Carol Galante, president of BRIDGE Housing Inc., a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, will join the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"I'm a little overwhelmed," she admitted Tuesday morning. "I start the first week of May."

Galante joined BRIDGE as vice president in 1987 and handled real estate activities before she took over as president in 1996. During her tenure the nonprofit, which started in Oakland by buying the then-rundown ACORN housing complex for $1 in a HUD foreclosure sale, has seen tremendous growth, said Rick Holliday, BRIDGE's chairman and co-founder.

"Carol transformed BRIDGE from an entrepreneurial startup into a sustainable business with a robust infrastructure and new product types," Holliday said in a statement.

BRIDGE has developed about 100 properties in California representing about 13,000 affordable units, including hundreds in Oakland such as Mandela Gateway and Chestnut-Linden Court.

The organization is also a partner in the Central Station development in West Oakland. Having someone in Washington, D.C., who is well-versed in the day-to-day challenges faced by affordable housing developers is definitely a bonus, Galante said.

"It's good news for the Bay Area and California that there will be somebody at HUD who understands urban issues like developing contaminated sites and transit-oriented sites," she said.


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Galante worked in local government in Santa Barbara before joining BRIDGE, and she never expected to go back. But the vision for metropolitan America has changed dramatically under President Barack Obama and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, she said.

"This is an inspirational time to go back into government, in this administration," Galante said. "I don't think I would have done it otherwise."

Galante said the timing is perfect, with one son in college and the other about to graduate college. Her husband has a business in Oakland, so hers will become a bicoastal family, she said.

Reach Cecily Burt at 510-208-6441 or cburt@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her blog about West Oakland at www.ibabuzz.com/westside/.