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Building houses of mercy

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By Matthew RobinsonSince the 1980’s, when the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha founded Mercy Housing,   the nonprofit developer has been working to provide a better life for some of the most vulnerable     people in the U.S.By developing and managing rental apartments and homes coupled with crucial support services, the group provides affordable-housing options for seniors, people with HIV/AIDS, individuals with mental and physical impairments, and low- and moderate-income families.Now, with the help of Dick Banks, its new president and chief operating officer, the organization aims     to expand its good works in an effort to create a “more humane” world in which all are free to develop their full potential.Based in Denver, the organization’s seven regional offices and 1,150 employees throughout the U.S. serve programs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho and Washington.

Its nearly 20,000 units, with an additional 6,800 in development, have provided housing for over 50,000 residents.

In addition to providing housing, Mercy handles property management and property-based resident services through its Mercy Services Corporation.

Banks heard about Mercy while working in Berlin for GSW, a 70,000-unit public-housing development acquired by Goldman Sachs and Cerberus Capital Management.

“My wife, Susan, and I were considering how to become involved in helping others to enjoy a more complete life,” he says.

As the former chief operating officer of that project, and as former president and CEO of Lincoln Residential Services, Banks has considerable experience in housing and development.
“Mercy Housing allowed us to couple the experience I have gained over the years in the real-estate business with assisting people who could use a little help,” he says. “It is very satisfying.”

Mercy Housing is satisfied with the match as well.

“We are very excited that Dick is joining our organization,” says Sister Lillian Murphy, the group’s CEO. “He was chosen because of his desire to use his experience and expertise in for-profit real-estate development and management to assist Mercy Housing in continuing to serve those in need of quality, affordable housing.”

Dick Banks

Job: President and chief operating officer, Mercy Housing Inc., Denver

Education: B.A., University of Southern California, 1969; M.A., international management, American Graduate School of International Management, 1974

Born: Los Angeles, 1947

Appointments: Chief operating officer, GSW, Berlin; president and CEO, Lincoln Residential Services; senior partner and Western Division president, Archstone-Smith

Family: Wife, Susan; four grown children

Hobbies: Surfing, triathlons, skiing, golf, fishing and gardening

Inspiration: “My wife, Susan, is the ultimate balance for me in terms of reminding me what is really important in life – family and friends.”

Though their common goals attracted Banks to Mercy, it was his discussions with Murphy and her talented team that convinced him to join up, he says.“After talking with key members of Mercy, it became quite apparent that Mercy is more than just a real estate company,” he says. “Its people have a dedication to providing as much help to as many people as possible as any group I have experienced.”Though a great part of that reputation is based on their efforts in the realms of public health and education, the Sisters became involved in public housing in 1981, launching Mercy with an initial investment of $500,000.The organization took on its first properties a year later in Idaho.In the two decades since its founding, the Sisters, along with their dozen co-sponsors, have grown Mercy into a $1 billion entity that oversees operations across the U.S.

In 1985, the Sisters launched the Mercy Loan Fund to provide financing for its developments and those of other nonprofit groups.

And at the end of the last century, Mercy and several Catholic health care systems were united under the banner of the Strategic Health Care Partnership to further bolster the availability of affordable housing throughout the country.

For those fortunate enough to live in Mercy properties, the organization provides not only physical units but also such services as after-school programs and job training, art, computer, fitness and other classes and facilities, support groups and other amenities.

These are offered to assist residents in their efforts to better themselves and make worthwhile contributions to their communities.

Mercy also reaches out to the communities in which it manages real estate, helping enforce security and provide other services in and around their properties.

These are all offerings Banks hopes to foster and develop even further as Mercy continues to grow into markets such as Atlanta, Chicago and other parts of California.

“The affordable [housing] industry is not growing fast enough to meet the ever-increasing demand,” he says. “Mercy Housing is one of the leaders in the industry and, as such, will work with other leaders to try to create industry-wide change so we can meet the growing demand.”

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