Editor’s Note: Georgie Asfoura, class of 2020 Juris Doctorate candidate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and Jim Yeager, a master’s program student at OSU’s Fisher College of Business, have recently been named Homeport Board Fellows.
While they are non-voting Board members, the two graduate level students are participating for at least one year in the direction and oversight of Homeport and its mission of providing dignity, security and opportunity through affordable and workforce housing in Central Ohio. We asked them to answer some questions about themselves and why they chose to help Homeport.
Homeport: Tell us about yourselves, where you are from, education or other relevant life experiences.
Georgie: I grew up in Canton, OH and for 5 years, before starting law school, I worked in community development. Much of my work revolved around housing, like managing a women's shelter or organizing for NIMBY fights, and those experiences developed my long-term interest in supporting affordable housing initiatives.
Jim: I am proud to be a Columbus native! Apart from the four years I spent in Athens, OH at Ohio University obtaining my undergraduate degree, I have lived here my entire life. I am currently attending Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business for my Masters in Business Administration. I live in Worthington, OH with my wife, Katie and two kids – Jack, who is two years old and Mason who is one month. I currently work for Prestress Services Industries here in Columbus. Prior to that I spent six years with Deloitte and 2 years with Nationwide Insurance.
How did you learn about Homeport?
Georgie: I help with the Tenant Advocacy Program (run through the Legal Aid Society of Columbus), where attorneys provide free legal advice to folks facing eviction. That experience has helped me learn more about the nonprofits working to address the shortage of affordable and workforce housing, and of course, Homeport's name comes up in those conversations.
Jim: I had read a lot in the news about the good work on affordable housing Homeport is doing. When I found out that Fisher Board Fellows (the Fisher College of Business student organization that pairs MBA candidates with non-profit boards) was partnering with Homeport, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved. I have always had an interest in real estate and my family business is real estate. I have been close to the Columbus real estate market my entire life and the opportunity to become a Board Fellow at Homeport was an exciting opportunity.
What have you learned, seen or heard connected to Homeport that stands out so far?
Georgie: The Board members are all highly engaged and represent a wide cross-section of different expertise areas. They want to be there, lend their experience, and address the issues in a candid way.
Jim: I have learned that having safe, quality housing can have a big impact on one’s health and well-being. The availability of affordable housing and the overall health of a community are correlated. From being able to afford better healthcare, to the positive mental impact of having a safe and secure home, affordable housing is an important piece of the puzzle. Homeport is doing much more than delivering affordable housing to the community. It is empowering people and giving them the tools and resources to be happier and healthier people.
What would you tell a friend considering getting involved at Homeport as a donor or volunteer?
Georgie: Do it! The leadership team thinks intentionally about the future of Homeport, so any investment you make - financial or time - will be directed to a significant need of our community.
Jim: I would ask them to reflect on what they want for their community. The availability of quality affordable housing is important to the overall welfare of our Central Ohio community and a key driver of sustainability and economic growth. The availability of affordable housing is a cornerstone of strong communities. If they want to have the greatest impact on their community, Homeport is one of the best places to spend time and resources on.
What do you feel is the most critical aspect of affordable housing in Central Ohio?
Georgie: Hmm...one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is getting "buy-in" from a greater portion of the private sector. Until private employers understand how a shortage of affordable housing influences the workforce - and indirectly, their bottom lines - nonprofits like Homeport will have to continue bearing a disproportionate burden in building solutions.
Jim: Creating affordable housing in Columbus, and in the communities where it is needed the most, will take partnership from non-profits, private developers, philanthropists, and the government. Columbus is in the midst of a decade-long boom in real estate. Property values are very high and finding affordable land to build affordable housing on is a challenge. I feel that partnership between the real estate and business leaders in our community, along with governments, philanthropic individuals, and the non-profit developers will be important to getting the deals done. I am optimistic that people realize the how important affordable housing is to Columbus and hope that we all remain focused on the well-being and sustainable growth of our community.
When you finish your term as a Board Fellow, what do you hope to have accomplished?
Georgie: I hope to have a fuller understanding of real estate transactions from a legal perspective. So much of legal study is understanding complicated rules, and since the development work that Homeport does can be heavily influenced by the tax code, there is a huge opportunity to learn. Legal education is a route to becoming an effective advocate; the more I learn, the better advocate I can be.
Jim: I hope I have made an impact on the lives of Homeport Community Members. If I can just provide one different idea or perspective that helps the Board advance Homeport’s mission, I will call that a success. I continue to be impressed with how engaged the Board of Directors are at Homeport and I am happy to have the opportunity to work alongside them.