In a high-cost region like Washington’s, how do you even begin to put together an affordable housing deal? Which local programs help make those deals a reality? And what are the local, regional, and national political dynamics that affect affordable housing?
Those questions and more were posed on Monday, November 21, when the Real Estate 101 Committee of ULI Washington’s Young Leaders Group hosted Housing Affordability 101: How to Compete in a Market-Rate World. The Committee sought a panel of speakers who represented different perspectives in affordable housing and could share insight on their years of experience, and the event’s speakers delivered. The speakers offered a host of insight from their work, such as when Nina Janopaul (Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing) described the complexities of layered affordable housing finance; or when Matt Birenbaum (Avalon Bay Communities) gave a national perspective of housing affordability and shared his experiences with housing policy and development; or when Winell Belfonte (Cohn Reznick) outlined what motivates some corporate entities to invest in affordable housing. On many instances, the panelists piggy-backed off of the others’ points, such as when Nina described APAH’s acquisition of garden-style apartments in Arlington’s Westover neighborhood, an episode that required quick action and even quicker acquisition financing sources; hearing this story, Matt responded, “The challenges APAH faced with the Westover acquisition is a great example of the need for a well-capitalized non-profit sector.”
Looking ahead, the panel agreed that the affordable housing industry needs to work hard to protect the important policy tools, especially Federal policies such as the Housing Choice Voucher and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit programs. One thing’s for certain: last Monday’s panel demonstrated that the affordable housing field is full of committed, experienced professionals that will continue to advocate for and develop high-quality affordable homes, especially in the Washington region.