Director of asset management, Beneficial Management
Affordable housing is more than just a theory for Leonard Burke.
Burke is the 38-year-old director of asset management for Beneficial Communities, a developer that builds both affordable and market rate communities.
He grew up in public housing in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, raised in the same two-bedroom, two-story unit where his grandmother raised three generations. So he brings the experiences he developed over the years to the projects he works on today.
“What I look at is: would I be OK living here or would I be OK with my mom and my grandmother living here?” he says.
“When it comes to how a community is designed, constructed, put together, is it a place I feel good about? And during the whole design phase, and even during the construction phase, is it acceptable to my standards, would I feel OK raising my family in this community? And that’s how I look at it when it comes to putting projects together.”
Burke first discovered the real estate business as a student at the University of South Florida when he took an internship with Market Street Mortgage in 2003.
That experience sparked his interest and after graduating in 2005 at the height of the housing market, he went into business for himself buying and flipping homes. “Then the real estate market crashed and I’m like, ‘This ain’t working. I’m not making any money,'” he says. “‘I’ve got to get a job.’”
He took several jobs after and eventually met Tony Cooper at a real estate certification class. Cooper, a developer, introduced Burke to a world of acquiring distressed apartments and tax credits as well as income restricted properties.
After the apprenticeship with Cooper, Burke began working with the Tampa Housing Authority, where he spent seven years, rising to director of asset management in 2018. He joined Beneficial Communities in November 2019.
“Tracing back to my roots, it really made sense for me to continue down this path, and to try to provide communities and apartments for those who don’t make a lot of money but can still live in a decent, safe sanitary place,” he says.
“A nice apartment that they don’t have to worry about the door being kicked in or somebody shooting at them. A place they can be proud of.”