Changing Lives and Transforming Communities Since 1988
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.