Remembering Our Dear Friend, Karl Bren

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

Our condolences are with the family of Karl Bren, a lifetime fair housing advocate and a VPLC Board member for decades. As a founding member of VPLC’s Advisory Council, Karl certainly felt like family to many of us here. He remains one of the best people I have ever known.
Karl brought his brilliant mind, determination and compassion to the fight to improve the lives of low-income and homeless Virginians. He worked in the field of sustainable building development, and was truly at the forefront of green initiatives and affordable housing,
His record of service speaks for itself, but many of his successes are attributed to how he went about his service: with just the right touch of outrage, optimism, and always…. humor.
He will not be forgotten.

Jay Speer, Exec. Director, VPLC

He left the world a better place.

“Karl was truly an outstanding individual who gave selflessly of himself and made a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” – Margaret Ivey, VPLC Board of Directors

“Karl was a leader, a genius, always generous to others, and often hilarious. Karl will never be forgotten; his legacy will live on forever,” -Jack Harris, former VPLC Board of Directors

“Karl was always quick to give a kind word, a smile, a hug, and always with a twinkle in his eye. The world is a better place because of Karl.” -Toni Maxey, VPLC Development Director

A Purpose-Driven Life: An Excerpt from the Obituary

Karl Ellis Bren, 78, passed away on February 11, 2023 at the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro, TN. He was predeceased by his wife of 53 years, Jane Hardin Bren; mother, Alice Lucille Elliot Burgess; and grandparents, Hattie and Lee Williams. He is survived by his daughter, Diana Bren Magoon; grandsons, Jack Ellis Magoon, William Grant Magoon, and Jesse Hardin Magoon; sister, Martha B. Morgan of Murfreesboro; nieces, Michelle Blaylock Howser (Eric) of Christiana, TN and Dina Nave (Timothy) of Murfreesboro.

Karl led a life of service and was passionate about a number of social issues including homeless services, affordable housing, the environment, clean energy, and systemic poverty. He launched over 13 nonprofit organizations including Virginia Supportive Housing, Hilliard House (now Housing Families First), Earth Craft Virginia (now Viridiant), and the Virginia Sustainable Building Network. After retiring from the Virginia Housing Development Authority, Karl formed Green Visions, a consulting company that continued his work.

Karl truly lived a purpose driven life. He left a mark on so many people he met because of his warmth, exuberance, and dedication to improving the world around him. His friends and family take great comfort knowing he and Jane lived a rich life filled with love, service to their community, and performing countless good works. There is no doubt he left this world a better place than he found it.

Read the full obituary here.

Click here to send condolences to the Bren family.


photo of Karl Bren

Karl Bren at his induction into the Virginia Housing Hall of Fame, 2015

Nearly a decade ago, Karl Bren, as President of Green Visions Consulting was interviewed about Virginia’s green building initiatives.
“Low-income people especially need affordable housing and to make sure their energy bills are affordable, ” he said, crediting the non-profit housing field for many advancements.

Click here to watch Bren’s insightful interview.





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