The need for affordable housing isn’t decreasing any time soon, according to Matthew Reilly, CEO and president of Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development, Inc. MEND, a Moorestown-based nonprofit, just marked 50 years of providing affordable housing to people of low and moderate income.
Earlier this year, Burlington County established a Homeless Task Fund Force to help advise local governments about the creation of local homeless housing programs, and they recently appointed Reilly to join their ranks. He said he’s grateful for the opportunity to open up the discussion about homelessness and affordable housing.
Reilly’s been entrenched in housing development for much of his career. Born in Jersey City, he went to St. Peter’s University in his hometown where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He went on to pursue graduate studies at Fordham University and Rutgers University, ultimately earning a master’s degree in business.
In 1974, Reilly started working with a nonprofit affordable housing developer. The group was working to rebuild portions of the central ward of Newark after the civil disturbances of 1968.
“I had six years of Jesuit education at St. Peter’s and Fordham, and I always had a strong sense that we should all be contributing in some way, shape or form to the common good,” Reilly said.
He logged more than a decade with the developer before transitioning into commercial real estate with Fidelity Bank. He went on to work for Wachovia Bank, where he served as the community development lending head underwriter, which had him dealing with the bank’s affordable housing and community development activities.
When the bank asked him to take a position that involved extensive travel, Reilly wasn’t interested. Since moving to Mount Laurel, Reilly had regularly donated to the United Way, and through that organization, he’d heard of MEND. In the early 2000s, he joined MEND as the nonprofit’s CEO and President.
“When I came to MEND, they just decided I had the experience and the skillset that they were looking for,” Reilly said.
In his capacity as president and CEO, Reilly is involved in the management and maintenance of the nonprofit’s existing housing developments as well as dealing with all of their financing. He’s responsible for the development of all new projects and working to executive affordable housing agreements with townships. To date, MEND has developed 770 residential units at 30 locations in the Burlington County region
In March, Burlington County became the 12th county in the state to create a Homeless Trust Fund, which is financed through a $3 surcharge on all deeds, mortgages and land records filed with the County Clerk’s office. Counties with this fund are required to create a task force to help advise on how best to use and distribute those funds.
Reilly serves on the county’s board of directors for their Continuum of Care Operations, and several years ago, he provided the county with information about the homeless trust fund activity taking place at the state level. He said when the time came to establish a task force, the county was looking for people who work directly with housing and the homeless on a daily basis. When they asked him to join, he didn’t hesitate.
He said the program is still in its earliest stages, with the task force having met for the first time in October. The county estimates the fund will generate somewhere between $225,000 and $250,000 annually. The task force’s job will be to advise the county about how to use the funds for the acquisition and rehabilitation of housing projects.
As of now, it remains to be seen how the county will use the funds, but there are any number of ideas up for discussion, according to Reilly. He said while $250,000 isn’t much when it comes to addressing homelessness, any little bit does help.
“It’s a start – a step in the right direction,” Reilly said. “How can we get the most bang for our limited dollars in terms of addressing homelessness issues?”