When Liz Hutchinson was studying architecture in Boston, her curriculum included a class in homelessness. While she explored the issue from a policy perspective, she also got an up-close look at the reality of homelessness as a volunteer in a shelter.
She has been working on it ever since, and continued the practice of looking at possible solutions from a different angle.
As Asset Manager at Northwest Housing Alternatives, she oversees the medium- to long-term health of a portfolio of 16 properties. Some of her day-to-day is very project based. At the same time, she is keeping an eye on the big economic picture.
“Everybody in Portland is very aware of the challenge of affordable housing. We want diverse communities, and we realize that when people are priced out of where they grew up, it’s not just a problem for them but for the city as a whole.”
When Liz first moved to Portland, she took on a volunteer position with an affordable housing developer, which deepened her understanding of the people side of the issue. The volunteer position led to a full-time position assisting with housing development and asset management.
Her manager recommended she consider studying real estate at Portland State, based on his own experience with PSU’s real estate certificate. Around that time, the Master of Real Estate launched and Liz was drawn to the depth of it.
“I liked that it combines the focus on business with a focus on community,” she recalls.
“That has been really useful for me.”
While still in the program, her company promoted her to asset manager. “The MRED program gave me a crucial bump in skills and knowledge and allowed me to take advantage of the new opportunity. It helped me understand the financials, the development process, and the important questions to ask.”
Closer to graduation, she made her next move to her current employer, where she is responsible for a bigger state-wide portfolio.
Career advancement is not the only thing that has come out of the program for Liz. “I made a lot of connections that I still value today. I also stay in touch with people who are currently in the program and are looking for new opportunities.”