Stephanie Thomas, President
Stephanie Thomas has worked in disability rights and housing for nearly four decades. As a person in a wheelchair, she knows firsthand the difference that accessible housing makes in improving one’s quality of life. Stephanie led the effort for the 1996 voluntary compliance agreement between ADAPT and the City of Austin to address widespread housing discrimination against people with disabilities: this led to Austin’s Visitability Ordinance, the accessibility in SMART housing, and the development of hundreds more accessible units in Austin. Prior to moving to Austin, Stephanie worked with the Atlantis Community in Denver where she developed positive integrated housing options. In addition, she has authored numerous articles, white papers and other informational pieces on housing rights for people with disabilities. As one of the founders of AHA!, Stephanie is proud of how the organization operates, partnering people with disabilities with people of various housing expertise to create viable integrated, accessible housing solutions that are affordable to low-income families and individuals.
Jennifer McPhail, Vice President
A life-long Austinite, Jennifer McPhail has served as a national and local community organizer for ADAPT for 23 years, working to improve long term services and supports so that people with disabilities who need services can live in the community. She has also worked to improve sidewalk access throughout Austin, increase access to local businesses and increase the availability of affordable, accessible, integrated housing. She has twice been appointed to the City of Austin’s Bond Advisory Committee and has volunteered with the Community Emergency Response Team. She served on the Texas Democratic Party Chairman’s Platform Advisory Committee in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 and represented Senate District 14 at the 2004 National Convention. She joined the AHA! Board of Directors because she believes that the lack of affordable, accessible, integrated housing is one of the biggest problems the disability community faces now and in the future and looks forward to more success for AHA! and its tenants.
Paul Hilgers, Secretary
Paul Hilgers is CEO of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, a nearly 10,000-member professional organization that serves 18 Central Texas counties. Prior to his current position, Hilgers served nearly 10 years as the City of Austin’s Director of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development managing federal and local housing and community development programs in Austin, including the expansion of the Austin Housing Finance Corporation, which issues housing bonds and tax credits. More recently he served three years as deputy general manager of the reorganized Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) to help bring major changes to that organization. An Austin native, Hilgers is a graduate of Whittier College and holds a Masters degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the City of Austin and the PEC, he has worked for former Governor Mark White, as a long-time district director for former Congressman Jake Pickle, and as a federal and community relations manager for the Lower Colorado River Authority.
Jean Langendorf, Treasurer
Jean Langendorf has worked on housing issues for many years and previously served as the Vice President of Community and Housing Services at Easter Seals Central Texas. Prior to that position, Jean was the Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy of Texas (UCP Texas), which merged with Easter Seals in the beginning of 2010. During her tenure with UCP, she also served as the Project Director for the Texas Home of Your Own Coalition, a project designed to expand home-ownership opportunities to Texans with disabilities. Jean has served as a consultant providing technical assistance to Public Housing Authorities for Project Access and Fannie Mae, as well as to housing and homeownership programs throughout the United States. Jean was one of the disability advocates who helped to found Accessible Housing Austin! to address the great need for accessible and affordable housing in Austin. She is thrilled to be a member of the board and to see the growth the organization has experienced!
Becca Bruce Dobberfuhl, Member-at-Large
Becca Bruce Dobberfuhl has more than 15 years of experience in the areas of affordable housing and community development. As president and founder of Vacri Development, Becca consults with both nonprofit and for-profit organizations interested in developing or expanding affordable housing opportunities. Becca has worked for a wide range of clients from small, community-based nonprofits to large, national nonprofits to develop affordable housing and secure financing. Prior to starting her own firm, Becca oversaw the development of affordable housing projects and managed the acquisition of financing through a variety of federal, state, and local programs in her position as Vice President of Diana McIver & Associates and Development Manager for Foundation Communities, Inc. Becca has secured more than $100 million for affordable housing development and served as development manager for more than 30 multifamily projects across the country. Becca holds a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a mother of two toddlers, and this job currently takes up most of her time.
Renee Lopez, Member-at-Large
An organizer for ADAPT of Texas, Renee Lopez has thirty years of experience working in disability services and as an activist and advocate with disability rights organizations. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. From 1987 to 2013 she worked for the state of Texas adjudicating Social Security disability claims. She has served on the advisory board for SafePlace Disability Services since 2010 and on the boards of VSA Texas– The State Organization for Arts and Disability and HAND since 2014. She joined AHA!’s board in October 2014.
Melissa Orren, Executive Director
Melissa Orren moved to Austin, TX in 2002 to begin her career in nonprofit housing with Austin Habitat for Humanity. After building the housing counseling program for Habitat into a nationally recognized model, she moved on to for-profit real estate before returning to non-profit housing as the Landlord Outreach Specialist for the Best Single Source Plus Program through Caritas of Austin, where she was responsible for building a community database of housing providers. She began working part-time with AHA! in 2015, while also working for the Austin Tenants’ Council as the Fair Housing Testing Program Coordinator. She was promoted to AHA!’s Executive Director in June, 2017.