40 Under 40: Patience Malaba, Housing Development Consortium

Patience Malaba grew up in a village in Zimbabwe with a brother and their 11 cousins, raised by their subsistence farmer grandparents while her parents worked in two different cities.

She remembers her grandparents always giving back to the community to bring people together to solve problems. It inspires her work as executive director of the Seattle-King County Housing Development Consortium (HDC), the 35-year-old organization with an eclectic mix of non- and for-profit members working on one of region’s biggest challenges: the lack of affordable housing.

“What really drives me is a simple human value, which is that at the end of the day, all of us should be able to find a safe place that we call home,” she said.

Each night over 125,000 individuals go home to more than 45,000 homes created or preserved by the 200-plus consortium members..

Malaba tells her grandmother, 87, and still living in the village, that her job in Seattle is to “cause good trouble with honorable troublemakers.”

  • Age: 35
  • Organization: Seattle-King County Housing Development Consortium
  • Title: Executive Director

What brought you to the United States?

It was a fellowship leadership program with the Department of State. I was one of 55 people selected from a pool of 1,500 applicants from across the globe.

What’s one thing that gives you hope for the work you do?

It’s the fundamental commitment that I see in our community – in the leaders of nonprofit organizations who are making our vision a possibility and in our business partners who step up to invest in partnerships to address the challenge.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Never hold a great idea back in the face of fear. My former boss Marty Kooistratold me that our deepest fear is knowing that we’re powerful beyond measure.

What’s the hardest decision you’ve made in the last year?

I’ve had to commit to the most practical solutions that get supported by building consensus. Some of those decisions have had to be made around the bills we’ve drafted at the state level.

What was your first paid job?

I was the program officer for a nonprofit organization that I co-founded with other young people in Zimbabwe, Lupane Youth for Development Trust.

What do you like best about being your age?

That I am grounded in my values and able to build high-trust relationships that transcend personal relationships beyond personal connections to make a greater impact. I’m also glad that it’s an age where you have so much energy for a lot of things, whether it’s work or life and travel. It’s just a beautiful point in life.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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