DFI Community Revitalization Fellow, Master’s Candidate, City and Regional Planning and Public Administration, UNC-Chapel Hill
A native of Trinity, North Carolina, Matthew Hutton is no stranger to small town challenges. After his undergraduate work at UNCGreensboro, Hutton worked for a hotel and land development company, getting his feet wet in what it means for communities to invest in properties. The experience inspired Hutton to explore pursuing a master of public administration degree.
“I wanted to come at it from the other side, and see how local governments might be able to influence developers to make more sustainable and equitable choices,” said Hutton. His first encounter with DFI/UNC-Chapel Hill MPA alumnus Ricky Ruvio sealed the deal. Ricky, a student at the time, talked at an MPA open house event about how he was working with DFI on a hotel development project. “It was one of the main reasons I actually ended up choosing UNC,” said Hutton.
Hutton has since become a dual-degree student with the Master of City and Regional Planning program, so he will be with DFI for two years as a Community Revitalization Fellow. “You’re actually doing the research that is going to influence how this community makes a decision. So the value in that is pretty big, especially for a student.”
He has already had substantive work experiences with DFI, including an affordable housing needs assessment in downtown Durham. He explored data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the American Community Survey to determine how much affordable housing is needed in Durham and at what levels of income. “I really love just digging into the data,” said Hutton. “I never had that opportunity before to look at a lot of different data sources and try to build out a narrative based on numbers. What is household income and potential population growth? What does that mean for future development opportunity?”
Hutton is considering a career in local government management, and DFI has given him an appreciation for the intersection between the public and private sectors. He hopes that more like him could work with DFI. “Local government leaders then would have a better knowledge of real estate development, what their role is, and how they can influence sustainability in the future.”