About Decro

Committed To Creating
Housing For All

Firmin Court photo by Juan Tallo

Since 1989, DECRO, a California nonprofit affordable housing developer, has been committed to meeting the critical shortage of affordable housing by those who most need this housing – individuals, families, and seniors who are homeless or at risk of becoming so and those whose wages do not keep pace with ever-increasing rents.  

DECRO meets this commitment by partnering with:

  • nonprofit and for-profit developers
  • community development corporations
  • CDFI’s like LISC, Enterprise, and Genesis LA
  • private financial institutions
  • public agencies
  • tax credit investors
  • social impact funds
  • foundations 

The DECRO Advantage

With this experience and resources, together with the support of social service providers, DECRO creates housing that promotes individual growth and family stability and fosters residents’ economic, educational, and spiritual participation in their communities.

DECRO’s greatest strength lies within its ability to develop and execute on housing solutions “outside the box.”  DECRO’s Board and staff apply a creative, innovative approach toward the design, financing, construction, and operation of permanent supportive and affordable housing projects to meet the housing needs of people as well as mixed-use developments which provide access to essential resources for the communities in which DECRO’s projects are located.

Our Mission

Develop affordable housing and revitalize disadvantaged neighborhoods by using innovative financing structures and technologies to promote individual growth, family sustainability, and community enrichment.  

Our History

DECRO is an acronym based on the former December Rose Association, a nonprofit organization formed by DECRO’s Founder, the late Reverend Clark Harshfield and his wife, Verna. December Rose focused on supporting the creative skills of seniors living at Angelus Plaza, currently the largest subsidized community for low-income seniors in the United States.

“God gave His children memory that in life’s garden there might be June roses in December.”

Quoted from Geoffrey Anketell Studdert-Kennedy’s poem, Roses in December
1989
DECRO Corporation Formed
DECRO formed as a California nonprofit, public benefit corporation by the late Reverend Clark Harshfield with a vision to develop, construct, operate and manage affordable housing communities for low-income seniors and families. DECRO qualifies for tax -exempt status under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3).
1994
DECRO acquires first Florida property, Brandywood Apartments, under the Resolution Trust Corporation’s affordable housing program. The first California developments, Orange Avenue Apartments and Lime House Apartments, are purchased in Long Beach.
1994-2000
DECRO acquires 14 developments in Long Beach for a total of 358 housing units.
These include: Alamitos Apartments; Artesia Court Apartments; Cedar Court Apartments; Cedar North Apartments; Cedar South Apartments; Cerritos Court Apartments; Lime House Apartments; Linden Gardens Apartments; Ocean Breeze Senior Apartments; Ocean Gate Apartments; Orange Apartments; Seabreeze Senior Apartments; Terrace Gardens; Valentine Garden Apartments.
1995
DECRO acquires and rehabilitates Saticoy Apartments, an 18-unit apartment building severely damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, located in Canoga Park, California.
1996
DECRO syndicates Casa Familiar de Nordhoff, located in North Hills, California, with federal low-income housing tax credits. Boston Capital is the investor. This 50-unit building red-tagged by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is completely renovated into a 38-unit development for low-income families complete with a community room and swimming pool.
2003
DECRO and Simpson Housing (now Highridge Costa) acquire and syndicate three affordable housing developments in California, increasing DECRO’s portfolio to more than 750 housing units. These projects are Peppertree Apartments (Banning), Valle Verde (Orange Cove), and Suncrest (Barstow).
2004-2006
DECRO and Veloce Partners renovate and refinance 13 Long Beach developments at a total cost of $45 million using tax-exempt bonds, 4% low-income housing tax credits, and a loan from the City of Long Beach.
2005
DECRO partners with St. Anne’s Maternity Home to develop the Bogen Family Center in Los Angeles, a 40-unit transitional housing development for pregnant or parenting young, unwed women between the ages of 18 and 24.
2006
DECRO partners with 1010 Development to build Casa Shalom in Los Angeles, a 30-unit development for low-income families
2008
DECRO and Veloce Partners develop DECRO Osborne Apartments in Pacoima, a 51-unit development for low-income families.

DECRO partners with 1010 Development to develop JW Apartments for low-income families in Los Angeles.
2009
DECRO and Veloce Partners develop DECRO Orion Apartments in North Hills, California, a 32-unit development for low-income families.
2012
DECRO expands its Florida portfolio with the acquisition of Dunwoodie Place Apartments in Orlando.
2016
DECRO partners with Little Tokyo Service Center and Korean Resource Center to celebrate the opening of Durae Senior Apartments in Koreatown, a 67-unit scattered site development. DECRO provides necessary financial support to acquire Kingsley site.
2018
DECRO’s Firmin Court project is among the first recipients of Proposition HHH funds, a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by City of Los Angeles voters in November 2016 to fund affordable housing projects.
2019
DECRO closes on acquisition financing for The Brine, a future redevelopment project comprised of permanent supportive and affordable housing together with community-oriented developments, located on nearly a city block in the Lincoln Heights community of Los Angeles. Local Initiatives Support Corporation and New Generation Fund contribute nearly $13 million in financing.
2020
DECRO and Innovative Housing Opportunities close debt and equity financing totaling $43 million for Firmin Court, a 64-unit permanent supportive and affordable housing project in the former Temple Beaudry neighborhood of Los Angeles. DECRO successfully coordinates the abandonment of a more than 100-year-old oil well on the project site prior to the start of construction. DECRO also relocates a historic single-family home on the site to Highland Park after construction begins in July.

DECRO and Daylight Community Development close the construction financing for Watts Works, a 25-unit permanent supportive housing project using modular construction located in South Los Angeles.

DECRO exits its partnership with St. Anne’s Maternity Home on the Bogen Family Center after the 15-year low-income housing tax credit compliance period ends. DECRO’s current portfolio consists of 12 developments and nearly 700 affordable housing units.
2021
DECRO closes debt and equity financing totaling over $50 million for Brine Residential, a 97-unit permanent supportive and affordable housing project. Brine Residential is part of a mixed-use development that includes 28,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

DECRO and Daylight Community Development close on the financing of three permanent supportive housing projects using modular construction – 11604 Vanowen (North Hollywood), Oatsie’s Place (Van Nuys), and McDaniel House (Koreatown).

DECRO expands its Florida portfolio. DECRO and AGPM acquire The Crossings at Leesburg (168 units, Leesburg) and Silver Pointe Apartments (138 units, Leesburg). In addition, DECRO also acquires Heron Woods (50 units, Inverness), Magnolia Village (40 units, Lecanto), and Nature Walk (40 units, Crystal River).
2022
DECRO opens Firmin Court
2023
DECRO and Daylight open Watts Works, a 25-unit permanent supportive housing project with permanent financing from KeyBank, Los Angeles Housing Department and Los Angeles County Development Authority.

DECRO Partners with RMG Housing on Dolores Huerta Apartments, a 25-unit permanent supportive housing project in Los Angeles financed by SDS Capital.
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Leadership

Ted M. Handel

Chief Executive Officer

Team

Terri O'Hara

Controller

Erin Foreman
Dominguez

Senior Project Manager

Emmanuel Choice

Asset Manager

Nicole Willick

Project Manager

Gabriela Vega

Assistant Project Manager

Corina Ostoia

Accounts Payable Manager

Jenny Davies

Bookkeeper

Christian Lisser

Executive Assistant

Board of Directors

Christian von Merkatz

Chair
Director, Wells Fargo

Irene Choi

Vice Chair
Senior Vice President, Acquisitions
Redstone Equity Partners

Alexander Nweeia

Treasurer
Financial Advisor

Meg Babakhanian

Secretary
Assistant Vice President, Project Manager
US Bank

Warren Avery

Director
Editor/Publisher, IT Weekly Newsletter

Paul Pieroth

Director
Vice President/Chief Estimator
Walton Construction, Inc.

Financials

Click here to request additional financial information.

Ted M. Handel

Chief Executive Officer

As Chief Executive Officer of Decro Corporation and its affiliated entities, Mr. Handel is responsible for the strategic direction and overall management of this California nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Since Mr. Handel became Decro’s CEO in July 2016, the nonprofit has grown to 17 affordable housing developments in California and Florida totaling 1,048 units. Decro, on its own or in partnerships, is constructing seven permanent supportive and affordable housing projects in Los Angeles, California with 368 units, including Firmin Court and Watts Works which are scheduled to open in late summer 2022 and The Brine which is a transformative multi-phase mixed-use, medical office, and pediatric mental health center project in the Lincoln Heights community of Los Angeles.

Prior to joining Decro, Mr. Handel had more than 25 years of experience in developing, financing, syndicating, operating, constructing and managing affordable housing developments. Mr. Handel represented nonprofits and National Equity Fund (NEF) as counsel in affordable housing transactions, formed California nonprofit public benefit corporations, and advised nonprofit Board of Directors on legal compliance issues. At NEF, he closed 57 development deals representing a gross equity investment by this low-income housing tax credit syndicator of $315 million.

Mr. Handel is President of The Carter House, Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates a HUD Section 811 housing development in South Los Angeles, and also serves as President of the Hockey Equipment Lending Program, Inc., a nonprofit that supports special needs and disadvantaged youth playing that sport. He is a former Chair of Los Angeles Lawyer, a Los Angeles County Bar Association publication, and has been published in that magazine and the Los Angeles Business Journal. Mr. Handel has been a speaker at the National Association of Housing and Rehabilitation Officers Summer Conference and conferences of Housing California and the Southern California Association of NonProfit Housing. He is admitted to practice law in California and received a Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Southern California.

Erin Foreman

Senior Project Manager

As Senior Project Manager for Decro Corporation, Ms. Foreman oversees the execution of all stages of affordable housing development, including the analysis and review of potential development sites. She is responsible for implementing the specific vision for each development, including coordinating with the project’s social service provider, arranging the debt and equity financing, managing the entitlement process, interacting with the architect on project design and the general contractor on construction and budget matters, and overseeing community outreach and government relations.

Ms. Foreman brings to Decro more than 15 years of real estate experience and a vast array of skills across a wide range of disciplines within the industry. Most recently, she managed the personal real estate portfolios of high net worth individuals that included over $500 million in acquisitions and sales of single-family, multifamily and commercial investments, as well as construction project oversight and the management of multifamily apartments within Los Angeles County. Ms. Foreman’s background also includes experience in mixed-use development and real estate finance. She is dedicated to supporting Decro’s mission of finding innovative permanent supportive and affordable housing solutions for the homeless as well as low-income families and seniors and persons with special needs, and promoting capital investment and job opportunities in disadvantaged communities.

Ms. Foreman received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication at University of California, Santa Barbara and holds a California Real Estate Brokers License.

Emmanuel Choice

Asset Manager

As Asset Manager for Decro Corporation, Mr. Choice is responsible for overseeing the stabilization and optimization of Decro’s affordable housing portfolio and ensuring developments comply with the extensive federal, state and local regulations under which these developments must operate. He also develops and applies key performance metrics to evaluate the performance of Decro’s third-party property managers.

Mr. Choice comes to Decro with 15 years of experience as Managing Director of a commercial real estate firm in Charlotte, North Carolina which provided asset management, leasing, and strategic transaction and investment management services for Fortune 100 financial companies and public and private institutions. As Managing Director, his responsibilities included providing financial due diligence, asset performance management and reporting, contract and compliance management while also applying data-mining skills to evaluate market trends and identify investment and growth opportunities.

Mr. Choice also worked with public and private institutions to leverage transit-oriented development and EB-5 immigrant investments as a means of funding urban in-fill and mixed-use developments. In addition, he managed a subsidized rental housing portfolio which involved executing contracts, coordinating billing, and providing oversight of resident service programs.

Prior to becoming involved in commercial real estate Mr. Choice owned and operated a retail apparel store that he grew to a chain with eleven stores and eventually sold to a large regional retailer.

Mr. Choice is a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) and an Asset Management Specialist as designated by the Consortium for Housing and Asset Management (CHAM). He has served on the Boards of Directors of the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, the Arts & Science Council, the Charlotte, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and Operation HOPE, a nonprofit providing individuals with the knowledge and tools to create a secure financial future.

Mr. Choice holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Southern California.

Nicole Willick

Project Manager

As Project Manager for Decro Corporation, Nicole Willick oversees the execution of all stages of multiple affordable housing developments, ensuring project objectives are met on time and on budget. Primary to her work is consulting and collaborating with project architects, general contractors, construction managers, property management, and social service providers to ensure design specifications satisfy resident needs and meet long-term operational requirements. Ms. Willick also works closely with public officials and administrative agencies and third-party consultants, including land use, consultants, and government and community relations consultants, and attorneys, in this development process.

Ms. Willick comes to Decro with 25 years of project management experience in the entertainment and video game industry. With a career previously focused on family-friendly and extreme sports video games, she managed the development and production of over 30 AAA video game titles, generating over $5 billion in revenue during her career. In her most recent role as Executive Producer, Ms. Willick drove strategic initiatives, managed $100+ million development budgets, and built strong working relationships with marketing partners and game development studios and created global partnerships. A second-generation Angeleño, Ms. Willick brings her vast project management experience to Decro and the nonprofit affordable housing industry with goals to improve process efficiencies and risk assessment and mitigation plans as well as promote more effective communication both within the organization and with Decro’s development and social services partners and lenders and investors.

Ms. Willick holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Art and Design from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is an active volunteer at Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles.

Gabriela Vega

Community Development Manager

As Community Development Manager for Decro Corporation, Ms. Vega collaborates with the Chief Operating Officer in developing The Brine, a proposed mixed-use development located in the Lincoln Heights community of Los Angeles. Ms. Vega is primarily responsible for creating, implementing, and managing community outreach strategies for The Brine and other Decro developments by identifying and developing relationships with community business leaders, public officials and their staff, public agencies, and affordable housing and social service organizational staff.

Ms. Vega joins Decro with more than three years of experience working for a community-based nonprofit affordable housing organization where she supported and helped coordinate the predevelopment, construction, and lease-up of several developments. Prior to assuming these responsibilities with this organization, Ms. Vega was a Tenant Services Coordinator where she provided case management services for residential tenants by engaging them through in-house programs, services and community resources. Ms. Vega and her team developed and implemented a Building Financial Sustainability program and database structure funded by the Corporation for Supportive Housing Institute to promote and equip self-sufficiency within the tenants and strengthen the tenant retention rate in the units.

Ms. Vega holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of California, Merced, and is fluent in Spanish.

Christian von Merkatz

Director
Vice President/Chief Estimator
Walton Construction, Inc.
With more than 20 years’ experience in real estate development, commercial real estate finance, affordable housing, redevelopment and real estate economics, Mr. von Merkatz is Director for Wells Fargo’s Community Lending and Investment Group, and responsible for the marketing and origination of construction and permanent financing for multifamily properties with a focus on affordable housing projects. He is experienced at structuring transactions using Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Section 8, Tax-Exempt financing, FHA, and conventional financing. In these capacities he placed and managed over $1 billion in in debt financing and created strong personal relationships within the capital markets. Mr. von Merkatz holds a Master of Science in Real Estate and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of San Diego.

Irene Choi

Director
Senior Vice President, Acqusitions
Redstone Equity Partners

Irene Choi is a Senior Vice President of Acquisitions at Red Stone Equity Partners, where she is responsible for the investment management, financial underwriting, and syndication of affordable housing investments through Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Prior to joining Red Stone, Irene spent 3 years at Wells Fargo, having completed the Financial Analyst Program through the Community Lending & Investments Group. At the Bank, Irene was primarily responsible for underwriting and closing LIHTC investments in the West Coast and Rocky Mountains. Throughout Irene’s career, she has closed over $1 billion equity investments in affordable housing across 13 states.

She is a proud Angeleno, dedicated to increasing diversity in the real estate industry. She currently serves on the Committee for the REACH (Recruit, Empower, Access, Connect, Hustle) Initiative at Urban Land Institute in Los Angeles.

Irene holds a bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and a minor in Spanish from University of California, Los Angeles.

Alanxander Nweeia

Treasurer
Financial Advisor

Mr. Nweeia is a part-time financial advisor with GBS Financial Corporation and has been a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney for more than 30 years. He served as Treasurer and Vice President of Finance for Under Sea Industries/SCUBAPRO, a leisure time division of Johnson Worldwide Associates.

Mr. Nweeia has a Master in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science from Babson College. He enjoys reading, hiking, fishing, traveling and volunteering.

Meg Babakhanian

Director
Assistant Vice President, Project Manager
US Bank

Meg Babakhanian is a Project Manager within the Affordable Housing group at U.S. Bancorp Impact Finance, where she is responsible for structuring, underwriting, negotiating, and closing equity and debt investments utilizing Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (“LIHTC”). Prior to joining U.S. Bank, Meg worked as a Relationship Manager at California Community Reinvestment Corporation, where she helped originate, structure and underwrite permanent loans for affordable housing developments throughout California.

Meg holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Warren Avery

Director
Editor/Publisher, IT Newsweek
Mr. Avery is a retired information technology marketing and sales professional with over 50 years in information technology.  Mr Avery was the editor and publisher of the IT Weekly Newsletter curated for Information Technology.  Mr. Avery currently volunteers at a local hospital and hosts a radio show for classic country fans.  Mr Avery holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

Paul Pieroth

Director
Vice President/Chief Estimator
Walton Construction, Inc.
Mr. Pieroth has more than 18 years experience in general contracting, residential and commercial development and serves as Vice President/Chief Estimator for Walton Construction Inc., a family-owned general contracting company, where he is responsible for providing quantity take-off work, preparing cost estimates and job proposals for multifamily developments ranging in size from 25-310 units. Mr. Pieroth is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton and is OSHA certified.

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Vanessa Rios

Director
Senior Advisor, Workforce Development
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
With more than 10 years expertise with nonprofit organizations in the social services sector, as Senior Program Manager for Corporation for Supportive Housing, Mrs. Rios is responsible for establishing and maintaining partnerships with key funders, community stakeholders, City staff, managed care organizations and nonprofit and for-profit housing developers. She provides training on technical aspects of supportive housing such as financing, operations and service delivery. Mrs. Rios holds a Master of Arts in Urban Sustainability and a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Antioch University in Los Angeles. In 2018, she published a policy brief on developing a sustainable workforce in the homeless services sector of Los Angeles County, promoting workforce retention and strengthening the homeless services sector.

Laura Vandeweghe

Chief Innovation Officer

As Chief Innovation Officer for Decro Corporation, Ms. Vandeweghe is responsible for the expansion of Decro’s affordable portfolio and the daily operation of Decro’s pipeline developments, including the coordination of the financing, construction and operation of all new developments, including an affordable, mixed-use, mixed-income development with 50,000 square feet of commercial space and approximately 200 units proposed to be built in Los Angeles.

Ms. Vandeweghe comes to Decro Corporation with more than 15 years of experience in complex, mixed-use development transactions. She has entitled more than 4,700 housing units in California and developed more than 1,500 multi-family units in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including 90 affordable units.

Ms. Vandeweghe is a veteran in structuring complex real estate transactions comprised of multi-layered financing using New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs), and successfully bringing difficult projects to fruition, including Del Mar Station in Pasadena, California and the Wilshire Vermont Station in Los Angeles. Prior to joining Decro, Ms. Vandeweghe was a managing member of a real estate development and asset management firm that handled the entitlements for the 1,100 acre master planned community in unincorporated Imperial County, California, Rancho Los Lagos, comprised of 3,800 housing units, a 100 acre business park, 10 acres of commercial, a 40-acre community park, two schools and an active adult golf community. She was vice president at CityScape Capital Group, LLC, where she managed new market, historic, and energy tax credit portfolios worth more than $100 million, and director of marketing and asset management at Urban Partners, LLC where she oversaw a portfolio of over $1 billion in development in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Ms. Vandeweghe holds a Master in Business Administration with an emphasis in real estate from the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, a Master in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University. She is a member of the American Planning Association and Urban Land Institute.