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HAND members are consistently striving to move the needle on the growing housing affordability challenge. “Five Minutes With” is a series highlighting the great work that our membership is doing across the region. This informal conversation asks HAND members about their recent projects, the affordable housing industry and more. In the latest edition, we have a dialogue with David Bowers, Vice President and Mid-Atlantic Market Leader and Ahmad Abu-Khalaf, Senior Research Analyst, Public Policy at Enterprise Community Partners.
Abu-Khalaf recently authored Enterprise’s report titled, Leveraging Property Owned by Faith-Based Organizations to Create Affordable Homes and Public Benefit. The rising acquisition cost of developable land, among other factors like the rise in construction material costs and shortage in skilled construction labor, has been driving the cost of residential development, impacting developers’ ability to create affordable homes. Through effective partnerships and informed decision-making processes, faith-based organizations (FBOs) who own underutilized or vacant property are able to repurpose their property to create affordable homes and public benefit. This publication assists FBOs and community stakeholders interested in advancing this strategy with understanding what it takes to successfully and effectively implement this solution and the different implementation approaches that can be pursued.
Bowers launched Enterprise’s Faith-Based Development Initiative (FBDI) in 2006, which brings technical assistance and financial tools to help religious institutions develop their underutilized land into new housing and community facilities or acquire existing housing to ensure long-term affordability. Enterprise has invested more than $154.8 million in grants, loans and equity with houses of worship across the region, resulting in the creation and preservation of over 1,300 affordable homes and one community-based health center with another 1,000 homes in the development pipeline. The FBDI has provided training and informational workshops to hundreds of houses of worship and faith-based organizations in the region. Enterprise has expanded FBDI work nationally, with efforts taking place in cities including Baltimore, Denver, Miami and New York.
Check out our conversation with David & Ahmad here:
HAND: FBDI was established in 2006 and is still very relevant today. Can you provide a little background on how it started and why it’s important?
DB: The Enterprise Faith-Based Development Initiative was started because of our awareness of an acute need for the development of new homes affordable to low-and moderate-income residents in the DMV region. The DMV was and continues to be one of the highest cost real estate regions in the country. Land costs are high and the availability of land for new construction is limited. We knew about the extensive amount of land owned by houses of worship that could potentially be activated for the development of affordable housing and community serving facilities. In 2006 we spoke with Dr. Sam Marullo, who at the time was at Georgetown University doing research on land owned in parts of DC by houses of worship. Rev. Donald Isaac at East of the River Clergy, Police, Community Partnership was also an early partner we spoke to as ERCPCP was looking at how to provide housing for people returning from prison. Out of those conversations emerged the initial FBDI Call to Action in 2006 engaging the faith community in dialogue about the need for housing and community serving facilities (neighborhood serving retail, office, training) in their midst and the potential good that could be done on land owned by houses of worship. We discussed need, potential, the development process, who is involved and how to successfully navigate the process and players.
The Enterprise FBDI is still important today because unfortunately the housing and neighborhood facilities needs (access to healthy foods, quality affordable child-care, neighborhood-based health care, quality retail) are still dire in far too many communities across the region. The FBDI is important because it embodies a creative, sustained, multi-sector response to a compelling human need. It is an example of how we in the housing affordability/community development industry must be willing to work with usual and non-usual suspects and stakeholders in the drive to solve for the region’s housing affordability and other community well-being issues. It is important because it shows the power of leveraging the time, talent and treasure of multiple stakeholders – and what can happen when multiple partners move beyond their comfort zones to go deeper in the impact zone. A recent analysis by the Urban Institute announced at the 2019 FBDI Annual Summit noted that a look at 800 vacant parcels owned by houses of worship in just four jurisdictions in the region could potentially support between 49,000 and 109,000 units of housing. Given the housing needs in this region, that kind of potential should not be ignored by our industry.
HAND: Can you tell us in a few words about the latest report? What do you think are the most important takeaways?
AAK: In January 2020, Enterprise released a white paper that explores considerations and strategies for leveraging property owned by faith-based organizations to create affordable homes. This new resource assists faith-based organizations and community stakeholders interested in advancing this strategy with 1) understanding what it takes to successfully and effectively implement this solution; and 2) the different implementation approaches that can be pursued.
The importance of understanding what it takes to make informed real estate decisions, including but not limited to understanding the leadership structure and decision-making authorities, identifying necessary partnerships and resources, conducting due diligence and ensuring the proposed development’s financial viability. Another important consideration is balancing between the organization’s financial goals and long-term control over the property’s future use and financial benefit. Pursuing strategies like joint venture partnerships and long-term ground lease can help faith-based organizations attain some balance between attaining internal financial goals and public benefit. Finally, it is important to remember that there in no one-size-fits-all as every property and owner has its own characteristics and circumstances. So, what works for one site and one house of worship does not necessarily work for another – even when there are lessons that may be shared.
HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability? If so, what do you think that is?
AAK: There is no secret sauce. The answers sometimes are hiding in plain view. We as a nation need to have the will to commit the resources necessary – time, talent and treasure – to solve for the housing affordability challenge that has so many people living in housing insecure situations. The complexity of our housing affordability requires a range of solutions at all levels of government that include effective public-private partnerships. It will require a combination of strong and consistent public support for proven housing and community development strategies and promising innovations. It also calls for more private sector engagement and private sector investment that would boost resources and expertise available for tackling these challenges. Faith-based organizations are a key player in addressing the nation’s housing affordability challenges, including the scarcity of affordable homes. The rising land acquisition costs are derailing developers’ ability to create new housing affordable for low-and-moderate income households. Faith-based organizations with underutilized or vacant property can explore entering real estate development partnerships or long-term ground leases to leverage their land/property to create affordable housing, acting as engaged and proactive community partners.
HAND: What do you think is the largest challenge for Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) seeking to develop affordable housing?
DB: The lack of expertise and financial capacity to pursue real estate development. Since affordable housing development is commonly not part of faith-based organizations’ core expertise, they often lack the know-how and financial capacity needed to make informed real state decisions and successfully complete real estate development. While this challenge could discourage some faith-based organizations from repurposing their underutilized/vacant property into affordable homes, they can overcome it with effective partnerships that can provide them with access to financial, legal and real estate expertise necessary for making informed real estate decisions. One example is Enterprise’s Faith-Based Development Initiative, which offers faith-based organizations access to developers, capital, training on the development process, pro bon legal services, organizational capacity and development-related technical assistance. The fear of making a bad decision can cause an FBO to make no decision. The Enterprise FBDI approach is to equip FBOs so they can make informed “go or no-go” decisions and get connected to professionals to help move the process forward when the answer is a “go”.
HAND: What is your best recommendation for developers and other stakeholders who are interested in engaging FBOs? Are there any “don’ts” to stay away from in this process?
AAK: Being patient, clear and concise in communications is key, especially during the upfront negotiations. Affordable housing development is not necessarily the right answer for every parcel owned by a faith-based organization. Therefore, conducting comprehensive due diligence is essential for determining whether the property/parcel is suitable for affordable housing development. As the property owner, the FBO has the right and responsibility to investigate the range of possible options ahead of making a final decision. Further, while the faith-based organization might come to the table with a specific vision and development goals, it is essential to ground the decision-making process in the market realities and availability of financial resources. At the end of the day, any real estate proposal must be deemed financially feasible to access needed equity and debt from investors and lenders, and during this process it is important to weigh the trade offs between the possible paths. For example, the faith-based organization might find itself choosing between attaining a certain level of housing affordability vs. producing a desired number of affordable housing units. Ensuring that the real estate negotiation process is fair for all partners is very essential to achieve a fair deal with a balance between contributions, responsibilities and financial benefits. Developers should respect their FBO partners and the value of what they bring to the table – be it the land, relationships with local stakeholders, any financial resources and the power of their prayers. A developer should not tell an FBO partner to “go have a seat, we’ll handle this” in a dismissive manner, or tell the FBO “you wouldn’t understand this”. Engage the FBO as you would any partner you respect.
HAND: Your best advice for FBOs as they are approached by developers and other stakeholders?
DB: At Enterprise, we have learned some key lessons and have identified the questions/issues for a faith-based organization to be mindful of as it begins to explore development. All of this has been gleaned from our conversations with hundreds of houses of worship across the country – and from our deep dive work with dozens of faith communities actively working to develop housing and community facilities. A few key tips for FBOs:
HAND: What are you most looking forward to over the coming months as it relates to FBDI?
DB: We are looking forward to continuing to go wider and deeper with our impact on the housing affordability challenge with the Enterprise FBDI and making progress towards our ten-year goal to help create at least 5,600 new units of housing on land owned by houses of worship in the DMV. This goal represents 10% of the target identified by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments of the number of new housing units needed above current baseline production projections to serve low- and moderate-income households. Our prayer and plan are to work to far surpass this target. Our FBDI training sessions – including those in collaboration with HAND, as well as with local governments and faith networks – along with continued technical and financial assistance – will allow us to make progress. The 173 new homes at the Gilliam Place apartments opened in November 2019 by HAND member APAH in collaboration with Arlington Presbyterian Church was the first development towards that goal since we made the announcement at the Annual FBDI Summit held in November 2019 in conjunction with HAND and the Washington National Cathedral.
We are looking forward to continuing to expand our public and private sector partners network – and encouraging the transformation of thinking in the marketplace where engaging houses of worship in housing affordability and community development efforts becomes the norm.
HAND members are working tirelessly in all of our jurisdictions to creating thriving communities for all. “Five Minutes With” is a series highlighting the great work that our membership is doing across the region. This informal conversation asks HAND members about their recent projects, the affordable housing industry and more. In the latest edition, we have a dialogue with Angie Rodgers, the newly named Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) for Economic Development for Prince George’s County, Maryland. Angie comes to the County from the District of Columbia where she most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
In her role as DCAO for Economic Development, Rodgers is looking forward to ensuring that County residents benefit from the same prosperity as residents in other parts of the region. This includes enjoying amenity-rich neighborhoods, a variety of housing types for people across the income spectrum, support for home-grown businesses and good jobs that are accessible and pay a living wage. She also looks forward to ensuring the County realizes its potential to be a leader in the solution for inclusive housing and economic growth.
Check out our conversation here:
HAND: Can you tell us about your latest role?
AR: I spent the past 4+ years in DC’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, most of it as Director of the New Communities Initiative, and most recently as Chief of Staff.
In February, I will start work in Prince George’s County government as the new Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) for Economic Development. The DCAO leads a cluster of nine county-chartered, quasi-independent and independent agencies focused on housing, business and economic development, employment and planning.
HAND: You’ve touched almost every part of the housing/community development industry – can you tell us about the journey you’ve taken to get to this point?
AR: I started my career in research and advocacy, and I’m so glad I started there. I was doing research on general income and poverty trends for DC households, and did some of the first studies to define and document the housing crisis that began to grip DC in the early 2000’s. So many extremely low-income households were spending 70, 80 and even 90 percent of their income on housing costs – way past the threshold for being severely housing burdened and at risk of homelessness. That early work gave me a mission-focused point of view that has continued to define my work. At this point I’ve been on every side of the work – public, private, nonprofit, philanthropic – and on all sides I’ve found a way to do work that creates opportunities for people of all backgrounds, and specifically those who are low-income.
HAND: What is the most important takeaway(s) from your previous positions that you’re bringing into your new role?
AR: Whenever I step into a new challenge, I think about how past roles have prepared me, and I am ready for the challenge of Prince George’s! Because there is so much room for growth, the County has an enormous opportunity to be a problem solver for the region – easing housing pressures and growing business (small biz – because they are the backbone – as well as those that may need a bit more leg-room). Hindsight is 20/20, so we also know so much more than we did 20 years ago about how to approach that kind of growth responsibly, so that the families and businesses in Prince George’s today can be there long-term. You have to be intentional to manage growth in that way, with the right strategies and interventions to protect all the people and communities that don’t have automatic access to opportunity. Everything I’ve done in my career thus far has armed me with that intentionality.
HAND: What do you think is the largest hurdle when it comes to increasing housing supply across our region?
AR: We don’t have a consistent toolkit across all of the region’s jurisdictions for production, so we can’t effectively plan together. Of course, some jurisdictions will be able to do things that others can’t, but we could go far if we were all at least aiming for the same target and thinking about supply collectively. While we’re silo’d, the region’s residents are fluid and making decisions about where to work and where to live based on where the best opportunities are. If there were more areas of opportunity spread throughout the region – places with a range of housing types for a range of incomes, access to transit, good amenities – we could increase supply and decrease prices.
HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability? If so, what do you think that is?
AR: My secret sauce would be made up of:
Production – We need a lot more units overall to meet demand before we see prices start to adjust. Without that, we’re left trying to subsidize our way to enough affordable units.
Preservation – We have to be vigilant about protecting what we have, and preservation tools can’t be an after-thought.
Regulations and Entitlements – We need to re-evaluate and reduce the regulatory barriers that have increasingly contributed to driving up the cost and time to build.
Income – We need to reduce income gaps. That is the biggest problem of all in this scenario. We’re only going to shift our affordability problem up the scale if we don’t reduce income and wealth gaps.
HAND: What are you most looking forward to over the coming months?
AR: Prince George’s has spent a few years getting many of the right ingredients in place – a planning strategy heavily focused on transit-oriented development around some of the County’s best assets – its metro stations; a housing strategy focused on diversifying the County’s housing types to meet the needs of a broader range of households; a business environment that is boosting job growth. I am looking forward to leading that ambitious work going forward.
I am also looking forward to continuing to see all my friends from around the DMV. The regional collaboration on housing and economic development pushed by HAND, MWCOG and other groups is hugely important, and I’m looking forward to representing Prince George’s in that collective problem-solving.
HAND: If you weren’t working in this industry, what might you be doing?
AR: Back-up singer à la “20 Feet from Stardom.” I don’t want to be famous; I would hate that. But I’d be happy backing up some of my favorite artists. I can blend in with the chorus, and also make the part uniquely mine. So I don’t stand out, but you hear just a little something that makes the whole thing better. Actually, I hope that’s me even when I’m not singing!
From the University of Maryland Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development:
The Fall 2019 Capstone kicked off on Friday night, December 13th, with five dual degree students (MRED + M.ARCH) presenting their projects to a panel of industry experts. Judges included Malcolm Haith, Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, Goyer Roberts, The Duffie Companies and Timur Ryspekov, Telesis Corporation. Taking top prize was Casey Huntington with her project, 1600 Nexus, a mixed-use, mixed-income development in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philadelphia. 1600 Nexus is an example of equitable development for a low-income community facing gentrification. Runner-up honors went to Adan Ramos for Poppleton Place, a mixed-use project in Southwest Baltimore that included residential and retail utilizing grant funding for public housing redevelopment and Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion of public housing to project-based Section 8. Thanks to Jessica Jones for mentoring the students.
On Saturday, December 14th, the competition continued with 9 students presenting their final capstone projects. Judges included Barbara Kelly, Citibank, John Lin, CapStar Commercial Realty, Derek McDaniels, Efficient Home, Paul Rowe, E2 Property Investments, LLC and Jason Zell, JM Zell Partners, LTD. Congratulations to first place winner Scott Glickman for his project, Preserve at Piney Hill, a planned neighborhood on the Eastern Shore of Maryland! Xingchen Liu was awarded second place for Park View at Landover, a mixed-use development in Landover, MD. Elsa Escobar Pedrin took third place for The Mall at Landover, a residential and retail development in Landover, MD. Honorable mention went to Rahul Chawla for Landover Medical Park, a mixed-use project containing a medical center and retail, also in Landover, MD. Thank you to the professionals who gave their valuable time and expertise as student mentors, Seydina Fall and Robert Rauch. Additionally, thank you to the architects for designing the posters and project graphics including: Jack Devilbliss, Nicole Hinkle, David Ensor, Mike Fischer, Alla Elmahadi ’18, Paul Rogers and Rachael Whiting. Lastly, a special thank you to our alums and poster judges, Catherine Ryckman ’18 and Mithila Mattoo ’18.
Congratulations to all the students that presented their projects: Richard Bedrick, University Park at Landover, Landover, MD; Andrea De Carlo, Hoboken Exchange, Hoboken, NJ; Dennis Holste,The Park @ Glenarden, Landover, MD; Kyle Huck, Nanticoke Landing, Eastern Shore, MD; Andrea Nichols, Schuylkill Place, Philadelphia, PA; Tachit Pultunya, LakeYard, Eastern Shore, MD; Akiel Pyant, The Pavilion at EastLake, Eastern Shore, MD; and Bradley Robertson, Landover Square, Landover, MD.
Walter Webdale and three fellow leaders were inducted into the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame at last week’s AHF Live in Chicago. For the past 20 years, Walter has served as the President and CEO of AHC, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and longtime HAND member. He has helped to grow the organization’s affordable multifamily portfolio from 1,600 units to 8,000 at nearly 60 properties today. Prior to AHC, he served as the first director of the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development in Virginia.
Other trailblazers honored at the conference include:
Congratulations to Walter and all of the honorees! You can read more details from AHF’s story here.
On November 17, Arlington Presbyterian Church (APC) celebrated their homecoming, returning to their former site opening a new worship, office and multi-use space on the ground-floor of Gilliam Place, a 173-unit affordable housing community developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) along Columbia Pike. The project includes eleven barrier-free units for persons with disabilities and approximately 8,500 sq. ft. of ground floor space that will include a new home for Arlington Presbyterian Church as well as expanded facilities for La Cocina VA, a bilingual culinary training program for low-income individuals. La Cocina, which will begin its construction later this year, will also provide kitchen space and training for entrepreneurs and a community café.
The press release reads: “APC’s move back to their former property where they worshipped for over a century, completes an 8-year journey for their congregation in discerning new ways they might be called to be church in the community. After their bold decision to sell their existing church building and property to APAH for the development of affordable housing in 2014, the congregation returned to lease a portion of the ground-floor retail space from APAH in the completed building. ‘APC’s new worship space is a communal, Spirit-filled gathering area that invites participation, creativity, and equality for the sake of South Arlington,’ said Pastor Ashley Goff. The brand-new multi-use building is named in honor of Ronda A. Gilliam, APC’s first African-American elder, a community leader and clothing ministry founder.”
Financing was provided by Enterprise Community Partners Faith Based Development Initiative, Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), Arlington County and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Additional partners on Gilliam Place include: Capital One, KGD Architects and Donohoe Construction Company.
Congratulations to APC, APAH and all partners!
To read more details, check out media coverage here.
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