Joe Weis, a Rochester-based affordable housing developer for more than 5 decades, died over the weekend at 88. Joe was an active advocate for housing for under-resourced people, and he had a long history with the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
Many MHP staff remembered Joe as an advocate for affordable housing and for assisting MHP in a range of ways. He and his business, Weis Builders, were contributors to MHP’s Investors Council. He served as a board member from 2006 to 2015. But his history with MHP goes back even further.
Chip Halbach, MHP’s founding executive director who retired in 2017, remembered Weis:
“Joe Weis was recruited to the MHP board of directors to bring the perspective of a private sector developer creating affordable housing in Greater Minnesota. What I came to appreciate over the nine years of Joe’s board service was his keen wit and intellect, his willingness to listen to all points of view, and, above all, his deep commitment to improving the housing conditions of low income people.”
Warren Kramer, MHP’s Director of Community Development, recalls MHP working with Weis on their first LIHTC project in the late 1990s.
“Mark Agnessi and I were hired to help with Weis’s first ever tax credit application for a 100 unit apartment building in Rochester. At the time, it was one of the top 10 largest deals MHFA had ever done with MHP serving as a 'Processing Agent' with Weis. As was his custom, Joe handed out big cigars to some of us that were involved in getting the project financed. We (MHP) did several other projects with Weis Builders and their related companies before they developed the capacity to do it on their own. Joe Weis was awesome.”
MHP staff recall that Weis attended every affordable housing meeting or event that he could.
“It was an absolute given that he would ALWAYS ask a question of any speaker or panel if there was a Q&A,” remembers MHP Director of Fund Development Luke Avery. “If you were MHP staff and circulating microphones you had to know where he was sitting, because someone was going to have to get over to him and if he was called on, he wouldn’t wait for the mic if it didn’t show up immediately.”
“He also always, always engaged with MHP's policy work,” recalls Libby Murphy, MHP’s Deputy Policy Director. “Even on vacation, he'd pick up his phone to assist. He was a great champion of MHP's policy agendas throughout the years.”
He was known for wanting to build good places for under-resourced people to live, and he told the Rochester Post-Bulletin in 2016: “It is satisfying work."
"We extend our sympathy to Joe’s family and his extended circle of friends and housing advocates,” MHP Executive Director Anne Mavity said. “He was a forceful champion of affordable housing and will be missed.”