Housing Market Studies and Plans
Our market studies are integrated with practical program planning. We start with the assumption that, in every community, there are a wide variety of responses to affordable housing problems - discount priced homes, home repair financing, supportive housing, mortgage assistance, rent subsidies and more. We estimate the real-world demand for these products, assuming different price points and financing scenarios - rather than simply focusing on abstract housing "needs" without actionable next steps. We conduct these studies in order to create both community-wide and organization-specific housing plans. The goal is to help determine the demographic and geographic target markets for new or expanded products and then to set measurable goals and timetables for resource development and production. Our most recent studies and plans were completed for La Plata County, Colorado, and Bozeman, Montana.
A major focus of our work is to help local governments and nonprofits design, fund and start up effective new affordable housing acquisition, construction and financing programs. For example, City Homes in Baltimore has acquired and stabilized over 450 distressed single-family rental homes. And the Tierra Contenta Corporation in Santa Fe is a nonprofit developer of a 1,000-acre planned community that provides low-cost land to builders, who in return are required to sell or rent 40% of the homes to low-income families. A loan fund in Durango, Colorado, offers shared-appreciation second mortgages averaging about $25,000 to help low- and moderate-income families buy homes in that expensive market. For these three programs and many more, we have created practical business plans that were essential to raising financing and starting up successful operations. We stay involved for as long as needed - helping to recruit and train staff, refine policies and procedures, write funding proposals, and advise on financial management.
In any community, affordable housing opportunities can typically be expanded only by obtaining new financial resources and putting them to work in effective ways. This reality is illustrated by the three examples above. City Homes leveraged a $100,000 start-up grant into a $2 million loan to buy and renovate 100 low-end row houses in Baltimore and then became 100% self-sufficient on developer fees and rental income. Tierra Contenta was jump-started with $6 million in low-cost financing from the city government, much of which has been paid back from land sales for over 3,000 homes built to date. The energy company, BP America, read the business plan for the loan fund in Durango - where it has a growing workforce - and decided to invest $1.1 million in start-up capital. Experience has shown us that the quickest route to raising new financing is to have sound financial and operational plans for using it, along with fresh ideas that attract public and philanthropic investors, and qualified staff to implement the programs.
Increasingly, affordable housing developers and financing programs are incorporating green building principles. For decades, several of our team members have specialized in promoting energy efficient designs and use of healthy and resource-efficient materials. Peter Werwath drafted the first version of the Green Communities Criteria, which has been applied to over 20,000 affordable homes since 2005. He has also designed and implemented high-volume housing rehabilitation programs that incorporated state-of-the-art energy conservation standards, methods and materials.
Several members of our team have been pioneers in developing effective homebuyer training, counseling and mortgage financing programs - in communities as different as Cleveland, Santa Fe, Durango (CO), Fort Worth, Chattanooga, and Jackson, Mississippi. We see expert and assertive one-on-one pre-purchase counseling combined with affordable second mortgages as the most effective way qualify low- and moderate-income families for home purchases. In the programs we have designed and set up, foreclosure rates are exceptionally low because of the care taken to prepare clients and avoidance of adjustable-rate and subprime products. We have a number of easily adapted policies, procedures and tools for loan processing, determining the gap financing amounts for homebuyers, and recycling more lending capital through use of shared appreciation mortgages. We can create effective programs for almost any kind of market, and help integrate them with home construction or home rehabilitation programs if need be.
Real Estate Development
Collectively our team members have been responsible for assisting or leading billions of dollars in real estate development. Our specializations range from inner-city acquisition-rehab programs, to large-scale land developments, to Low-Income Housing Tax Credit projects, to major commercial and retail developments. Several team members have special expertise in setting up and funding large-scale single-family acquisition-rehabilitation programs such as those that were funded with the $7 billion federal Neighborhood Stabilization (NSP) Program that was created by Congress in response to the recent national foreclosure crisis. Our principal, Peter Werwath, was among the first team of NSP technical assistance providers funded by HUD to help cities implement the program.
A principal of our firm, Peter Werwath, has drafted effective inclusionary zoning ordinances and companion administrative procedures for three high-cost communities: Santa Fe, New Mexico; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Durango, Colorado. These ordinances have required builders to rent or sell about one in seven of their homes at discount prices that are affordable to households with incomes between 30% and 125% of area median incomes. Our approach is to base inclusionary programs on careful market research, to include both builders and housing advocates in the planning process, and to tailor requirements to local markets rather than impose a one-size-fits-all model. We have typically found that community needs are better met in programs that offer a wide spectrum of affordable rents and sale prices pegged to four or five income levels.