

Mrs. Tyler Cheek McClenahan, who was an influential civic leader in Richmond, read a newspaper article about the demise of a young boy who lived in deplorable conditions only a few miles from her neighborhood. She quickly recruited Mr. McDowell, who has a master’s degree in urban planning, to help explore the housing issue.

Their research confirmed a dire and unmet need for affordable housing in the region.

They formed the Richmond Better Housing Coalition (RBHC) to raise awareness for this need among civic organizations, social services agencies, city government and various partners.

In 1990, BHC decided that area residents could be served more quickly if the organization were able to build affordable housing, rather than simply advocate for it. With a lending commitment from a patchwork of banks, BHC purchased a block in a crime-ridden neighborhood at the intersection of Cary and Meadow streets. In place of the dilapidated housing, BHC renovated and built an attractive community of 86 brick townhomes for rent, and incorporated property management services..

BHC’s portfolio includes 15 multi-family rental communities (eight for seniors of modest income), 1,500 rental units and 200 new or renovated single-family homes sold to first-time homebuyers. Through an array of free and voluntary life-enhancing resident support services, BHC serves 1,100 residents of its rental communities each year.

“The need for affordable housing is great and neither the current nor projected supply matches that need,” Mr. Waldo said.

Despite such challenges, Mr. Waldo said the coalition’s ability to create innovative solutions will enable it to meet residents where they are and support their daily needs.

“We are a strong 35-year-old organization going into 2024,” Mr. Waldo said. “I’m looking forward to the investments that we will be making in our people who do the hard work every day to support our residents and produce housing.”

Meet a new leader helping provide housing to those in need and this week’s Personality, Todd B. Waldo:

Volunteer position: Chairman, BHC Board of Directors

Occupation: Founder and principal consultant, Hugh Helen LLC.

Date and place of birth: July 16 in East Orange, N.J.

Where I live now: Church Hill, Richmond.

Education: B.S. degree, electrical engineering, North Carolina State University.

Family: Dad to daughter, Samaya Helen Waldo,16.

Better Housing Coalition: The Better Housing Coalition is the Richmond region’s largest nonprofit community-development corporation. BHC creates high-quality affordable homes for residents of modest means and empowers them with programs and tools to help them reach their fullest potential, at all stages of life.

Mission: The Better Housing Coalition changes lives and transforms communities through high-quality, affordable housing.

Location: 23 West Broad Street, Suite 100, Richmond.

How I became involved with Better Housing Coalition: My support for BHC started in 2013 with the first iteration of what is now the Young Professionals Board. What drew me to BHC was the work done in Church Hill. I learned how projects, such as Jefferson Mews and the many single-family homes built, helped transform the neighborhood into what I was enjoying every day.

When elected board president: December 2023.

Why I accepted the position: I want to bring my experience, talent and expertise to this role and help ensure the staff and partners have what they need for deeper and wider impact in an environment that continues to be challenging.

Target demographic: Among housing agencies in Richmond, BHC serves the working poor and their families. We provide affordable housing for those living below the poverty level. Daily, we see proof of how housing stability is a powerful intervention proven to alleviate poverty, improve health outcomes and positively impact entire communities by improving overall equity.

Racial equity and Better Housing Coalition: While racially discriminatory policies and practices can be found in almost every aspect of American life, few areas exceed those found in the housing industry. From financial institution redlining to highway locations to urban renewal to predatory lending to NIMBY-ism to gentrification, accessing quality housing choices has been a struggle for people of color. The impacts of these policies are monumental and limiting. When entire segments of our society cannot realize their fullest potential, we all suffer the consequences. Social justice, broadly defined, focuses on equitable wealth distribution and equal access to community resources. Housing is foundational to social justice and racial equity.

The way that I witness improvement in housing availability in Richmond: What I really appreciate about the Better Housing Coalition is that, along with our expertise as a housing developer, we focused deeply on the people living in those homes and their daily needs. There has to be a balance between development and supporting people for affordability to be sustainable long-term and I think we do that really well.

Upcoming events: Stay Home RVA Non-Event Gala - April 12. In this seventh annual event, instead of attending another gala in RVA, “guests” can directly donate an amount they would have spent attend-ing the event to support BHC’s life-enhancing resident support services. The website: https://www.stayhomerva.org.

BHCyp’s Church Hill Bike Tour -May 15. It’s a fun and educational four-mile, mostly flat biking tour of BHC investments in the Church Hill neighborhood.

How I start the day: I turn off my alarm clock and meditate on my gratitude and intentions for the day.

The three words that best describe me: Energetic, resourceful, passionate

If I had 10 extra minutes in the day: I would sleep 10 more minutes.

Best late-night snack: Keebler Fudge Stripe shortbread cookies

The music I listen to most is: There’s so much music in my record and digital collections from the 1970s and 1980s.

A quote that I am most inspired by: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble” — John Lewis

At the top of my “to-do” list: I prioritize taking good care of myself. I get help from my loved ones, therapist and trainer.

The book that influenced me the most and how: The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson. This was required reading my freshman year at North Carolina State and started my journey of self-discovery and learning history from a completely different perspective.

What I’m reading now and my takeaway: Living on the Edge of Time by Josh Epperson. It’s helping me think differently about the present moment, its opportunities and how to live more intentionally given those opportunities.

Next goal: Developing my next creative project where I am brainstorming the intersection of my writing, speaking, music, podcasting, and live-event production.