Merritt Welcomes Two New Board Members

April 28, 2022

Merritt is growing its Board of Directors and is excited to welcome two new board members, Cécile Chalifour and Regina Celestin Williams!  

Cécile Chalifour is Head of the West Region for Community Development Banking. As part of a global financial services firm with assets of $2.2 trillion, Community Development Banking is a leader in providing financing solutions that benefit communities across the nation. The real estate lending team originates roughly $2.5 billion annually in construction and permanent debt products to develop and revitalize affordable housing properties throughout the Chase retail footprint. Cécile’s team originates over one-third of the national lending goal for Community Development Real Estate. 

Cécile has two decades of community development and finance experience.  Prior to joining Chase in 2017, Cécile served as the Director, California Region, for the Low-Income Investment Fund (LIIF), leading lending activities related to affordable housing, charter schools and community facilities. At LIIF, Cécile managed regional structured acquisition funds for affordable housing and led the development of new ones in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Previous to her 6 ½ years at LIIF, Cecile was a Director at Citi Community Capital, the community lending division of Citigroup, where she originated construction, permanent, and gap financing for a variety of residential, commercial and mixed-use community development properties.  She previously worked as a Senior Project Manager for a nonprofit affordable housing developer, Skid Row Housing Trust, and a Senior Program Director for Enterprise Community Partners. 

Cécile is a board member for the California Community Reinvestment Corporation (CCRC). She serves on the Southern and Northern California Leadership Councils for Enterprise Partners, the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate Sustaining Board, the Committee for Greater Los Angeles, the California Housing Consortium (CHC) Board of Governors.  She previously was a member of the Boards of Directors of the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH) and the California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH).  

Cécile earned a Master of the Arts in Law, with Honors, from the University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, with a concentration in Territorial Law and Urban Management. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts in Law, with Honors, from the University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, in Paris, France. 

“Having participated in the major strategic planning process Merritt engaged in, I am both humbled and excited to join the Board,” said Cécile. “I look forward to supporting Merritt’s dynamic, forward-thinking team’s vision of growth, strengthening the affordable housing industry in California by investing in its diversity and development of human capital, as well as expanding its financial products.” 

Regina Williams is currently the Executive Director at SV@Home. She has spent her entire career working towards housing and economic justice through affordable housing and community development. As the Executive Director of SV@Home, she leads policy and advocacy for affordable housing in Silicon Valley.  Prior to joining SV@Home she most recently served as Director of Housing Development at First Community Housing, a leading San José-based affordable housing developer. Previous to joining First Community Housing, Regina was a member of the National Development Council’s East Team providing housing and economic development consulting services to several East Coast municipalities, leading NDC’s green initiatives, and teaching several courses on community and housing development finance. She has also worked at the National Housing Trust, structuring financing for and overseeing the rehabilitation of occupied affordable housing properties while employing green construction features. 

Born and raised in Richmond, CA, Regina attended Stanford University for her B.A. in Urban Studies/Affairs. She spent significant time on the East Coast and attended the University of Pennsylvania, earning her MCP in Real Estate Design and Development. Regina has called San José home for several years, having both of her daughters here in the heart of Silicon Valley. 

“I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to serve the people and communities that rely on affordable housing to increase their staying power throughout California,” said Regina. “Through my service on Merritt Community Capital’s Board of Directors, I hope to contribute to Merritt’s work towards solving California’s housing crisis through the preservation and creation of more affordable homes, while advocating for equity and housing justice through affordable housing investment.” 

“I am thrilled for Cécile and Regina to be joining our dedicated and engaged Board of Directors,” Ari Beliak, CEO and President of Merritt said. “The board is instrumental in charting Merritt’s future and fulfilling our mission to invest in affordable housing and strengthen the industry by supporting the people and policies necessary for building a better California for all.” 

As Merritt’s board continues to add new and different experiences, John Denton, Merritt’s Board Chair, looks forward to Merritt’s future and the impact the board can have. “It is exciting to see the board expand as Merritt continues to deepen their dedication to California,” Denton said. “I look forward to working with Regina and Cécile on meaningful opportunities to positively contribute to California’s affordable housing industry.” Denton also notes the benefit of diverse skills on the board as members “work closely with staff to engage in meaningful work to address the housing crisis in California.” 



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