After living in Zambia, Dominica, the United States, and Ecuador as a child, Leila Finucane said her experience of so many different living situations got her interested in “places and the impact of places on people.”
In her new role as president and CEO of Victory Housing, Finucane will oversee the affordable housing arm of the Archdiocese of Washington, and have the opportunity to help provide welcoming places for low-income families and the elderly to call home.
“It is great to be able to do what I have always wanted to do and to do it in our archdiocesan community,” Finucane said.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Finucane earned a dual degree in urban planning and law at New York University. Ever since high school, she has been interested in community service, but it was a fellowship at MFY Legal Services after graduating from law school that ultimately opened her eyes to the necessity of affordable housing. She did the four-month fellowship while practicing real estate law at Willkie law firm, and one of the partners at the firm had told her that most associates who did the fellowship did not return to the law firm.
She proved him right, because soon after representing low-income tenants who were trying to get essential repairs done and fighting eviction from their homes, Finucane knew that affordable housing was the field she wanted to work in. Six months after completing the fellowship, she left the firm to become an affordable housing program manager at a non-profit community development intermediary.
“[Affordable housing] is the perfect match of building things and serving communities,” she said. “It is not just building skyscrapers and houses for profit.”
Her combined expertise led her to become the director of the Department of Housing and Community Development for the city of Washington in 2007.
After leaving there, she went on to NeighborWorks America, where she worked with non-profits across the country to provide affordable housing, and then to Capital One Bank, where she worked in community development banking and served as a senior manager until beginning as the president and CEO of Victory Housing on Feb. 6. When she is not in the office, she spends her time traveling, skiing, and driving her 14-year-old daughter to her travel soccer games.
Between her experience working with low-income families and her knowledge of what it is like to move around a lot, Finucane said she knows “how important it is for people to have a place they can call home and feel comfortable.”
“One thing that Victory does that is unique is we really focus on the quality of what we build,” she said. “It is going to feel like home.”
Finucane reflected on the income disparities and housing burden present in both New York City and Washington, where she said, “within a short time you can go from extravagant homes to tents under the bridge,” which displays the importance of affordable housing.
“It is such a tremendous need that if you have the skills or something to bring to that, you should,” she said.
Even beyond providing a roof over their heads, Finucane said providing affordable housing makes an impact on every aspect of people’s lives, including the school opportunities for children and the family members’ health. She described having a home as a platform that allows people to get to other opportunities.
With the quality of life provided by Victory Housing, Finucane said, “you can see how it impacts people’s moods and happiness.” And while that impact may be intangible, there is also the ability to physically go to the building and see what they have accomplished, she said.
Having been a member of the board for Victory Housing for the past several years, Finucane is familiar with the organization, which she said was made very strong by her predecessor, James A. Brown, Jr.
She hopes to provide the same high quality living through Victory Housing for years to come, which will involve working on development, expanding the agency’s building portfolio and performing operational maintenance to ensure that resources are available to provide for the needs of the future.
Praising the appointment of Finacune and the work of her predecessor, Cardinal Wuerl in a statement said, ““For more than three decades, Victory Housing has strived to care for those in need by partnering with government, business and the wider community in helping to meet the overwhelming need for affordable housing in the Washington area. I look forward to working with Leila Finucane as Victory Housing and the archdiocese, together, continues in our ministry to serve the local community and be a sign of hope for those in need. At the same time, I wish to express my great appreciation for the longtime service of James A. Brown, Jr. as he retires from Victory Housing. I extend my heartfelt thanks and offer him blessings in his retirement.”
Victory Housing currently provides housing and related social services in 30 communities with 2,175 units in the D.C. area, primarily to low- and moderate-income families and independent senior citizens.
Finucane also hopes to increase community engagement by providing more volunteer opportunities that will help people to see their operations in action and become exposed to the affordable housing work that the Church does.
She sees the work that Victory Housing does as an act of mercy, such as sheltering the homeless, which she remembers as being a fundamental part of what she was taught in CCD classes as a kid, some of which she took at Little Flower Parish in Bethesda.
“Many people don’t get the opportunity to make that what they work on,” Finucane said, adding, “Although, theoretically, it should be a part of everything that we do.”