Julie Eades

We've lost a true champion of affordable housing

By Julie Eades

Curt Hiebert grew affordable housing in Keene, balancing federal requirements with dignified services.

At one time it seemed the news about public rental housing was only awful, culminating in dramatic demolition scenes on the TV. It would have been easy to believe these troubles were everywhere, but quite the opposite was happening in most places, particularly in Keene, N.H.

Man in Hawaiian shirt smiling

Kurt Hiebert at the N.H. Community Loan Fund's 30th anniversary celebration in Keene.

The reason was Curt Hiebert, Executive Director of the Keene Housing Authority for 25 years before retiring in 2012. He expanded affordable housing in Keene while strengthening the agency, and balanced federal requirements with dignified service delivery. He was respected nationally as a foresighted leader and innovator.

Josh Meehan, his successor, told me, "Every day we are reminded of Curt's creativity, enthusiasm and dogged refusal to take "no" for an answer when the welfare of the people we serve was at stake."

Curt served on the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund Board of Directors for six years, and on the Loan Review Committee for 16. He arrived for meetings upbeat and energetic, especially in good weather, when he rode his beloved motorcycle. Curt made us better with his in-depth knowledge of affordable rental housing development, of public subsidies and of the housing need in the Keene area.

We helped him leverage resources for more high-quality units. We were able to lend to the Keene Housing Authority when it chose to move a pair of 350-ton pre-Civil War buildings and rehab them as elderly and disabled housing, now known as Harper Acres. Our loan enabled them to include a common living room that was ineligible under other funding. As is often the case, our loan "was the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle" Curt said at the time.

When Curt died on February 16, he made one last gift to us by directing memorial donations to the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Even now, he is helping us do more to help people help themselves.

Juliana Eades is President of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.