As the Director of Asset Management for Heartland Housing, Kandyse McCoy Cunningham oversees the compliance, physical, and financial performance of more than 700 units of affordable and supportive housing for low-income Chicagoans. Working in housing for 25 years, she continues to thrive in the field thanks to her team and the passion of building the life-changing foundation that is a home.
What got you into this work?
I got into housing by accident. I needed a job, and a friend told me about property management. Eventually, I got into affordable housing and I really loved it. I’ve been in affordable housing management for 25 years. Eventually, I was working for the state as an auditor – and one of my buildings was the Leland Apartments in Chicago. I remember falling in love with the place and actually being recommended to apply for the job – and here I am.
Why is this work important to the community? To the people we serve?
I call affordable and supportive housing life-changing housing. This work is the perfect way to display compassion. Everyone deserves housing – and it should be decent, it should be safe, it should be clean. It doesn’t matter where you came from our what your life was like before, you deserve respect – and our housing programs really strive to do just that.
Was there a moment where you KNEW you were in a job that was right for you? Could you talk about that?
I remember the first building we opened when I was on the job – Harvest Commons. I remember seeing the faces of the residents when they received their keys, and when they saw the amazing amenities of the building – you know, that building has an urban garden – and I remember these people just lighting up. I remember people thanking us and saying ‘you are building all of this for us’ – and that’s when I knew.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love leading and working with my team. I feed off of them and they feed off of me – and our teamwork really makes it all worth it.
How can others help your work?
People can help by simply knowing and understanding what it is that we’re trying to do, without preconceived notions. We spend a lot of time dispelling myths about affordable and supportive housing. Understanding homelessness better and supporting initiatives that end homelessness is the most important thing you can do to help.