Full Member Executive Conversation with Nina Janopaul, President/CEO, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing – September 25, 2020
During Nina’s 13 years with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), she has seen the organization grow from three employees and 300 apartment units only in Arlington County with about one project each year. Today, they have a staff of 28 with 2000 apartments and 800 more in development throughout the region. Even still, in 2000, the apartment market was 26% affordable; today, it is 3%.
Early in Nina’s career, she was with Hostelling International – USA (American Youth Hostels), where she learned about real estate and being nimble. She worked on projects nationally, needing to understand different codes, changing partners, and a variety of financing options.
Nina is inspired by Frederick Buechner’s idea that you are called to “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” APAH has a clear statement of need and mission, and a strong board to assist in making it a reality. Integrity is one of their values, so it is important they follow through on their promises. APAH has a strategic plan that is updated annually and drives the workplan for the next year.
Most of Nina’s involvement is upfront on a project – identifying land acquisition opportunities and potential partners. One of the largest regulatory hurdles is getting more density by right. Density is key to making an urban infill project possible. California has a law that permits projects that provide affordable housing to be approved as-of-right. The District just created a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. If a project wins the federal credits, then it also will receive a 10-year credit against local taxes. DC also provides 100% abatement for non-profits. Amazon has made a significant commitment to affordable housing at National Landing, a lesson-learned from Seattle.
NYMBY is experienced in general with urban infill projects, but even more so with affordable housing. Nina recommends several talking points. The data shows that there has been a loss of affordable housing and that our employees cannot live here. Use storytelling and make it personal. And ask them what they are most afraid of. because then they might realize that their fears are unfounded.
APHA properties have an average of 15% rent subsidies from senior residents and those with disabilities. Seventy-five percent of their residents are hard-working looking for next generational growth. Ten percent are homeless, previously incarcerated, or developmentally challenged – and this is part of their mission. APHA has a lower turnover of residents. Twenty percent of residents cannot pay their rent because of COVID. APHA provides compassion and advocacy. It is a juggling act to balance a non-profit with this mission.
They provide their residents with homeownership counseling to help connect them with financing for existing condominiums. Older stock housing can be affordable. The federal mortgage deduction is the largest housing subsidy, but it goes to high-income households. Nina imagines how much affordable housing could be built if those taxes if collected.
APHA’s expertise has been transferable to other municipalities, especially when Arlington became too small. Nina noted that getting approvals in Loudon County is significantly easier. She suggests starting with the end in mind and have a strategic plan while staying nimble. Nina refers to it as “building the airplane as we fly it.” Use your network to teach you the best practices. Most importantly, LISTEN