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Honoring Erhard Mahnke: 24 Years of Affordable Housing Advocacy

As many of you know, Erhard Mahnke has moved on from the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition after 24 years of service as its Coordinator. While no blog post could ever come close to capturing the incredible contributions Erhard has brought to the Coalition—including his steadfast dedication to equity, his policy acumen, and his wealth of historical knowledge—the VAHC team wanted to collect our outgoing tributes to him in one place.

Read on to learn more about Erhard’s contributions to VAHC and housing in Vermont! 

Vermont Affordable Housing Show: VAHC Says Farewell to Erhard Mahnke

In our first pandemic-era episode of the Vermont Affordable Housing Show, we interviewed Erhard about his lifelong work ensuring equity and access to affordable housing in Vermont. 

“I’ve always felt like what I’ve committed my life to is to try to help folks live up to be their best selves and to create equity in the best way possible,” Erhard says. “How does that relate to housing? Housing is foundational. Housing is a basic human right, and without housing, folks have got five knocks against them. Unless you’ve got that stable foundation of a home you’re gonna have challenges having a successful, thriving human life.”

Erhard Mahnke testifying for $15 minimum wage in the Senate Economic Development Committee in 2019.

Erhard started his journey in housing as a carpenter in Burlington in the 80s, and he soon found himself working with colleagues trying to figure out how to do affordable housing as the federal government was slashing the HUD budget. He played a role in creating some of the outstanding mechanisms for creating, funding, and preserving affordable housing in Vermont—such as the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (Vermont’s unique housing funding agency), the cooperative housing model, and the bedrock principle of permanent affordability through the fight to preserve Northgate Apartments. With the Affordable Housing Coalition, Erhard helped build a strong, trusted network of Vermont housing providers and raise awareness among lawmakers and the public of the need for affordable housing. 

Watch the interview to learn more.

Quotes and Comments from Colleagues and Friends

If you know Erhard and have been lucky enough to work with him on housing policy, Coalition business, or any number of other matters, you may have had one or more of the following experiences: Ask him what you think is a quick clarification question and Erhard might give you a 15-20 minute history lesson that you never knew you needed, but nonetheless changed your understanding of the issue at hand. You might have witnessed him in a Vermont legislative committee or a National Low Income Housing Coalition meeting, asking the hardest-hitting questions or tracing the connections between the specific nuances of a complex policy and the broad, ongoing fight for housing justice. And yes, you may have been on the receiving end of a 3 a.m. email (and more recently, the familiar howl of Erhard’s four-legged friend Yeezy through the Zoom screen). At our recent Happy Hour Celebration of Erhard, we heard from dozens of Erhard’s colleagues and friends about all this and more. We gathered some of these quotes honoring Erhard and all we have learned from him. Check them out here!:

VAHC Resolution Designating Erhard “Housing Hero and Friend for Life” 

Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition members approved the following resolution at our March 10, 2021 meeting: 

Thank you, Erhard! 

We know the Coalition, the State House, and the professional affordable housing community in Vermont won’t be the same without Erhard. His steadfast advocacy has had a major role in creating policies and programs that have helped thousands thousands of low-income Vermonters gain access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing. We’re all proud to have worked alongside him, and wish him the best on his next journey on the staff of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. 

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