Who We Are

Changing Lives and Transforming Communities Since 1988

Our History

The Better Housing Coalition was founded in 1988 by Mary Tyler Cheek McClenahan and Carter McDowell. Mary Tyler, an influential civic leader in Richmond, was galvanized into action by an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the demise of a young boy in deplorable living conditions only a few miles from her neighborhood. She quickly recruited her friend Carter, who had a master’s degree in urban planning, to help explore the housing issue, and their research confirmed a dire and unmet need for affordable housing in our 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 1989, they recruited T.K. Somanath as the organization’s first President & CEO.

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 derelict block in a crime-ridden neighborhood at the intersection of Cary and Meadow streets. In place of the dilapidated existing housing, BHC renovated and built an attractive community of 86 brick townhomes for rent, and incorporated property management services.

The organization’s name was shortened to the Better Housing Coalition (BHC) in 1999. Since that time, BHC has become the Richmond region’s largest not-for-profit community development corporation. To date, BHC has revitalized several historic communities and developed new ones in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico and Petersburg. Our 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 our array of free and voluntary life-enhancing resident support services, BHC serves 1,100 residents of its rental communities each year.

Take a look at our milestones below.

  • 1988

    • Image: Mary Tyler & Carter McDowell

      Richmond Better Housing Coalition is founded by Richmond-area civic leaders Mary Tyler McClenahan and Carter McDowell. The name was shortened to Better Housing Coalition (BHC) in 1999 as the portfolio expanded to surrounding counties.

  • 1989

    • Image: Marion Mashore, TK Somanath

      BHC and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) open offices at the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA). T.K. Somanath (at right in photo with Marion Mashoe) is named Executive Director of BHC.

  • 1991

    • Image: Newtown South Constructions 1991

      BHC begins a community revitalization effort in Newtown South, a small South Richmond neighborhood, acquiring land to support two community development corporations in their construction of 15 single-family homes. Additionally, BHC provided real estate expertise to aid in the development of two single-room occupancy facilities to house the homeless.

    • Image: Cary West Apartments

      Development at BHC’s first community, Cary West, begins on Cary Street in the 2000 block with the support of Your Neighbors Uptown Civic Association.

  • 1993

    • Better Housing Coalition receives the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Commissioner’s Award.

  • 1996

    • Jefferson Market - Before

      In an effort called the “East End Transformation,” BHC works with the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) and the City of Richmond, supported by New Visions Civic League, to begin development of Jefferson Mews, a full block of new housing on a blighted block in the Church Hill neighborhood. The development begins BHC’s long-term investment in the revitalization of that neighborhood.

    • In the fall, HUD awards BHC a $4.8 million grant to construct Rockwood Village in Chesterfield County, which offers affordable apartments for low-income seniors. It was completed in 2001.

  • 1997

    • Columns on Grove Image

      BHC partners with the Fan District Association to renovate a historic brick former nursing home into Columns on Grove, providing affordable apartments for residents 55 and older. Columns is BHC’s first senior rental community.

    • Image: Park Lee Apartments

      HUD awards BHC $13.5 million to improve the former Park Lee Apartments in Chesterfield County, now known as Winchester Greens. The community is BHC’s first mixed use, mixed-income development. BHC begins offering resident support services to its rental community residents.

  • 1998

    • BHC forms Integrated Property Management Services to provide on-site management at its rental communities. In 2006, the property management division was renamed BHC Management Company (BHCM).

  • 1999

    • winchester greens community

      Winchester Greens community (former Park Lee Apartments) is completed.

    • BHC acquires and renovates 11 vacant buildings into St. Andrew’s Townhomes, adjacent to the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.

  • 2000

    • MTM Child Care Center Image

      Mary Tyler McClenahan Child Care Center opens on the Winchester Greens campus.

    • Construction begins on Market Square senior apartments on the same campus.

  • 2002

    • Monarch Woods construction

      Construction begins on Monarch Woods senior apartments in South Richmond.

  • 2004

    • Rockwood Village sign

      Construction is completed on Rockwood Village senior apartments in Chesterfield County, bringing 82 high-quality, affordable homes for senior residents of modest income.

    • Image: Carver Streetscape

      BHC completes the first phase of 15 single-family homes in the Carver neighborhood, near downtown Richmond. Most of the first-time home buyers have annual incomes between $25,000 – $50,000 and many work for VCU and the City of Richmond.

  • 2005

    • Image: Carter Woods Ribbon Cutting

      Named in honor of co-founder Carter McDowell, Carter Woods senior apartments are constructed in eastern Henrico County. Carter Woods brings 152 much-needed affordable homes for senior residents of the area.

    • Monarch Woods Apartments Image

      Construction is completed on Monarch Woods senior apartments, bringing 71 affordable homes for senior residents of modest income in South Richmond.

  • 2006

    • Market Square I Image

      Construction completed on Market Square I (2000), II (2003) and III, providing in total 174 units of senior housing in North Chesterfield County.

    • BHC acquires the historic former Randolph School building in the Randolph neighborhood and begins renovations.

  • 2007

    • Randolph Place Tower Image

      BHC completes construction on Randolph Place, a 50-unit apartment for seniors.

  • 2008

    • Lincoln Mews Image

      BHC’s first community in North Richmond, Lincoln Mews, begins construction.

  • 2009

    • Image: Claiborne Square groundbreaking

      Construction begins on Claiborne Square senior apartments in Petersburg.

    • Image: North Oak sign

      BHC purchases the North Oak rental community in North Richmond and begins renovations.

  • 2010

    • Image: Blackwell Homes

      Development of single-family homes in the South Richmond neighborhood of Blackwell begins.

    • Image: Lincoln Mews Community Center

      Construction completed on Lincoln Mews community center, BHC offers resident support services to that community.

  • 2012

    • Beckstoffer's Mill Lofts front image

      With the complete renovation of a historic lumber mill, Beckstoffer’s Mill Loft Apartments in Church Hill are completed.

  • 2013

    • Image: Freda Bolling, TK Somanath

      After 24 years at the helm of the Better Housing Coalition, T.K. Somanath (at right in photo with Freda Bolling) retires in June.

    • Image: Greta Harris, John McCann

      In August, Greta J. Harris (at left in photo with John McCann) is named President & CEO of Better Housing Coalition after a national search.

  • 2014

    • Image: Somanath Sr Apts Ribbon Cutting

      Somanath Senior Apartments in North Church Hill are completed and dedicated in honor of T.K. Somanath, BHC’s former president and CEO.

    • BHC purchases the former Citadel of Hope building in the Historic Union Hill neighborhood.

  • 2015

    • TransformRVA event image

      To commemorate BHC’s 25th anniversary, the company hosts “TransformRVA: A Day of Celebration, Education & Transformation,” to inspire community partners to work together for the Greater Richmond region’s advancement. The keynote speaker is The Honorable Henry Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio and former HUD Secretary.

    • Image: Carter McDowell with Scholarship poster

      BHC announces its Founders’ Scholarship Fund in honor of co-founders Mary Tyler McClenahan and Carter McDowell (at right in photo with Erica Babcock). The fund provides scholarships to adult residents of BHC’s rental communities pursuing higher education.

    • Beckstoffer’s Loft Apartments and Somanath Senior Apartments in Church Hill win the national Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Green Housing category.

  • 2016

    • Possibilities Project ribbon cutting image

      The Possibilities Project, a collaboration between BHC and Children’s Home Society of Virginia, is launched to provide youth ages 18 to 25 who have aged out of the foster-care system with critical supports and housing.

    • Image of Scholarship recipient

      BHC’s Founders Scholarship Fund awards its first higher-education scholarships to eight residents of Lincoln Mews and North Oak communities.

  • 2017

    • Image of groundbreaking ceremony

      May 12, 2017: BHC breaks ground on The Goodwyn at Union Hill, formerly known as the Citadel of Hope at 2230 Venable Street. Estimated completion date: fall 2018. When completed, the development will contain 52 affordable apartments for working families in five separate buildings. Pictured, l-r: Paul Weech, President & CEO of NeighborWorks America; Mike Schewel, BHC Board Chair; Cynthia Newbille, 7th District Councilwoman; Mrs. Erline Goodwyn, in whose family’s name the development is dedicated; Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney; Greta Harris, BHC President & CEO; and Carter McDowell, BHC Co-Founder.

  • 2019

    • Image of BHC staff and friends cutting a ribbon at grand opening of The Goodwyn at Union Hill

      July 23, 2019: Grand Opening of The Goodwyn at Union Hill, 2230 Venable Street, Church Hill neighborhood in Richmond. 52 beautiful, affordable apartments for working families. Total development cost: $9.4 million. Pictured, from left: BHC President & CEO Greta Harris; Bob Newman, VCDC; Wheat McDowell, BHC Board Chair; Cynthia Newbille, Richmond City Council; Mary Thompson, Neighbor and former board member; Mayor Levar M. Stoney; BHC Co-Founder Carter McDowell; Erline Goodwyn, philanthropist and building namesake; Zack Goodwyn; Bernard Rogers, VP of Real Estate Development.

    • Image of a building under construction.

      Construction begins on Market Square IV, a 60-unit affordable senior community on BHC’s Winchester Greens campus in N. Chesterfield, VA. Completion date is estimated July 2020.