David A. Smith

Founder and CEO
Affordable Housing Institute (AHI)

For 45 years, across more than 50 countries to date, David A. Smith has been a regional, national, and now global leader and innovator in affordable housing finance, transaction structuring, program design, and policy – and a passionate and effective teacher of affordable housing as a sustainable business.

He has twice founded companies, a cutting-edge for-profit boutique US consultancy (Recap Advisors), and the Affordable Housing Institute, a global thought and practice leader funded by the World Bank, USAID, Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, South Africa Banking Association, and others.  AHI was a moving spirit behind, and via its impact fund a founding investor in, India’s SEWA Grih Rin, a pro-poor women-centric housing finance company that makes home-centric loans to informally employed or informally housed urban Indian women and families.  In 6 years, SGR has grown 15x, made 10,000+ loans (94% to India’s two lowest income categories) with an NPL below 1.0%, expanded to 7 Indian states, and helped 35,000+ of the poorest Indians reach for better lives.

Among his activities and accomplishments are:

  • International financing expertise.  Key initiatives or strategies in Turkey, Egypt, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, and the UK.
  • US policy and program innovation.  Pro-bono advisor to the US Senate Housing subcommittee on its 1996 mark-to-market program that resulted in restructuring of $10+ billion in FHA-insured loans. 
  • Executive education: curriculum, syllabus, teaching.  Mexico, Saudi Arabia, US.
  • Brainstorming facilitation.  South Africa’s Financial Sector Charter (2003).  Rockefeller Bellagio Housing Conference (2005).  Mexico City, Universidad Ibero-America on urban land irresolution (2009).  Istanbul, Boğaziçi University, urban formalization and disaster risk mitigation (2010).  Dubai, Mohammad Bin Rashid Housing Establishment (2012).  New York, Morgan Stanley/ Ford, New Impact Capital Convening (2018).
  • Author.  400+ published articles in industry and professional publications, plus several books.  Widely read monthly affordable housing column, The Guru Is In. 
  • Speaker.  More than 150 conferences, including Boulder Institute of Microfinance, World Urban Forum, World Bank’s Global Housing Finance Summit (multiple occasions), and multiple US state housing conferences. 

A 1975 Harvard College graduate (AB Applied Mathematics), he considers himself an alumnus of the Yogi Berra School of Management: “You can observe a lot just by watching.”