20,000 Attendees at GHC? No wonder it feels crowded in here!
Many of us in the affordable housing community in Virginia find ourselves together this morning here in Hampton at the annual Governor’s Housing Conference. It’s worth a brief look back at the history of this gathering.
The first GHC was held in the early 1990s (1991, if memory serves). That means we’re at year 29 and counting. A little rough math also gets us: 20,000 total attendees (with some serious double counting!), over 700 sessions from several thousand presenters, over a hundred awards for excellence to programs and providers… and no doubt over 100,000 swag bag items. Every Virginia governor since L. Douglas Wilder has attended at least one GHC, and many were multiple visitors.
Special kudos to DHCD’s leadership on this effort for three decades, with supporting help from VHDA, HousingForward Virginia, HUD and USDA Rural Development. Don’t underestimate the effort that it takes to maintain a conference of this size and scope over decades… it’s year-round work!
The GHC also serves the important role helping us to see ourselves as a connected industry with size and clout. It’s also the most important networking event of the year—everyone that you want and need to talk to is here. How many of us have attended the GHC and spent most of our time in the hallways, lobbies, and coffee shops?
We would be remiss to not mention a bittersweet note. Any historical reflection on the GHC needs to acknowledge two individuals who just recently passed to whom all housers owe a debt of gratitude. Allan Diamonstein, who was the long time Chair of the Virginia Housing Commission and the Chair of House Appropriations, and Gerald Baliles was the 65th Governor of Virginia. The two worked to create the $20 million Virginia Housing Partnership Fund in 1990, Virginia’s first venture into large scale state appropriations for affordable housing. The first Governor’s Housing Conference followed a year later.
So enjoy the conference—give a big thank you to Erik and his staff, and remember those who helped get us here. Cheers!
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