The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB
Even though Elizabeth (Liz) Verna is only the second woman to lead the 1,000-member Home Builders Association of Connecticut in its 51-year history, she doesn’t consider being a woman president of the association to be astounding news.
“A lot of women have done extraordinary things in male-dominated industries,” Verna said. “If they see you can do the job, they don’t care if you’re male or female.”
However, she did acknowledge that being a woman in the construction industry can be challenging — like the times she, who along with her brothers Gerald and Marc run the family-owned residential and commercial building firm Verna Properties, has been mistaken for a buyer or a Realtor® while working on her job sites.
Still, Verna believes women can bring particular traits to leadership roles that can help them succeed — such as the abilityto resolve problems through consensus without conflict.
She has applied these traits as a member of the board of directors and then as president of the Home Builders Association of New Haven County as well as a member of the state’s HBA board of directors and through the HBA’s government affairs activities.
As president, Verna plans to continue Connecticut HBA's work on state and local housing legislation while focusing on getting more associate members involved. “We have a lot of room to grow,” she said.
Verna also believes that women in building comprise a segment of the industry that will continue to grow, particularly as family-owned companies turn to their daughters as well as sons to continue the business and legacy.
She is passionate about how vital the home building industry is to a vibrant economy, locally and nationally, and has worked tirelessly on making housing in Connecticut affordable for residents of all ages.
Verna has not only discussed and testified on behalf of workforce housing, she and her brother, Gerald, have built the townhouse community Olde Oak Village in Wallingford, Conn., where 30% of the units are affordable to those earning 80% of the area’s median income or less. Single mothers and their families live in many of those affordable units, she said.
Her company has also partnered with Wallingford builder and industry leader, Bob Wiedenmann of Sunwood Development to develop The Willows, a “new old fashioned neighborhood” of smaller homes on small lots with sidewalks to encourage walking.
During the past two years, The Willows has sold 40 of its 62 single-family homes to young, single buyers, professional couples and young families.
Verna believes that tight-knit communities like The Willows function much like families, which is an important part of her own life and one of the reasons she sometimes drives through her finished communities to see how they’ve come to life.
“It’s neat to see something so absolutely complete, to see the lights on,” she said.