“What’s important about our industry is taking the long view. It’s not about the deal today, but about the deal in 15 years.”
“If you look at his record and what he’s done at the helm of OCCH, it’s phenomenal.” —Joe Hagan, member of the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame
For Hal Keller, president of Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH), affordable housing brings together three key elements: the social side of working with people, the built environment of creating something that will last, and the financial side.
Keller, who has been part of the affordable housing industry for more than 30 years, started out as a community organizer and a tenant advocate after he graduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
He went on to receive his master’s degrees in public administration and social work at The Ohio State University and administer state and local housing programs throughout Ohio.
But it’s been his 25-year career at OCCH, a tax credit syndication firm based in Columbus, Ohio, where he has made those three elements shine and has become a leader and a valuable partner in the affordable housing finance industry.
Founded in 1989 by Joe Hagan, now president and CEO of National Equity Fund, with Keller as the director of development, the nonprofit firm was one of the first local syndicators of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs). The firm set out to be different from other tax credit syndicators, says Keller, who took over as president in 1993.
The firm’s initial approach was to raise capital and provide technical assistance for its partners. But over the years, Keller and his team have expanded their mission and have built out the firm’s platform beyond its initial scope.
“We always have thought value-added. The way we grow our market share is to give our partners added value,” says Keller. “We never had an idea that we would grow it like we did.”
OCCH has raised more than $3 billion in corporate equity for LIHTC developments involving more than 675 transactions and 33,500 units of housing primarily in Ohio and Kentucky.
In 2003, the firm created its management arm, Community Properties of Ohio Management Services (CPO), when it was approached by an affiliate of Ohio State about a volume of units in a 250-building, Sec. 8 portfolio in seven Columbus neighborhoods, with a high concentration near the OSU campus.
OCCH acquired the scattered-site portfolio and purchased the existing for-profit management company. It then undertook a $133 million, nine-phase redevelopment plan, rehabbing more than 1,000 units. CPO goes beyond the housing and has established the Community Properties Impact Corp. to focus on robust supportive services. In addition, OCCH third-party manages another 1,400 units.
In 2002, it founded Ohio Capital Finance Corp., its Community Development Financial Institution lending arm, which has provided $180 million in loans to its partners. And its Ohio Capital Training Academy provides classes on property management and resident services for 1,000 people annually.
OCCH’s latest initiative is its philanthropic affiliate, Ohio Capital Impact Corp., which funds its partners’ activities. This fund has helped send 500 children to camp and purchase vans for seniors communities.
Keller serves as president of the YMCA of Central Ohio board and on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Habitat for Humanity Ohio, and the Ohio Housing Council.
He and his wife, Laurie, have two children, Ben and Miriam.