Meet Our Team: Kate Dykgraaf

Kate Dykgraaf

Kate, welcome to CCI! What is your role with us?

I lead behind the scenes on operations and strategy so our programs run smoothly and we can be most effective at our work.

What about the Center’s work most excites you?

Our ambitious, deeply held goal of systems change in community investment. I spent 7 years working at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), talking to communities working to deploy resources in low- and moderate-income areas. The extent of the need for affordable housing and basic infrastructure, let alone climate-resilient infrastructure, and the tools that we have to finance them are completely out of whack—we absolutely will not be able to get to the scale to address the problem unless we expand the people and resources at the table. Our approach at CCI is trying to change the system—getting people together to change the way finance gets deployed with an eye toward better outcomes for poor communities and communities of color.

You were an English and Sociology major in college, how did you end up at HUD?

When I graduated from William and Mary, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was a strong writer, so I ended up working at a planning and engineering consulting firm helping to write proposals, plans, and reports. I liked the projects I worked on with planners at the firm, so I went to grad school to be a planner. At Virginia Tech, I realized I didn’t want to be a practicing planner, but I loved my classes in urban economics, planning theory, food systems, and sustainability. I realized I was passionate about urban policy and decided to look for jobs working on these issues from different angles.

After graduate school, I was lucky enough to get a Presidential Management Fellowship and ended up at HUD. Working at HUD opened my eyes to the pervasiveness and lasting impacts of housing segregation, how hard it is to make even one affordable housing deal work, and that collaboration between sectors and actors in a place is the best way to drive change.

What were you working on before you came to the Center?

I was lucky to work on both long-term, core programs and Obama Administration signature initiatives during my time at HUD. These included the Community Development Block Grant program, an essential and flexible program that is the foundation of state and local community development departments across the country; the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which stabilized communities that suffered from foreclosures and abandonment through the purchase and redevelopment of residential properties during the housing crisis; the Sustainable Communities Initiative, which supported regional and local planning efforts that helped communities integrate housing, transportation, infrastructure and environmental goals with a focus on racial equity; and the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities which piloted new technical assistance models to cities experiencing economic distress, including deploying federal staff to add capacity locally and standing up the National Resource Network.

When you’re not at work, you …

Read novels, cook, play with my labradoodle, Kylie, and eat all the Lao, Thai, Mexican, Pakistani, Afghan, and Persian food that the DC metro area offers with my husband, Jeff.

People would be surprised to know…

I have 7 siblings in my big, blended family.

What is your media diet?

I’m a big podcast listener: Up First, I Think You’re Interesting, With Friends Like These, and Who? Weekly are in regular rotation. Most of the news and commentary I read I find through people I follow on Twitter, but I don’t miss anything written by Emily Badger, Wesley Morris, Jenna Wortham, Jamelle Bouie, Rebecca Traister, Alec MacGillis, Joe Cortright, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Jia Tolentino. I love pop culture, especially a good celebrity profile, and pieces written by Caity Weaver, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and Ira Madison III are always my favorites. For TV news I only watch CBS, which I find to be the most substantive of the networks, and because one of my best friends, @PaulaReidCBS, covers the Department of Justice for them.

Transforming investment in communities

The Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.

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