Alumna brings her safe-housing skills to communities across Ohio.
As director of Cleveland’s Department of Building and Housing, Ayonna Blue Donald ’01 enforced the city’s land use ordinances and directed the razing of thousands of vacant and abandoned properties. In her new role, she expects to be way more of a builder — shaping properties into healthy homes.
In November, Blue Donald was named vice president and Ohio market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a nationwide nonprofit that works to make homes affordable and lead-free, often through rehabilitation and building projects.
Blue Donald is responsible for advancing housing-based programs and devising solutions that help Ohioans achieve housing stability and safety.
“I’ve always had an affinity for building things,” she told The Land, an online Cleveland news magazine that profiled her in January. Blue Donald described herself as an engineer and a lawyer passionate about providing safe living spaces. “You think of your home as your castle,” she said. “There’s so much peace and serenity there. But imagine if you’re homeless. Or imagine if more than half your income is going to where you live, and you can’t afford food, healthcare and other basic needs.”
Originally from Detroit, Blue Donald came to Cleveland to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Case School of Engineering, becoming her family’s first college graduate.
She went on to earn a law degree at the University of San Francisco and practiced law in Texas before returning to Cleveland with her two children. She rose through the city’s building and housing department and led the department from 2017 to 2021.
“We issued billions of dollars of construction values in permits every year and did more than 1,000 demolitions every year,” she told The Land.
Now she is overseeing Enterprise programs that will help to rehabilitate homes, seal their lead paint, and build housing for former prison inmates and former foster children.
A code enforcer is now a home builder — aiming to build them right.