Marianne Votta has a full agenda ahead of her as the new president of the Affordable Housing Investors Council (AHIC).
She takes over the top post as the organization enters its 11th year, during which time AHIC will revisit its watch-list standards, continue to emphasize industry education and broaden its focus to include other tax credits.
The organization represents the nation’s leading low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investors. Its 66 corporate members represent roughly 80% of the housing tax credit investment dollars.
At its 1995 organizational meeting, AHIC had 26 corporate members. Votta, manager of tax credit management at Bank of America, has been a member since 1998.
“I expect it to be a strong year,” she said. Votta acknowledges that some investors have said they are pulling back because of the recent high equity prices, but she points out that the syndicator distribution channel for LIHTCs remains one of the most efficient investment vehicles. She added that there are socially motivated and other reasons for investing in tax credits besides financial returns.
The past year was one of the most competitive in the industry, with investors paying some of the highest prices ever seen in the market. Many developments were getting in the 90-cents range for a dollar of credit. Prime deals were even fetching more than a dollar for a dollar’s credit.
In early January, Votta wasn’t anticipating any big pricing shifts. She expects the equity and origination side to remain strong. Her concern is that the industry will begin to see more issues when it comes to overall portfolios. One issue is performance, and the other is profitability.
In general, when it is an overheated market, “there has been some loosening of underwriting terms,” she said. The result can often be more operating issues as LIHTC projects get stabilized and move forward.
The other issue is profitability. All in all, portfolios have seen good returns, but the question is what happens if pricing remains at current levels.
One of the steps that AHIC will take this year is to review its list of items that may cause a development to fall on a watch list. It may include things like not converting to permanent debt on schedule or not meeting occupancy goals. The list would help provide some standardization in the industry.
“Since the inception of the organization, education has been one of the main priorities,” said Votta. “That will remain a major priority this year.”
Although the focus of the organization has been on LIHTCs, many members are also involved in historic tax credits and New Markets Tax Credits.
As the price for housing credits has increased recently, Votta said she thinks more members are looking at other areas of community development to broaden the scope of their products.
The group will make an effort to include the other tax credits as part of its regular panels and conversations.
AHIC has also been working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to streamline the 2530 process for corporate investors who are limited partners in HUD-financed properties.
Other AHIC officers in 2006 are Cynthia Lacasse of John Hancock Realty Advisors, vice president; Rick Muraida of Eastern Bank, treasurer; and Douglas Hazelton of MBNA America Bank, secretary.
AHIC celebrated its 10th anniv-ersary at its fall conference. It was the first time the group held a meeting where nonmembers were invited. AHIC is considering hosting other open meetings.
For more information, visit www.ahic.org.