There’s a new name in the affordable housing industry—LHP Capital.
Although the name may be different, the company is a familiar one. Longtime affordable housing developer Lawler Wood Housing Partners has been rebranded to reflect the leadership team that has been behind the business in recent years. The change also helps distinguish the company from Lawler Wood, the large development firm where the business began.
Led by chairman Phil Lawson, LHP Capital has two operating companies—LHP Development, which is responsible for acquiring and rehabbing affordable housing properties, and LHP Management, which manages the properties in the firm’s portfolio. The company operates more than 9,300 units in 11 states.
“LHP captures the legacy of the Lawler Wood origins, but it recognizes that it’s been Phil Lawson’s vision and his guidance and leadership that have led to a lot of our growth and success over the last decade and a half,” says Carr Hagan, president of LHP Development.
The firm traces its roots to 1975 when Rodney Lawler and Pat Wood founded a company to develop housing under the then new federal Sec. 8 program. It became a pioneer in developing Sec. 8 properties, completing more than 3,000 apartments between 1976 and 1981.
Since the 1990s, the firm has specialized in the acquisition and rehabilitation of older Sec. 8 properties, combining the firm’s Sec. 8 experience with its expertise in the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.
The affordable housing unit spun off from the Lawler Wood parent company in 2005, and more recently it entered into a partnership with a Boston equity firm that took out all of the interests of Lawler Wood.
Throughout the changes, Lawson has been a central figure at the company. Prior to leading Lawler Wood Housing for many years, he served more than 20 years as CFO at Lawler Wood. LHP stands for Lawson Housing Partners.
The company has consistently been on the AHF 50 list of top affordable housing owners, including ranking No. 32 this year.
Although the name has changed, the company’s focus remains acquiring and rehabilitating deeply subsidized, mostly project-based Sec. 8, properties in the Southeast.
After closing seven deals last year, the firm is on target to close six more this year, according to Hagan, who joined the company in 2002.
One of its current projects is the rehabilitation of Townview Towers in Knoxville. “This was a property that was built in the early 1970s,” says Hagan. “The former owners had done their best to keep it adequately maintained over the ensuing 40 years, but it was a pretty tired property. We’re in the process of completing a $10 million renovation that we think is going to make it one of the nicest mid-rise, small-household Sec. 8 properties in East Tennessee.”
Townview Towers, which is being renamed The 1100 Studio Apartments, serves one- and two-person households.
The firm will also rehab the neighboring Arbor Place apartments, which will be renamed Pinnacle Park. It is designed for families.
The two projects, which will receive about $22 million in improvements, are significant for the downtown area. They have a combined 500 apartments, serving more than 750 people.
Looking ahead, another area of business for the company will be deals involving the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. RAD allows public housing and Sec. 8 Mod-Rehab properties to convert to long-term Sec. 8 rental assistance contracts. When a development obtains long-term rental assistance, it has a more stable funding platform, which puts the property in a better position to leverage additional financing to perform capital improvements.
The firm, which has 350 employees, recently added Alvin Nance to the team as CEO of LHP Development and LHP Management. He recently served 14 years as executive director and CEO of Knoxville’s Community Development Corp., the public housing and redevelopment authority for the city.
“We’re looking forward to moving ahead another 40 years as
programs continue to evolve,” Hagan says.