As a FUSE Executive Fellow, Hala Farid (2021–23) worked with the Austin Housing and Planning Department (HPD), now the City of Austin Housing Department, to promote partnerships and strategies that increase the number of affordable housing units in the city. She supported community-led anti-displacement strategies and programs that center racial equity, encourage asset building, and advance financial stability, focusing on preventing Black and Hispanic residents from being priced out of their neighborhoods. Additionally, she increased access to capital for affordable housing through nonprofit collaborations and worked across department divisions to enhance understanding of the Austin Housing Finance Corporation’s (AHFC) work.
After her Fellowship, Hala joined Texas Community Capital (TCC) as its executive director. TCC is a nonprofit-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) loan fund and lending intermediary. In her role, she leads the organization’s mission to provide specialized loan and investment products and services that promote economic and community development in under-served Texas communities to enhance the quality of life of low-to-moderate-income persons. Additionally, she serves on four national nonprofit housing and community development organization boards, including Purple Heart Homes, Grounded Solutions Network, Hogar Hispano Inc., and Shelterforce.
What was the impact of the FUSE Fellowship on you professionally and personally?
The FUSE Fellowship had a profound and multifaceted impact on me professionally and personally, reshaping my professional outlook, fostering humility and patience, and enabling me to thrive in a new environment and challenging market.
Professionally, transitioning to the public sector through the Fellowship was illuminating. The Fellowship was a bridge between my nearly three decades of experience working nationally in the nonprofit and private sectors and a new regional and local focus for my next career phase. Going into the Fellowship, I knew I needed to create a different path leading me away from my past roles, but I didn’t fully grasp how transformative it would be for me.
I had the privilege of working with amazing people. I gained a deep understanding of the multifaceted layers and complexities inherent in government work, including the intricate web of compliance, regulations, and checks and balances.
On a personal level, the Fellowship humbled me and instilled in me the importance of humility. It highlighted the need for patience, not only in my professional endeavors but also in my personal life. These lessons have stayed with me, influencing how I approach various aspects of my life.
Additionally, being based in Austin was a significant shift for me. Having never worked in Texas before, it was a completely different market compared to my previous experiences in New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. This change allowed me to broaden my perspectives and adapt to a new professional landscape, contributing to my personal growth.
What are the big challenges you are working on now, what are you hoping to achieve in the next 6-12 months, and how has your FUSE experience prepared you to approach them?
My biggest challenge is raising money for TCC to build and expand our programs, particularly around affordable housing. I’m aggressively talking to funders in the next 6-12 months, allowing us to grow our team of two to build our vision. We are also pursuing an opportunity with the City of Austin, where TCC would administer the Anti-Displacement Community Acquisition program, a loan program I worked on as an Executive Fellow.
Without the FUSE Fellowship, I wouldn’t have the relationships I have with the City of Austin. That’s huge! The City is considering TCC because it knows me through the people I met from my FUSE Fellowship. I probably would have never met these people without my Fellowship with the AHFC and the City of Austin Housing Department. These relationships are critical, and they’re portable. I will take them with me everywhere I go, and those who have moved on to Houston, Dallas, and other places will continue, too.
For example, a former supervisor who served as an assistant director for the City of Austin Housing and Planning Department is now with the City of Houston. When you can leverage these relationships successfully, they can also tie into and significantly impact your work.
Related work and news:
City of Austin Housing Department and Office of Anti-Displacement Collaboration on Funding Displacement Prevent Programs: $20 million NOFA-Community Initiated Solutions
City of Austin Partnership: Project Connect Community Advisory Committee
Left: Hala Farid with members from the Austin Affordable Housing Coalition. Middle: The City of Austin tour of Plaza Saltio, one of two tours Hala organized of big developments where AHFC played a pivotal role. Right: The City of Austin Equitable Development Initiative for Small Developers is part of a contract with Capital Impact Partners to offer four months of comprehensive training to a cohort of 20 small developers creating and preserving affordable housing in Austin, many of whom are people of color and/or women.