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Tim Wilkens is a resort developer who worked on the Vino Bello Meritage in Napa, among other projects. But he is also the president of the Global Housing Foundation, a micro-lending non-governmental organization dedicated to housing the 1.2 billion homeless worldwide.
He was made president after the founder and former president Rene Frank passed away. “I had served as a board member, and after Mr. Frank died, I was asked to serve as interim president for six months,” he said.
Four years later he is still the president, and the foundation now has a satellite office in Napa, where Mr. Wilkens works and has lived for the last 12 years.
The foundation was launched in 1999 when Mr. Frank took up a challenge from the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements as to why the private real estate industry did not do more to help solve housing crises around the world.
Global Housing Foundation was established as an independent, U.S.- and European-based not-for-profit organization that leverages the expertise and resources of the private real estate community to build new affordable housing for the working poor around the world.
Its mission is, in conjunction with UN-Habitat, to bring together the resources necessary to create housing for the working poor. According to its Web site, the foundation aims to reach the 350 million urban homeless slum dwellers that are employed or have a source of income and offer them the opportunity to own a sustainable home that can be financed on a long-term basis with a "micro-mortgage."
The micro-mortgage program was developed by the foundation along with Merrill Lynch.
Sharon Young, the newly appointed chief executive officer of the foundation, said because of the international capabilities of the foundation, it is able to go to a country and easily assess that country’s needs.
The program is designed to assist the working poor. These are families that earn anywhere from $35 to $125 per week with an average household of five people. The 600-square-foot homes are built from $5,500 to $20,000, depending on the country.
In addition to continually looking for opportunities worldwide, there are currently plans for 500 homes to be built in Nicaragua, 2,000 homes in Panama and 1,500 in El Salvador. ---JVL
Update, July 6, 2010: In April, the foundation made what it called "an important change in its leadership." Mr. Wilkens is "no longer associated with Global Housing or any of its international affiliates," according to the statement at the time. Ms. Young is the new president.
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