{ PERSON OF INTEREST }

BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Cardiff’s own Rebecca Louie building
a future of affordable housing.

By David Moye
POI-edit

As a young girl growing up near Anchorage, Alaska, Rebecca Louie had a lot of independence.

“I worked on a ranch from the time I was eight,” Rebecca, 43 years old, said. “That’s where I would spend my summers. I started out as a pony wrangler and after a while, I was head pony wrangler in charge of six ponies. I had self-confidence at an early age because I had a great deal of independence. I would lead adults on trail rides and I was a camp counselor to kids older than me. It just gave me a sense I could get things done.”

Wrangling ponies turned out to be good training for the job she has now: Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation, a non-profit that builds affordable housing around California. Creating affordable housing in an expensive housing market isn’t easy, but Rebecca believes it is essential to ensure a high quality of life for all San Diegans. Wakeland has built 6,000 units in 34 projects, half of those in the San Diego area.

“The economy here is based on low-wage jobs, and the people that work them need affordable housing,” she said. “It’s the linchpin to our economy. We find places where people can live so they can have stability. It makes an extraordinary difference. Everyone talks about education and healthcare, but without stable housing, it’s a moot point.”

Since there will never be enough affordable housing, detractors argue that spending taxpayer money on it is just a drop in the bucket. Louie believes that making housing cheaper for even just a few can improve the community at large.  An Alaskan native of Tlingit/Aleut descent, Rebecca grew up with a strong sense of social justice, and truly believes that the work she is doing is tremendously worthwhile.

“Coming here for college, I discovered I’m a California girl who was stuck in Alaska the first 18 years of her life. I was ready to be in the sunshine,” she laughed. “I once moved back to Alaska to be closer to my parents, but I lasted two months. I remember looking out the window and the sun was setting at 3:45 pm and it was 15 degrees. I realized I had made a terrible mistake.”

Although Rebecca enjoys spending her weekends in Cardiff with her husband, David, and their two daughters, Simone and Elise, she prefers working on the issues in San Diego during the week. As she sees it now, she has the best of both worlds.