Faculty Stories

Affordable-housing group honors Hezel for lifetime achievement

Hezel

Honoree George Hezel (center) with his daughter Rachel Hezel Rzayev '07 and wife Sally.

The life work of a linchpin of SUNY Buffalo Law’s clinical education program has been honored with an award recognizing his lifetime of achievement in facilitating the construction of affordable housing.

Clinical Professor George M. Hezel received the Lifetime Achievement Award from NYSAFAH, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. The award was presented Oct. 22 at the association’s Upstate New York Affordable Housing Conference, in Verona, east of Syracuse.

Jolie Milstein, president and CEO of NYSAFAH, said they chose Hezel for the award because “he’s been such an inspiration to our membership and has really encouraged young people to come into the affordable housing industry.”

Hezel founded the Law School’s Affordable Housing Clinic in 1987 and has directed it ever since. Collaborating with not-for-profit community organizations throughout Western New York, the clinic has produced more than 2,000 units of affordable housing by leveraging more than $165 million in federal, state and local government funds as well as equity raised through the sale of low-income housing tax credits.

Hezel

Working with the region's prominent community organizations, the Law School's Affordable Housing Clinic has helped develop many of the area's community resources, including Cornerstone Manor Transitional Housing, Trinity Park Senior Apartments, Hope House, St. Ann's Apartments, and Carolyn's House.

“I’ve always said I’ve loved working in the affordable housing industry, and that is because the people in the industry are so good-hearted,” Hezel said in accepting the award. “We have to maintain that good-heartedness. We have to remain civil in our discourse, and we have to remain with our eyes fixed on the prize. The prize, to me, is a healthy home in a healthy neighborhood for every New Yorker.

“Let’s make sure that whatever we do, we are productive in our work, collaborative in our work, and above all we do not let politics and bureaucracy swamp substance.”

Conference organizer Elizabeth Rossi, director of operations for NYSAFAH, noted that Hezel organized the first Upstate New York Affordable Housing Conference, held in Buffalo.

“Professor Hezel’s knowledge of real estate law as it pertains to the development of affordable housing remains unsurpassed, and his support for creating job growth in our industry is stalwart,” she said. “The Affordable Housing Clinic brings students to many possible career paths in the field of affordable housing and fresh and creative minds to the industry. So many folks do not know that affordable housing development is a valid career path, and the clinic strives effortlessly at making important career connections between students and real professional firms.

“It is clear that whenever George and his hundreds of law students tour the facilities that exist in large measure because of the clinic, they see beautiful apartments, green grass for new playgrounds, trees and benches, gardens – all the things that make life pleasant. … This award is given to those who have lived and worked by example to make communities in our state safer, stronger and better places to live. George Hezel is one of the most worthy candidates in history to receive this award.”