Blanca Lopez, Westchester’s Champion of Fair and Affordable Housing
By Georgetta L. Morque
For Blanca Lopez, a 1994 Rye High School graduate, helping those in need at an early age put her on the path to a rewarding career in advocacy. Her impact has earned her a Women of Distinction award from the New York State Senate and inclusion in the Westchester Business Council’s Rising Stars 40 Under 40. Currently, she is honored to be working in the office of the County Executive as the Advisor on Fair and Affordable Housing.
“It is amazing how advocacy has saved people from being evicted from their apartments, saved their homes from foreclosures and helped them receive their permanent residencies or benefits for families,” said Lopez. “What is most important however is helping empower others to advocate for themselves.”
Her role is two-fold: reporting to County Executive George Latimer on fair and affordable housing policies and procedures and serving as a liaison with various county departments, including Planning, Correction, Probation, Emergency Services, Office for People with Disabilities, and the Human Rights Commission.
Two recent projects that she is most proud of include helping to re-establish the Westchester County Urban Consortium after a ten-year hiatus. She’s pleased to report that 27 municipalities have rejoined and now have a way to apply and obtain federal funds for community development programs and services for residents. Last year, the Consortium received over $3.5 million in community development grant funds, and this year, close to $4 million was awarded from HUD.
The other project was helping to roll out the long overdue Housing Needs Assessment for Westchester County, which was last conducted more than a decade ago. Released last November, the study not only focused on the County’s housing needs, but also provided housing data for each municipality. Follow up work is continuing.
The County Executive also tapped Lopez to present 2020 Census information to communities and organizations with the goal of full participation from County residents. So far, she has spoken at Rye City Council and Port Chester Board of Trustees meetings and did a radio talk last week.
Lopez came to the United States with her mother from Lima, Peru, when she was 8. Her father had arrived four years earlier, and the family settled in Rye. She started third grade at Osborn School and learned English through ESL classes. Because her parents knew little English, Lopez became their translator — on the phone, at the doctor’s office, with the landlord — basically helping them navigate life in America. “As a result, I grew up with the understanding that if people needed help, I was in a position to help them.”
She has fond memories of Rye High, especially Spanish AP and French Honors with Ms. Kelleher, who would speak to her in Spanish during French class and in French during Spanish class, which kept her on her toes; and volleyball with Ms. Henwood, which taught her the importance of being on a team.
After graduating, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American and Latino Studies from Fordham University and went on to receive a Master of Science degree in Urban Public Policy & Management at the New School’s Milano Graduate School, concentrating on affordable housing, social inequalities, and immigrant communities. Lopez then put her education and passion to work at Human Development Services of Westchester before serving as Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s Legislative and Community Affairs Representative and liaison to Hispanic and Veteran Affairs.
Since 2018, Lopez has been operating on a fast pace in the County Executive’s office. Her wide range of work, from affordable housing issues to the 2020 Census and criminal justice reform, is conducted with the compassion, drive, and expertise to improve lives.