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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
News & Media
Dec 3, 2019

Investing in Affordable Housing: Investment Strategies

By Ryan Herron (BSBA ’20), Kenan Scholar

“This is a problem happening all across the country. We’re not alone in this fight.”

Erin Smith, vice president and development manager at Bank of America’s Community Development Corporation highlighted the many news headlines citing affordable housing issues across the country, as part of the Investment Strategies panel at the Investing in Affordable Housing Symposium on November 22.

The symposium was hosted by the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies and the Kenan Scholars program. From students to policymakers and practitioners, the event attracted a diverse spectrum of individuals seeking tangible solutions to the affordable housing crisis.

North Carolina is no outlier when it comes to affordable housing—policymakers and practitioners are working diligently across the country to bring about solutions to the affordable housing challenge our nation faces.

Despite institutional concerns with workforce housing investments ranging from high-risk speculation to high eviction rates, the symposium panelists’ work is evidence that individuals are actively seeking to encourage inclusive, sustainable growth for affordable housing initiatives across America.

Pamela Watkins-West, senior director of real estate impact investing at Nuveen, said of her company’s involvement in affordable housing, “We’re agnostic to markets. We believe there is an affordable housing crisis across the nation—we’ll go anywhere.”

Watkins-West cited Nuveen’s focus on low-income tax credit (LITC) assets. LITC assets are typically stable for 10 years and become at-risk in years 11 through 15 when non-affordable housing investors look to take them over. Nuveen’s focus is to secure LITC assets during these high-risk years to ensure they remain affordable.

Wade Casstevens, managing director at Linden Property Group, discussed the core efforts of his company. Linden is focused on investing in workforce housing in the Mid-Atlantic region. Casstevens cited the company’s investments in areas of high job growth where tight housing markets are driving prices up.

The work of the panelists’ companies to encourage affordable housing goes beyond just providing housing—they are looking to encourage overall financial security and family wellness.

“It’s also the services you provide, such as free transportation for the elderly or an afterschool tutoring program at a family housing property,” said Smith, adding that a tutoring program not only provides supplemental education for children, but also time for parents to work a few extra hours per day.

Watkins-West said that Nuveen is working to help families not just with housing, but with overall financial security. One of their initiatives is to partner with credit bureaus to include rent payments in credit ratings to enhance individuals’ credit.

From large institutions like Bank of America to smaller start-ups like the Linden Property Group, organizations across America are seeking investment strategies to the affordable housing issue. Through continued conversations and discussions like those at the symposium, the Kenan Institute is hopeful that academics, policymakers and practitioners can collaborate to find solutions to this nationwide crisis.



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