In 2017, we were pleased to salute Priscilla Almodovar for her work to create stable, healthy communities and improve the health of vulnerable New Yorkers.
Research consistently demonstrates a strong link between housing and health. Safe, affordable homes protect families from harmful exposures, provide security and stability, and help ensure access to nutritious food, parks, education, and a path out of poverty. Housing insecurity takes all that away. As president and CEO of New York State’s Housing Finance Agency, and then managing director and head of Community Development Banking at J.P. Morgan Chase, Priscilla Almodovar has devoted much of her career to backing affordable housing projects in New York and dozens of other cities across the country that improve the quality of life for their residents and help improve residents’ overall health.
The Columbia Law School graduate started her career at White & Case LLP, where she spent 14 years as a corporate finance partner. In 2005, she became deputy policy director for Eliot Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign, and developed her passion for housing and health care when she was assigned to work on those issues. She learned then, she says, that “for the chronically ill, homeless, mentally ill, and disadvantaged, decent housing is the best prescription for better health.”
Priscilla took the helm of New York State’s Housing Finance Agency (HFA) in January of 2007, leading it through 2009. “I had always wanted to enter public service,” the Sunset Park, Brooklyn, native says. HFA provides construction and permanent financing to affordable housing projects throughout the state, and Priscilla quickly made supportive housing that addressed health needs a priority for the agency, breaking down longstanding silos and aligning resources with the State’s health agencies to enable greater impact. Under her leadership New York State became the largest issuer of tax-exempt housing bonds in the nation and financed almost 11,000 affordable units, 800 of which were supportive housing projects, providing health and behavioral supports to residents.
The Castle Gardens development in Harlem is an early example of HFA’s re-ordered priorities under Priscilla. The $43.5 million supportive housing project, opened in 2011, was co-developed by The Fortune Society, a nonprofit that helps the formerly incarcerated, and Jonathan Rose Companies. It has 114 apartments, with 60 dedicated to former inmates and the formerly homeless, and the rest for low-income families, along with meeting rooms and on-site counseling. The project was funded through a complex mix of public and private financing, including HFA tax-exempt bonds and a grant from the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program.
Priscilla also pushed HFA to focus on affordable rental housing upstate for the first time. One impressive result: the Halstead Square Community Residence–Single Room Occupancy Program in Rochester, for adults with mental-health disabilities. Halstead was developed by DePaul, a nonprofit that provides housing and supportive services in upstate counties.
Moving back to the private sector in 2010, Priscilla was attracted to J.P. Morgan Chase because the bank’s multi-state reach would allow her to apply lessons learned in New York to struggling neighborhoods across the U.S. “Chase plays an important role in every community where it does business. It’s in the company’s DNA to partner and to improve these communities and their economies,” she says. Each year her team deployed approximately $2 billion in financing for affordable housing, schools, health clinics, supermarkets, community centers, and other quality-of-life projects in more than 80 cities, including a five-year, $100 million commitment in 2014 to help ignite Detroit’s rebirth.
With her recent promotion to co-head of J.P. Morgan’s commercial real estate banking business, one of the largest in the nation, Priscilla has become one of the most powerful women in banking. She is a member of the firm’s Commercial Real Estate Council, and is actively involved in its diversity efforts. Earlier this year, Fortune named her one of the “50 Most Powerful Latinas,” and previously Hispanic Business named her one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” in the United States and one of their “25 U.S. Corporate Elites.” Priscilla lives in New York City with her husband, Eric Dinallo, New York State’s superintendent of insurance from 2007 to 2010, and their two children.
Because of Priscilla’s efforts, communities across the nation that once lacked jobs, investment, and infrastructure have been revitalized. On behalf of the health care community in New York City and throughout the U.S., we are proud to pay tribute to Priscilla Almodovar for her passion and commitment to creating healthier, stronger communities.