Elizabeth Gruber knows how to balance the strengths of the private market with the need for more housing production in Massachusetts. Her description of the New Market Tax Credit as an instrument to bring the discipline of private capital into a process promotive of public welfare, sums up her philosophical approach to doing well by doing good.
The tax reform of 1986 provided a slow start to reversing this trend by allowing a sustainable business model to help build affordable housing. It gained support from developers, politicians and lenders/investors. Viewed as high-risk 30 years ago, it has become the only successful housing production program for affordable housing over the last few decades, she said, and demand for purchase of credits has soared over the last 10 years. The program has proven to be an efficient conduit to get private capital into the production of affordable and mixed-income housing.
Gruber embarked on her banking career in the late ’70s as a bank teller at a local savings bank, was promoted to branch manager and progressing up the chain. When she moved to then-BankBoston in the early 1990s, she got into commercial development. It was just after the real estate crash of the late 1980s and activity in traditional real estate was slow. But that presented an opportunity for intensified focus on a Federal Reserve study on banks’ disinvestment in inner cities.
Bank of America supports both for-profit and nonprofit clients in finding ways to build housing, Gruber said. With federal and state resources drying up, and both demand and costs continuing to increase, the challenge is to support bank clients with the resources to get it done.
On the community and family fronts, technology plays an essential part in staying highly organized. Her board service includes Support Corporation (local board chair), Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (vice chair), North Suffolk Mental Health (assistant treasurer, past president), and Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (vice chair). Her expertise in finance and real estate is reciprocated by a continual learning experience. One of her nominators noted that each of these organizations thrives as a result of her expertise, creativity and strong commitment to the community.
Last but far from least, Gruber is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed 18 years ago at age 43 with a fairly aggressive form of cancer when her three children were 3, 8 and 10 years old. Four years after her active treatment ended, she felt she wanted to give back to Dana Farber, where she received her treatment. Running for charity for Dana Farber two separate times, raising a total of $50,000 with the support of scores upon scores of supporters, was “quite an overwhelming experience.” That, she said, is the spirit of the Boston Marathon: “It’s really about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”