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Affordable Housing News & Views - August 2017


Keynote Address Announced for CohnReznick's Affordable Housing Conference! Dr. Josh Bamberger and "Innovative Models in Health and Housing" 


Drawing from findings from an extensive three-year study and his insight in a career spent working with those afflicted with homelessness, Dr. Bamberger's intriguing keynote will showcase examples from around the country where healthcare and housing sectors have worked collaboratively. As stable housing is generally acknowledged to be a critical element in healthier lives – at a time when affordable housing is in dire need – Dr. Bamberger's discussion highlight partnerships that increase the supply of supportive housing and improve community health. Commissioned by Mercy Housing and LIIF, prepared with support from The California Endowment and the Kresge Foundation, "Innovative Models in Health and Housing" offers solutions to bring much-needed investment into affordable housing from new partners, increasing supply and lowering health costs. Join us at the CohnReznick annual affordable housing conference.
 

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No Summertime Blues for Affordable Housing: Capitol Connection from Bob Moss

An extremely positive hearing held August 1 by the Senate Finance Committee entitled "Increasing Access to Affordable Housing" reflects the steady work of housing advocates across the country and the recognition by Chairman Orrin Hatch of how effective the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program is to solving the rental housing crisis in America. In his opening remarks regarding the crisis, Chairman Hatch stated:
 
"There seem to remain many households facing cost burdens associated with renting, with perhaps as much as 26% of renter households having paid more than half of their incomes in rent in 2015, for example. And the burdens seem to fall heavily on lower-income households." 
 
The witnesses were extremely engaged and represented a cross-section of experts, including NAHB President Granger McDonald, whose candor, knowledge, and experience in developing affordable housing utilizing the LIHTC were clearly evident in his remarks. 

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Coming Soon! CohnReznick’s Latest Performance Report on LIHTC

From CohnReznick’s Tax Credit Investment Services Group, the latest performance study on tax credit properties is soon to be released. Coming in September, the report surveyed the owners of properties financed with housing tax credit properties. By examining their 2016 portfolio of more than 22,000 properties, the surveyed portfolio reported, on a median basis, a 97.8% physical occupancy rate, 1.35 debt coverage ratio and more than $600 per unit per annum net cash flow. The cumulative foreclosure rate among housing credit properties continues to outperform all other real estate classes – reporting 0.71% foreclosure rate. CohnReznick will release the study’s executive summary in September and release the full data set later in the fall with search and sorting capabilities. Look for it on CohnReznick’s social media feeds (LinkedIn, Twitter) and at www.cohnreznick.com.

 

 
We will be attending and/or speaking at these events. We hope to see you!

 

News stories and headlines from the previous month

National News

Study: Affordable Housing Is Good For Diversity

Stanford economists Rebecca Diamond and Tim McQuade wrote a study to be published in the Journal of Political Economy in August, arguing that affordable housing developments built in poor and heavily African-American neighborhoods can lead to greater racial and income integration.  "When a corporate developer comes in and builds nicer, new housing, it makes the neighborhood more desirable as a potential place to live," reasons Diamond, a professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.  

Churchill Stateside Group Surpasses $1 Billion in Assets Under Management

Churchill Stateside Group (CSG), a real estate and renewable energy financial services company, announced that it has reached over $1 billion in assets under management. The assets are a combination of low-income housing tax credit developments, historic properties, and renewable energy installations located throughout the United States.  "The $1 billion mark is a significant milestone for CSG," said CEO Keith J. Gloeckl in a statement. "This achievement has been accomplished through the efforts of our staff of professionals who provide strong internal corporate support as well as building a superior asset management platform for our investors and capital sources."  Headquartered in Clearwater, Fla., CSG sponsors tax credit equity investment funds for institutional investors and provides a variety of construction and permanent financing solutions. 

The Woda Group, Inc. Announces Four New Super Regions and Regional Vice Presidents for Woda Management and Real Estate, LLC

Jeffrey Woda, a principal of The Woda Group, Inc., announces the firm's portfolio of communities managed by Woda Management and Real Estate, LLC, has been re-organized into four Super Regions led by four Regional Vice Presidents (RVP). Each RVP will oversee an operations team consisting of regional, district, area and community managers, plus service and operations personnel.  "Our move to creating Super Regions will help us maintain control over the countless details of managing a portfolio of more than 10,000 units," says Mr. Woda. "We set extremely high standards for community upkeep and curb appeal, expense control, residential services and many other important tasks that go into managing more than 275 communities. With our new structure, each Super Region will have at the helm a seasoned management professional who will be personally familiar with each community. The RVPs will oversee a team to attend to the many details that will maximize the operating results."  Mr. Woda and his partner David Cooper are honored to introduce the firm's three new Regional Vice Presidents: Karen Dowler, Terry Earhart and Lisa Landis. They will join Jody Carder, who has served Woda Management and Real Estate, LLC, for the past six years. 

Using Solar Tax Credits & Green Financing to Produce Real Returns from Sustainability

This week, real estate professionals are converging at Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City for the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association's (NH&RA) Summer Institute to share knowledge, ideas, and techniques for underwriting and assessing housing tax credit market transactions. On July 19th at 1:45pm, Daniel Teague, Vice President of Business Development at WegoWise will lead a discussion on how to identify and deliver opportunities in green and sustainable housing. Teague's panel will explore how operators of affordable and public housing use benchmarking to make the right building improvements, and take advantage of green financing and renewable energy tax credits to achieve additional savings.  While sustainability is often viewed as a cost with uncertain economic value, sustainability initiatives are now moving into the mainstream by lowering costs through PACE Financing, renewable tax credits, and green retrofits, as well as energy and water savings through benchmarking. Teague will share real examples from affordable housing, showcase best practices and help demonstrate innovative ways to fund retrofits and improvements. 

Taking Resident Services to the Bottom Line

The affordable housing industry continues to innovate and expand to meet the complex needs of communities across the country. Each state guides the developments in their cities and towns based on a Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), which is used to allocate the low-income housing tax credits necessary to finance affordable housing rental developments. In many states, the focus on supportive or transitional housing has meant a shift to service-enriched housing.  Providing services that go beyond the typical mandate for quality, safe and affordable housing is now becoming the norm, rather than the exception. For debt and equity partners alike, the ongoing availability and expense for these services is recognized as critical to the long-term success of affordable developments, especially those targeting special needs residents.

"Now or Never" for GSE Reform

Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell delivered remarks last week at American Enterprise Institute and gave his opinion on reforming the Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, stating that the time for reform is "now or never".  The Senate Banking Committee recently held a hearing focused on Fannie and Freddie and Senate Banking Chairman Michael Crapo (R-ID) said he expects reform legislation to be introduced soon. A common theme on both sides of the aisle involves injecting more private capital into the system affording the government more protection.  During the nine years the GSEs have been in government conservatorship there have been several reform efforts, perhaps most notably legislation co-sponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) which was reintroduced as recently as 2015.

Summary of THUD Appropriations Action Yesterday 

The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which prioritizes funding for critical transportation projects, community development initiatives, and core housing programs that serve the nation's most vulnerable individuals.  The bill provides $60.058 billion, $2.407 billion above FY2017 enacted levels, to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies. It was passed unanimously, 31-0.

Seniors Have the Steepest Housing Challenge

More vulnerable to poverty and homelessness than previous generations, today's elderly need affordable housing at an ever-growing rate.  Economists have been talking for years about the huge demand for affordable seniors housing that will come as the baby boom generation passes through retirement and grows frail. Meeting that demand is becoming a problem, but housing advocates have several ideas that can make a difference—all of which, and more, will be sorely needed.  "It's really an ‘all-of-the-above' type of answer," says Linda Couch, vice president of housing policy for LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing services for older adults.

Which Potential Tax Reforms Worry Apartment Industry Experts

Since the past eight months, real estate experts have been bracing themselves for a comprehensive reform of the U.S. tax code.  "Tax reform, done correctly, has the potential to spur economic growth that will help all sectors of the economy, including housing," says J.P. Delmore, tax lobbyist and assistant vice president with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), a federation of groups devoted to building housing. "But to foster that virtuous cycle for economic growth, Congress must look upon changing real estate tax provisions with caution."  The overall U.S. corporate tax rate could be more competitive, and critics say the current tax laws are riddled with loopholes that allow some taxpayers to pay much less than others. But some tax laws are important to the real estate business. These provisions, ranging from "pass through" ownership structure to affordable housing programs, are important to the apartment business and need to be preserved, according to industry experts.

Mayors Agree, Congress Should Invest in Affordable Housing

Last month, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in support of expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and calling for increased investment in our nation's critical affordable housing infrastructure. This acknowledgment of the importance of housing programs by local leaders should not go unnoticed by the U.S. Congress.  As public officials from two very different places – New York City and Des Moines – we are united by the shared need for safe and affordable housing in our communities. Our Mayors co-sponsored the Housing Credit resolution to underscore the growing shortage of affordable housing in our cities, and in towns and rural areas across the country. We come together today to call upon our congressional leaders to protect and expand federal housing programs.  The affordable housing crisis is a bipartisan issue that transcends geography. A recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found only 12 counties nationwide where a minimum wage worker can afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Nationally, one in four renter households pay more than half of their income on housing costs, leaving more than 11 million families one paycheck away from homelessness.

LIHTC Market Settles Down

After being rocked by the prospect of tax reform, the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) market has regained its footing in time for the busy second half of the year.  The flow of deals has picked up, and most syndicators believe that pricing will hold steady through the end of the year.  "After two to three months of almost no activity, the LIHTC market has seemingly reached a new equilibrium as investors have demonstrated a willingness to close on investments that assume a 25% corporate tax rate with no upward and downward tax rate adjusters contemplated," says Tony Bertoldi, executive vice president at CREA.  The use of a 25% rate assumption has been key in financing deals and helping the market stabilize, agree other syndicators.

Affordable Housing Tax Break Has Bipartisan Support in Tax Reform Effort

At least one tax break has bipartisan support, as Republicans gear up to simplify the tax code.  Senators from both parties praised the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, with members calling to expand the break rather than limit it.  The credit applies to developers that build units for low-income individuals. It totals nearly $9 billion a year, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development credits it with yielding 100,000 new units of housing for poor people annually.  Although it is a major component of the federal government's housing efforts, the credit faces two threats in tax reform: One is that lawmakers might eliminate it to pay for lower tax rates. The other is that successful tax reform that lowered rates would hurt the value of the credit — lower tax rates would mean the tax credit saves less money for investors.  

America's Affordable Housing Crisis: Challenges and Solutions

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on August 1 about America's affordable housing crisis. This is a prelude to consideration of proposed legislation that would greatly expand the expensive low-income housing tax credit program that subsidizes the construction of housing projects. The proposed legislation is billed as a solution to a housing affordability problem described in terms of the many households that devote a large fraction of their income to housing. The report that attempts to justify the expansion also argues that the expansion is necessary to house the homeless who clearly have a housing affordability problem. Neither argument holds water.  Building new projects is a very expensive solution to the housing affordability problem described. We don't need to build new housing projects to help households that spend a large fraction of their income on housing. They are already housed. If we think that their housing is unaffordable, the cheapest solution is for the government to pay a part of the rent. HUD's housing voucher program does just that at a much lower cost than the tax credit program.

Consensus Forming On Housing Credits, But Hurdles Remain

The Senate Finance Committee's hearing Tuesday on affordable housing was a promising sign that low-income housing tax credits may reach a broader swath of affordable housing developments, with one bill garnering bipartisan support, although the question of funding for the program is still a major unknown, lawyers say.  Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday showed bipartisan support for a new bill that would expand the reach of such credits, and lawyers say such across-the-aisle support is a sign Washington may act to try to stem an affordable housing crisis that's affecting cities across the country.  Still, President Donald Trump has offered few, if any, clues as to where he stands on funding for the program, which has been a critical lifeline for developers who might otherwise not be able to financially see their projects through.

A Bipartisan Fix to the Housing Crisis?

In 2015, a quarter of renter households in the U.S. paid more than half their income toward their rent. That's just one of the figures that define the affordable housing crisis, a slow-motion catastrophe that, by 2025, may consume more than 15 million Americans. The Senate Finance Committee just held a hearing to figure out what to do about it.  "Several people mentioned the 25 percent increase in renters over the last 10 years, which is the largest on record," said Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State during Tuesday's hearing. "That is just unbelievable to me—unless you stop and think about the implosion of the economy during that time period, and then you realize, yes, those who were on the last rung of the ladder literally fell off the ladder."

Counselors of Real Estate Report Identifies Top Issues Facing Industry

According to the latest survey by the Counselors of Real Estate (CRE), the most pressing issues facing the real estate industry include the need for infrastructure improvements, the mismatch of housing and jobs in cities, and the global uncertainty of political polarization. Scott Muldavin, the current chairman of CRE and a ULI full member, presented the research at a real estate journalism conference in Denver.  Muldavin, president of real estate advisory firm the Muldavin Company of San Rafael, California, characterized uncertainty and polarization as "the elephants in the room," complicating any high-level decision making. Rising interest rates and inflation are expected to make homeownership more difficult for the middle class to attain, while also keeping relatively high earners in rental housing for longer. At the same time, political polarization prevents fixes to longer-term issues such as infrastructure, affordable housing, and education. Uncertainty about changes to trade, travel, and immigration policies hamper cross-border investment, at least in the short term, he said.

Duty to Serve

Freddie Mac's proposed Duty to Serve plan seeks to bring liquidity, stability and cost-effectiveness to housing markets that have been underserved for generations. While Freddie Mac serves all segments of the rental-housing market, Duty to Serve focuses on one of the more challenging sectors: affordable housing.  In order to embrace this challenge, a core component of the proposed plan is to develop solutions for more affordable rental opportunities in specific markets. Commercial mortgage brokers who work with multifamily properties — as well as borrowers, sellers and servicers — should understand the details of how the government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) is looking to boost housing opportunities in underserved areas across the country.  For some, talk of an affordable-housing crisis may seem overblown. After all, the U.S. economy has rebounded significantly since the 2008 recession, the financial markets are hitting record highs and unemployment is at its lowest level in a decade. But those indicators fail to reflect a growing hardship facing millions of Americans — namely, the inability of working families to find safe, decent and affordable housing.

Serving the Underserved

The question of how the government-sponsored enterprises could serve underserved markets, such as very low-income, low-income, and moderate-income families could recently have come that much closer to finding an answer, according to a report on a recent event.  Next year, the GSEs will have to begin abiding by the new Duty of Serve (DTS) rule, which mandates that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac improve their role in supporting low-income households, specifically in three areas: manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural housing. But how do the enterprises go about living up to that mandate? Certain stakeholders have been brainstorming.  The first way Fannie and Freddie can serve the underserved is by providing standardization guidelines to lending for manufactured homes, which make up 9 percent of new single-family starts. Currently, legal, regulatory, and financial concerns make it difficult for GSEs to lend in this area, but standardization could lead to lower costs.

Predicting DDAs for 2018

Each year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) publishes a list of difficult to develop areas (DDAs). Low-income housing tax credit properties located in areas that are designated as DDAs are eligible for a 130 percent boost in eligible basis for determining the amount of LIHTCs a building can generate.  For non-metropolitan areas, DDAs are determined on a county basis. For metropolitan areas, DDAs are ZIP code tabulation areas (ZCTA), referred to as Small Area DDAs (SDDAs). (It's important to note ZCTAs and ZIP codes do not always have the same boundaries.)  When calculating DDAs, which includes SDDAs, HUD uses a ratio of fair market rents (FMR) divided by the maximum income of eligible tenants (the DDA ratio). The DDA ratio is a proxy for the difficulty of development in terms of construction cost relative to area income – therefore the higher the DDA ratio the more difficult it is to develop in the area. HUD sorts on the DDA ratio from highest to lowest then starts at the top of the list and designates areas until 20 percent of the population is in DDAs. HUD sorts and designates rural and metro areas separately.
 

© 2017 CohnReznick LLP

This has been prepared for information purposes and general guidance only and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and CohnReznick LLP, its members, employees and agents accept no liability, and disclaim all responsibility, for the consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.

 

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