As a hungry graduate armed with a finance degree from Grand Valley State University, I dove into the world of commercial credit, underwriting investment real estate as well as commercial and industrial loans. It was at a bank, and I learned a lot, but something was missing.
Cinnaire was that missing piece. I leveraged my experience to join Cinnaire’s Asset Management team in 2015 as an Assistant Asset Manager, performing investor reporting on and managing the economic risks of a stabilized LIHTC portfolio. My portfolio took me all over Michigan, from the locks of Sault Ste. Marie to the urban sprawls of Detroit. I soon realized the real assets we had.
In my first month on the job, I stopped by a senior living community for a site visit. I was greeted by Barb on her morning stroll. Without hesitation, she toured me around the property. As we got to know one another, I learned that before living at the property, she had no family support, was isolated and living in squalor. Now, she was a proud leader in her community, gleaming with pride, happy with her home, her neighbors and the spaces where she socializes. Meeting Barb was my first taste of what Cinnaire was all about and the differences we were making in peoples’ lives through our role in providing affordable housing.
In fact, my life was changed through affordable housing, so in a way, I have come full circle. I’ve found a line of work that provides opportunities for people in difficult life circumstances – a position my family knew first-hand. My parents made the decision to leave Vietnam when I was two and immigrate to America seeking a better life. My mom sold her wedding ring to buy me food and milk during a two-week layover in Thailand en route to America.
Once my family did land on U.S. soil, building a life still had its challenges. As immigrants who couldn’t speak English, luxuries like access to higher education, employment and decent health care were hard to come by. When we finally found affordable housing in Lansing, it was a monumental event. Having our own home meant we could move out of a crowded space shared with extended family, live with dignity and join a community. We came across mission-based organizations and people every step of the way who cared enough to provide us with life necessities. Having a home that didn’t break the bank allowed my parents to maintain stable employment, put food on the table and raise me in an environment where I could thrive.
To now work with an organization that invests, supports and advocates for people in similar circumstances is beyond fulfilling. I know what people can do given the chance. That’s why I have a vested interest in what we do and the culture at Cinnaire emboldens me to find ways I can contribute to the community.
Now, in my role as Dispositions Relationship Manager, I take the lead on all aspects of analyzing, negotiating and deal closures with our developer partners to also ensure we maintain affordability for our residents after we exit. My role now focuses on building strategic relationships to this end. This work has allowed me opportunities to speak on national stages at IPED, the Affordable Housing Association of Indiana, Building Michigan Communities Conference and the National Association of State and Local Equity Funds (NASLEF) Conferences. I also host and lead bi-annual Dispositions roundtables to facilitate conversations on the industry’s trends, issues and best practices.
That exposure also led to me being identified as a NASLEF Emerging Leader, and awarded the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 10 Over the Next Ten award, which recognizes Lansing’s best and brightest young professionals.
The work I do wouldn’t be possible without the support or encouragement of my mentors, colleagues and the community. Every year, with the help of coworkers, I organize and lead a holiday food drive across Cinnaire’s national footprint. I’m an advocate for Lansing and connected to the business community as an Ambassador for the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. Sitting on planning committees for the Building Michigan Communities Conference and Greater Lansing Food Bank Empty Plate event allows me some influence on two of the biggest events in town.
For three years, I acted as a liaison between GVSU Alumni in the area and Lansing, to organize events that highlight our local offerings. I was involved as a Junior Achievement Teacher educating 1st and 2nd graders on financial literacy and I also helped raise funds for the Capital Area Response Effort as a celebrity Caddy at the Lady’s Classic outing. My other volunteer efforts have benefited Habitat for Humanity, the Greater Lansing Food Bank, Small Talk Children’s Advocacy Center and the Capital Rescue Mission. You can also find me at the housing developments we manage, pulling weeds, mulching and getting my hands dirty.
My Why and what drives me to excel and give back is my personal life vision. I want to be a good man and I base my actions on that vision. I strive to be someone my daughter can model, a man my partner and family can be proud of. This philosophy grounds me amidst the complexities of real estate transactions and pushes me to be a better person. I’m a product of the caring environment I was raised in. It’s simply my duty to give back.
It’s what any good person would do. Luan’s Profile