Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself:
A: I am a current Master’s of Real Estate Development candidate at University of Maryland-College Park. I want to focus on developing mixed-use affordable housing that will provide people with a work/life/live balance. In the affordable housing aspect of the development, I am especially interested in emancipated youths. Ultimately, I would like to provide them a safe and stable environment where they are able to learn independent living skills, work where they live and have a special rental savings program in which they are then able to set aside a portion of their rent to become future home owners.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge in your industry?
A: Available space. Many companies are experts at in-fill development. They build beautiful buildings where land is available, but the units are still at market rates. This is difficult for workers who are earning above the poverty income, but not enough for the high end of the market. This population, which is inclusive of teachers, police, social service workers, etc., deserve to have the conveniences of city living and also be in close proximity to all the great amenities that city life offers. Unfortunately, these kinds of homes are typically not affordable in either the homeownership or rentals markets. Because land is so scarce – and at such a premium – to make the development finances work there are no other choices except market rate prices – unless LIHTC is used to subsidize a project, which then changes the dynamics of the deal. As they say: “numbers do not lie,” especially in this niche market, and that is why I see limited space as the biggest challenge in the affordable housing industry.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten sooner that helped you be successful?
A: Stay focused on your goals!! It is so easy to get sidetracked when life throws you curveballs. Getting back on your path can becomes difficult as you try to work through life’s day-to-day challenges. The real estate development field is so small and most people know each other or have heard of each other, so if they see you are engaged and enthusiastic about achieving your goals, they are very happy to help you get to that next level.
Q: How has being a member of HAND helped you with your community development efforts?
A: Finding HAND was an absolute blessing. I have always had a deep desire to be in the development world, but after being forced to take a break from real estate because of the recession, HAND helped me get back on my path. It has connected me with all the people that I need to know and has taught me so much that I did not know but always wanted to learn. The training sessions are phenomenal and of such a value. As Heather Raspberry told me when I first phoned her trying to get more information on the organization: “All of the partners required to make projects come to fruition are members of HAND.” And truer words have never been spoken, every member of HAND when I asked for an appointment to pick their brain, have been open and available. It is truly great to be a part of such a wonderful organization!!