As Executive Director of Community Housing Innovations (CHI) since its inception, Alexander Roberts has overseen the acquisition of 500 houses and apartments in Westchester, Dutchess, Ulster, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. CHI’s current annual budget is $20 million. It was recognized as one of the nation’s fastest growing housing nonprofits in 2002 by the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company.
Mr. Roberts co-founded CHI in 1991, after spending nearly 20 years as a television news correspondent. He was a reporter and anchor for WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, Virginia, WRGB-TV in Albany, and WPIX-TV in New York City. He won numerous awards for his reporting, including two Emmy Nominations and the Associated Press Broadcasters Award for General Excellence in Individual Reporting.
After covering the welfare hotel scandals in the late eighties in New York City, Mr. Roberts decided to leave broadcasting for a career in affordable housing development and human services.
In 1991, Suffolk County, New York faced a crisis in which nearly 500 families were homeless — the majority in unsupervised welfare hotels. Children were living in crowded, vermin-infested rooms, with drugs freely available. Working with the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, Mr. Roberts developed a supervised motel model. He negotiated agreements with motel owners that established on site CHI offices, with caseworkers to assist the homeless in finding housing and services. CHI monitored health and safety standards and families were required to execute “self-sufficiency contracts” with CHI social workers. CHI relocated thousands of families into permanent and transitional housing, ultimately resulting in the closure of the welfare hotels by 1996.
In 1994, Roberts proposed an emergency housing strategy to Westchester County that allowed the agency to acquire multi-family buildings. Leveraging tens of millions of dollars in grants, low interest loans, and bank mortgages, Roberts negotiated the acquisition of nearly 500 units of housing for the poor and those with special needs in Westchester County and Long Island.
In 1996, under Roberts’ guidance, CHI began developing partnerships with services organizations that lacked the housing development expertise to compete for federal HUD Supportive Housing Program grants. With these organizations providing the case management for individuals with special needs — such as the developmentally disabled and mentally ill — CHI obtained grants totaling over $7 million to develop supportive housing for these populations. CHI received Best Practices recognition from HUD in 2000.
Also in that year, Mr. Roberts started a division to assist families in realizing the dream of home ownership. Called “Renters into Owners,” the program included CHI’s purchase and renovation of more than 100 homes for sale for as little as no money down to first time home buyers. Since then, Mr. Roberts has established a nonprofit brokerage subsidiary catering to first-time home buyers, as well as a management and development company. CHI’s home ownership division annually administers about $1 million in grants to first time home buyers under contract with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.
Mr. Roberts came to the energy efficiency movement early, and completed the Energy Management Certification course sponsored by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal in January 2002. He has utilized the NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program for nine of CHI’s existing buildings, coupling it with New York State Weatherization. In addition, CHI became the first in Westchester County to take advantage of the NYSERDA Low Rise New Construction Pilot for a 14-unit affordable condominium development in White Plains. With CHI as the developer and general contractor, the project was the first in White Plains to utilize ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling. CHI has also performed energy audits and energy retrofits for dozens of its residential properties on Long Island under the National Grid and Weatherization programs.
In addition, Mr. Roberts has personally utilized the Home Performance with Energy Star® program for his home and promoted the program for BPI-certified contractors with an energy call center developed by CHI.
CHI has committed that all of its projects will meet Energy Star® requirements.
In 2001 CHI started a Career Services Division to provide skills training for homeless and low income workers in Westchester and Nassau Counties. Utilizing contracts from the New York State Department of Labor’s new Welfare to Work Initiative, CHI quickly became one of the state’s most successful computer training providers, with a student completion rate of more than 90%.
Mr. Roberts is a ranked tennis player, ranked as high as #3 in the USTA Eastern Division for his age group in 2006. He is currently ranked #4 in his age group.
Mr. Roberts is active in volunteer community efforts, serving as President of the Westchester Symphony Orchestra from 1996 to 1998 and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Supportive Housing Network of New York. Mr. Roberts is married to Barbara G. Roberts, a First Vice President and Senior Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch. They have one son, Benjamin, who is 26.