Who We Are
Mission First Housing Group is a family of 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporations working together to ensure everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.
Mission First Housing Group envisions communities where everyone can live independently in affordable, safe and sustainable homes with access to resources and opportunities in their community.
Mission First Housing Group’s mission is to develop and manage affordable, safe and sustainable homes for people in need, with a focus on the vulnerable. We ensure our residents have access to resources to help them live independently. We deliver housing that provides long-term benefits to residents and neighborhoods, alike.
We believe that everyone deserves to live in a safe, affordable, sustainable home.
We believe that by working together, we can help more people.
We believe it’s our responsibility to carefully steward the resources entrusted to us by our funders and partners on behalf of our residents.
We strive to be a leader in the field of affordable housing.
We expect to be held accountable by many people: our residents, Board of Directors, employees, partners, funders and vendors.
What began 25 years ago as a joint venture between the City of Philadelphia, HUD and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has become a full-service, nonprofit affordable housing organization developing high-quality, green community assets across the Mid-Atlantic region. Mission First’s original purpose was to provide for the housing needs of adults living with chronic mental illness. In June 1989, Mission First acquired its first property – a South Philadelphia duplex. Our first resident moved in to an apartment there October 1, 1989 and lived there for 22 years.
Over the course of our history, Mission First employed a number of key strategies and innovative practices to support its expansion, including incorporating an affiliated nonprofit entity to lease, manage and maintain its properties and coordinate resident services; leveraging funding to acquire property; assembling complex financing sources; and developing a successful model for utilizing mergers, acquisitions and friendly take-overs to help stabilize troubled affordable housing projects and expand its portfolio.
Having developed a successful model for providing safe, quality, affordable housing for a particularly vulnerable population, Mission First sought to expand its model to new geographies and serve others in need. Mission First’s footprint is now the entire Mid-Atlantic region and it now serves a diverse resident population that includes families, veterans, survivors of domestic violence,seniors and individuals with disabilities.
Today Mission First provides safe, affordable, sustainable homes to more than 4,000 people in over 3,000 units.
We invite you to learn more about our organization’s history.
Click here to read our 25th Anniversary publication.
Mission First Senior Staff
- Alfredo de la Peña Chief Executive Officer
- Robert H. Kwait, Esq. Corporate Counsel
- Cecilia Loose, CPA Chief Financial Officer
- Sarah Constant Managing Director
- Mark Deitcher Director of Business Development
- Sue McPhedran Senior Real Estate Development Manager
- Elizabeth Askew Everhart Senior Development Manager (DC/MD/VA)
- Catherine Panas Director, Construction Services
- Moira Rooney Director of Strategic Investment
- Heidi Bohn Director of Property Management (District 1)
- John Bohn District Manager, Facilities (PA/NJ/DE)
- Candy Leonbruno Director of Program Management (PA)
- Clare Oestreicher Director of Compliance
- Lisa A. DiBenedetto Director of Risk Management
- Susan McMichael Director of Information Systems
Alfredo de la PeñaChief Executive Officer
Alfredo provides leadership to a staff of more than 150 individuals, and reports to the Board of Directors and works collaboratively with Executive and Director-level staff members in each of the respective entities to ensure the organization consistently achieves its mission and financial objectives. Alfredo oversees development and implementation of the strategic plan. His role is to ensure the organization effectively manages growth as a multi-state nonprofit affordable housing developer; assure the organization’s financial strength, balancing financial health and stability while advancing the mission; and to build the organization’s external identity in order to promote visibility, preserve and expand resources, and connect with other professionals and organizations.
Alfredo was promoted to CEO in July 2016 after serving the organization as Chief Operations Officer for 20 years where he oversaw the management operations for over $250 million in real estate, as well as managing cash flow for the $50 million budget.
Prior to joining Mission First in 1996, Alfredo worked as a consultant for the Resolution Trust Corporation where he oversaw the consolidation of troubled assets with a book value of $5 billion. Prior to that, he developed financial applications for mortgage systems. He also worked for several years in various aspects of residential and commercial real estate, performing financial analysis, budgeting, and cash flow analysis of development projects totaling $1.4 billion. Alfredo has over 34 years of experience in real estate and finance.
Robert H. Kwait, Esq.Corporate Counsel
Rob provides in-house counsel on real estate development and financing, corporate structuring, landlord-tenant issues and general corporate oversight and communications. His responsibilities include oversight of all real estate, loan, low-income housing tax credit funding transactions, and related legal matters. Rob also serves as a corporate officer to Mission First Housing Group. Prior to joining Mission First in 2003, Rob worked in private practice at Duane Morris, LLP and at Spector, Gadon & Rosen, P.C., concentrating in real estate, bankruptcy and reorganization and corporate law. Rob holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Consumer Economics and Housing from Cornell University and a Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School.
Cecilia Loose, CPAChief Financial Officer
Cecilia handles annual and interim financial and cost certification reporting to all federal, state and local funding sources as well as to the limited partners in all tax credit limited partnerships. She also provides tax reporting and compliance for all owned and controlled entities, and manages the accounting and compliance teams. Prior to joining Mission First in 2011, she worked for a regional public accounting firm where she specialized in accounting, auditing and consulting services for not-for-profit, real estate and distribution companies. In addition, she served as Director of Finance for a commercial construction company in the Philadelphia area. Cecilia graduated from Clarion University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and holds a certified public accounting license in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Sarah ConstantManaging Director
Sarah is responsible for managing development projects, building client relationships and overseeing the company's day-to-day development operations. To date, she has closed more than $200 million worth of deals during her career and has numerous projects in development.
Prior to joining Mission First, Sarah spent two years working for the Community Banking Group at Fleet Bank in Boston. There, she originated more than $10 million in investor-owned real-estate transactions in targeted CRA markets, creating and preserving 600 units of affordable housing in the Boston market. Sarah also managed the City of Boston's multi-family rental and homeownership programs including HOME, CDBG and the Neighborhood Housing Trust.
Sarah holds a Master of Business Administration from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mark DeitcherDirector of Business Development
Mark is responsible for identifying new development opportunities, expanding Mission First into new geographic markets, working with key local partners and securing the necessary financing and local approvals necessary for these affordable housing developments. In his role, he also collaborates with the Director of Strategic Investment on the development and implementation of the fundraising and communications strategy.
Prior to joining Mission First, Mark worked for 19 years as a consultant for Fairmount Ventures where he assisted both for- and not-for-profit developers with the financing of affordable and special needs housing. He helped procure over $300 million in financing to help create 2,000 units of affordable housing. In addition, at Fairmount, he advised nonprofit and governmental agencies on a range of economic development and public policy issues.
Mark has a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University. He currently serves on the boards of Cheltenham Sports and the Hassel Foundation.
Sue McPhedranSenior Real Estate Development Manager
Sue manages projects in the Philadelphia region, coordinating the activities of internal and external members of the development team to ensure projects move through predevelopment and development to completion as smoothly as possible. Sue is involved in determining the feasibility of new opportunities, securing project financing, interacting with public sector representatives, obtaining approvals, closing with all funding sources, and working to ensure development is completed on schedule and on budget. Sue represents Mission First in various external forums including conferences, panels, and professional organizations.
Prior to joining Mission First, Sue was at an affordable housing development consulting firm where she supported a broad range of clients—nonprofit and for-profit—to conceptualize and implement affordable housing and other community development projects from start to finish. Sue also worked at a leading community development financial institution, where she managed the affordable housing group, oversaw technical assistance and consulting activities, served as a housing lender.
Sue is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Askew EverhartSenior Development Manager (DC/MD/VA)
As Senior Development Manager, Elizabeth oversees project feasibility, predevelopment, financing, and construction, as well as fulfills all project regulatory requirements for properties.
Prior to joining Mission First, Elizabeth worked in the environmental investigation and remediation field, aiding in the redevelopment of brownfield properties in the Chicago area. Elizabeth has also worked with the New Jersey Office of Management and Budget and the Oregon Department of Transportation, specializing in policy and performance analysis.
Elizabeth holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy from Duke University, and dual Masters’ degrees in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.
Catherine PanasDirector, Construction Services
Catherine manages a wide range of construction projects out of Mission First’s Philadelphia office including out-of-ground, adaptive reuse and substantial renovations through all phases of a project from concept to turnover. In this role, she is responsible for pre-construction and construction activity throughout a project’s life cycle including: identification of scope and budget, RFP management, construction team identification and management, permitting, price and contract negotiation and construction oversight and scheduling.
Prior to joining Mission First, Catherine worked as a project director and account manager at a firm providing design and project management services in Philadelphia. At this firm, she managed multiple internal teams and provided a range of design and construction consulting services with an emphasis on LEED consultation. Catherine has experience in design, construction, development, and project management in California, New York City, and Chicago, and is a LEED Accredited Professional as well as a member of many sustainable building councils and associations.
Catherine holds a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University as well as a Certificate in Interior Design from Parsons School of Design and a Master’s of Science in Sustainable Design from Philadelphia University.
Moira RooneyDirector of Strategic Investment
Moira is responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of Mission First’s fundraising strategy, seeking to broaden Mission First’s base of philanthropic support. She contributes to organizational strategic planning and oversees marketing and communications activities geared toward raising the organization’s profile and broadening its stakeholder network.
Prior to joining Mission First, Moira worked for twelve years as a partner in a small business providing consulting to Philadelphia-area nonprofits in the areas of fundraising and organizational development.
Moira graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin.
Heidi BohnDirector of Property Management (District 1)
Heidi is responsible for developing and overseeing the operations of Mission First’s portfolio in Philadelphia. She also oversees the financial operations of Mission First’s low income housing tax credit projects in Philadelphia; all activity related to the Philadelphia Housing Authority; and the maintenance department in Philadelphia.
Prior to joining Mission First in 2001, Heidi worked in commercial and residential property management as the Assistant Controller for properties in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.
Heidi holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pierce College, a Master of Science in Business Management from Capella University, a Master of Science in Non Profit Management and Leadership from Capella University, and the Lean & Six Sigma Green Belt Certification from Rutgers University. Heidi is pursuing the Certified Property Manager title through IREM.
John BohnDistrict Manager, Facilities (PA/NJ/DE)
John joined Mission First in June 2013. In his role, he is responsible for the daily maintenance operations for the district 1 section of the portfolio, this includes over 2000 units in PA, NJ, and DE. John has over 30 years of experience in the construction and property maintenance fields.
John holds certifications with Temple University Real Estate Institute, The Pennsylvania-Delaware Affordable Housing Management Association, IREM Institute of Real Estate, and OSHA. He also is currently enrolled in The American Home Inspection Training Institute.
Candy LeonbrunoDirector of Program Management (PA)
Candy is responsible for the supervision of the property management team that handles all phases of leasing residents with behavioral health issues. Her ability to establish good working relationships with our partners and service agencies has enhanced Mission First’s ability to achieve its goals of providing/maintaining housing for low-income persons.
Before coming to Mission First in 2001, Candy was employed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Section 8 Housing Program for six years, also serving low-income persons as a leasing representative.
Candy graduated in 1977 from the State University of New York’s College of Arts and Science at Plattsburgh, N.Y. with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology.
Clare OestreicherDirector of Compliance
Clare is responsible for ensuring Mission First’s compliance with the requirements of all funding sources and local partners, including LIHTC, HUD Affordable Housing Programs, HOME funds and Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Programs, among others. Clare oversees all aspects of the Compliance Department for the Philadelphia office, including leasing, initial and annual recertifications, and ongoing reporting to investors. Clare also oversees the administration of the Mainstream Section 8 Housing Program for persons with disabilities, which provides rental subsidies to 50 disabled households on an ongoing basis.
Prior to joining Mission First Housing Group, Clare worked with a local Mental Health clinic in Norristown, PA serving senior citizens with mental health needs.
Clare graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Eastern University in St. Davids, PA. She holds a Real Estate Salesperson license. Clare is also certified in Tax Credit, AHM, HQS, Fair Housing and 504 Requirements.
Lisa A. DiBenedettoDirector of Risk Management
Lisa is responsible for monitoring the performance of all owned and controlled properties from acquisition to construction, and stabilization. She interfaces with the property management department on all operational issues and deadlines, including annual budgets, payables, contracts, and maintenance issues. Lisa maintains completion schedules of capital improvements in conjunction with lender timelines and funding requirements and manages reserves.
Prior to joining Mission First in 1997, Lisa worked as an office coordinator for a design/build architecture firm in Philadelphia where she was responsible for zoning and permitting process, and coordination of projects under construction.
Lisa graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Urban Studies.
Susan McMichaelDirector of Information Systems
Sue oversees the development, implementation, and use of technology throughout the organization, working closely with all departments to assess and address departmental and employee needs. Sue works closely with Mission First’s technology-related vendors and department heads to assess need and assure that the organization’s technology infrastructure is developed and refined to support ongoing growth.
Prior to joining Mission First, Susan was a Computer Administrator and Legal Secretary at Campbell Soup Company, where she reported directly to the Corporate Secretary and performed troubleshooting for the Legal Department. Susan also served as liaison to the Management Information Services Department, performed in-house employee training, and evaluated all proposed software.
Susan is certified by National Affordable Housing Management Association as Specialist in Housing Credit Management as well as Certified Professional of Occupancy. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and has Specialist in Housing Credit Management and Certified Professional of Occupancy certifications from NAHMA.
Board of Directors
- Harry G. "Skip" Dittmann, Chair Retired,
- Gina C. Muldrow, Vice Chair Administrator, Society For Helping Church and Society For Helping, Inc
- Mark Duffy, Treasurer Senior Vice President, Firstrust Bank
- Michael Davidson, Esq., Secretary Partner, Turner Law, PC
- Russell Johnson Chief Executive Officer, Health Spark Foundation
- Jim Kilcoyne Veteran, Volunteer, Philadelphia Veteran’s Administration Medical Center
- Joel S. Lawson III Private Investor,
- Shannon Scott Chief Financial Officer, Greater Washington Community Foundation