A recognized leader in the community development finance industry, Rafael E. Cestero brings more than 30 years of experience in tackling the most pressing housing challenges cities across the nation are facing.
Upon joining The Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) in January of 2012, Mr. Cestero put his extensive background in the public and private sectors to work leading the organization through a significant restructure and capitalization process following the great recession. His work with senior leadership and board of directors led to the company’s return to financial strength and renewed focus on its mission and the expansion of its social impact in New York State and throughout the Northeast. As a AA- S&P rated company, CPC now stands as one of the most financially strong and impactful nonprofit multifamily finance companies in the country.
To strengthen CPC as a self-sustaining nonprofit, Mr. Cestero focused on diversifying its capital sources as a means to provide the company with additional flexibility and financial strength to support its growth and mission of creating a positive impact in communities. This included the creation of its Agency lending subsidiary, CPC Mortgage Company, which carries nationally licensed GSE lending products focusing in small balance loans and affordable housing preservation. In 2020 CPC also raised $150 million through its inaugural public offering of sustainability bonds, the largest such bond raise executed by a community development financial institution (CDFI) at the time. That year, the company also became the first real estate nonprofit to achieve carbon neutral operations, demonstrating CPC’s commitment as a leader in advancing sustainability and energy efficiency within the industry.
Through its construction lending, Agency lending, and equity investing activities, CPC has provided more than $11 billion to finance over 196,000 units of affordable and workforce housing, and is currently one of the largest CDFIs solely dedicated to multifamily housing finance.
Prior to joining CPC, Mr. Cestero was Managing Director at L+M Development Partners, a leading developer of affordable and mixed-income housing committed to fostering diverse communities through its development practices. While there, he led efforts to bring the company’s experience and capacity to the business of preserving New York City’s affordable multifamily housing stock.
From February 2009 to April 2011, Mr. Cestero served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the largest municipal affordable housing development and housing code enforcement agency in the country. He simultaneously served as chairman of the board for the New York City Housing Development Corporation, the nation’s largest municipal Housing Finance Agency. He also served as HPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Development from 2004-2007.
During his tenure at HPD, Mr. Cestero helped implement and oversee Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, a multi-billion-dollar initiative to finance the creation and preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing. He led the creation of a $750 million program to identify and stabilize distressed rental housing, and recast the housing plan in 2010 to focus on preservation in order to take advantage of the market conditions caused by the great recession. He helped launch innovative programs and policies such as the Inclusionary Housing Program, the NYC Acquisition Fund, and led the overhaul of the 421-a tax incentive program.
Mr. Cestero’s career in community development began at Enterprise Community Partners (f.k.a. The Enterprise Foundation) in 1990 as a Chief Program Officer where he cut his teeth in affordable housing development, rising through the organization over the course of his 14-year career there.
In 2007, Mr. Cestero was named Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer – a capacity he served in until 2009 and his departure to take over the leadership role at HPD. During that time, he led the program/business unit comprised of all 16 field office locations, national programs, and strategic planning and resource allocation. This included overseeing housing production, income targeting and quality of life measures across the Enterprise network.
Mr. Cestero is a regular voice in the media on topics related to housing policy, and has had editorial content published in The Hill, New York Daily News, Crain’s New York, The New York Times, City Limits, and others. He is also frequently asked to collaborate with various government and nonprofit partners on matters pertaining to the creation of housing programs and policies on the local, state, and federal levels – including GSE reform, homelessness, affordable housing, and zoning.
Mr. Cestero currently serves on the CPC board of directors, the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders board of directors/sustaining member, Citizens Housing and Planning Council board of directors, Morgan Stanley advisory board, YMCA real estate committee, NYU Furman Center annual advisory board.
A native of Rochester, New York, Mr. Cestero received a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy Analysis from Cornell University, and earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.