February 16, 2021

Reflection on 21 Years in Northern California

After 21 years of service, Rich Gross will be retiring from Enterprise. Rich was the founder of Enterprise's Northern California market office and served as VP and market leader before moving to his latest role as senior advisor to the Democratizing Resilience & Disaster Recovery Initiative the past two years.

We will dearly miss Rich’s tales of fighting off polar bears to save his fellow wilderness buddies, his disinclination of wearing shoes in the office, his outlandish costumes over the years at the Soirée, and his annual Housing California finance panel with Kevin Knudtson and Richard Mandel that made people sincerely laugh. But most of all, we will miss Rich’s optimistic spirit – he leads with strong convictions and a value that everyone deserves a home.

Through the years, Rich has encouraged us to take risks, to never think things can’t be done, and to take to the streets! Rich is truly a mensch. We say to him: “THANK YOU, your imprint of boldness and kindness will never fade from our office, and see you soon, dear friend.”

Rich shares his reflections over the past 21 years.

What are you most proud of during your 21 years at Enterprise?

I started at Enterprise working on the Investment side, coordinating Low Income Housing Tax Credit investments throughout California. At that time, Enterprise was new to California, and I thought that we could fill a need. Smaller nonprofit housing developers had trouble finding investors that would take the time to figure finance solutions to complicated projects. Many are now nonprofit housing developers that have proven themselves over the years. I think our early faith in those organizations helped them build experience and reputation that made attracting investors easier over the years.

When the City of San Francisco proposed HOPE SF, I thought Enterprise could play an important advocacy and technical assistance role for the project. Even though it was outside my role in Investment, Enterprise gave me the opportunity to switch to programmatic work and thus started the market office in San Francisco for Northern California. Our work on HOPE SF has been critical to securing funder commitments for the long term. I am very proud of our involvement in HOPE SF. 

I am also proud to have grown the office from just me to 14 people working throughout Northern California on a wide range of issues from policy to preservation to investments to advocacy.

What was the most challenging? 

Most challenging for our field is the federal government has never made a big enough commitment to affordable housing. People in the affordable housing field know how to end housing insecurity—we know how to build affordable housing, preserve affordable housing, and provide supportive housing.  We need the federal government to step up and provide the resources necessary to solve the problem. 

What gives you hope and heartburn about the future? 

What gives me hope is the young people entering the field and their willingness to question the way we have done things in the past. We need radical change in order to obtain the justice that low-income, particularly communities of color, deserve.  If we continue to do our work in the same way, we will only achieve incremental change. 

What are you looking forward to most in your retirement? 

I’m most looking forward to the end of Covid so I can travel again and sing with other people.  Those of you who know me know that I love traveling to remote places.  I’m also happy to volunteer in the field if there is any way I can help.  Starting March 1, you can contact me at richgross.sf@gmail.com.

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