"If you let the private sector put their money in through the tax credit program and bring their discipline in, you would get a more efficient product in the end." — Jack Manning
"If you let the private sector put their money in through the tax credit program and bring their discipline in, you would get a more efficient product in the end." — Jack Manning

BOSTON—JACK MANNING AND HERB COLLINS launched the Greater Boston Development Co. in a spare bedroom 37 years ago.

They were developing apartments and condominiums when the prime rate soared to 12 percent, causing them to take a financial beating and re-evaluate their business.

Looking for a segment of the market that had strong demand and could weather the tumultuous real estate cycles, they turned their focus to affordable housing, starting out by putting together small rural deals using the old Farmers Home Administration Sec. 515 program. The entrepreneurs did some development but then shifted to being the equity provider.

Manning and Collins eventually moved into a 600-foot office as they grew their fledgling company. “We had such little money at the time that we would buy a sandwich for lunch and cut it into two,” recalls Manning. “We started with nothing."

That firm is now Boston Capital, the No. 1 owner/investor of apartments in the nation, and Manning, president and CEO, is one of the deans of the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.

His work in establishing and supporting the LIHTC program earns him induction into the Hall of Fame this year, the credit's 25th anniversary. Collins was inducted in 2006.

When they started out, the primary incentive to invest in affordable housing was through depreciation deductions that individuals could take on their investment and earned incomes. But starting around 1984, President Reagan's call for sweeping tax reforms led to a proposal to severely cut funding for affordable housing, including eliminating the depreciation incentives.

Manning, 63, was among those who believed a program was needed to attract investors, so he became involved in crafting and championing the LIHTC. He spent two days every week in Washington, D.C., building support for the tax credit. Leaders at Enterprise and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) were also working hard to convince lawmakers to establish the LIHTC.

It worked out that Manning is a Democrat and Collins is a Republican.

“I focused on the Democratic side, including then-Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Sen. George Mitchell,” says Manning. “Herb Collins focused on the Republican side, including Sen. John Danforth and Sen. Bob Packwood as well as President Reagan."

Once the LIHTC was created in 1986, Manning helped usher in a whole new way of financing affordable housing.

“Jack Manning deserves enormous credit,” says Paul Grogan, who was president and CEO of LISC at the time. “He was one of the most important private-sector leaders to advocate and fight for the program."

Manning understood the importance of building relationships with legislators and working with nonprofit organizations on the advocacy side, says Grogan, who now heads the Boston Foundation.

When the LIHTC was created, it was treated as a pilot program and required renewal by federal leaders. Manning returned to Capitol Hill year after year to keep the program going and to make it permanent.

During these years, he testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee along with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp.

Manning and other supporters cited studies that documented the incredible loss of affordable rental housing and the burden on families who were paying a huge portion of their incomes for rent. “We went with that message in hand as well as the point that if you let the private sector put their money in through the tax credit program and bring their discipline in, you would get a more efficient product in the end and one that would be managed by the private sector and not necessarily a government agency."

Collins and Manning changed the name of their company to Boston Capital and launched their first LIHTC fund, the publicly registered American Affordable Housing Tax Credit Fund, in 1987. The $50 million fund took about two years to put together.

The first Boston Capital Corporate Tax Credit Fund was introduced in 1992. The firm has since done 35 multiinvestor funds and about a dozen proprietary funds.

In all, the firm has raised and invested more than $7 billion in LIHTC equity that has financed more than 2,900 properties across the country, constituting 180,000 units of affordable housing. Boston Capital tops the National Multi Housing Council's list of largest apartment owners. A company that began with the dream of building in the greater Boston area has properties in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.

Manning has also served on several industry boards, including founding president of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, which started around 1989. He also helped organize the Housing Advisory Group in 1995. Both groups remain active today in educating government leaders and others about LIHTC program.

He and his wife, Lyle Howland, live in Boston. He has two sons, Ben and John.