CHICAGO—Nov. 4, 2008, was an exciting day to be in the Windy City. AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANC 's AHF Live conference was set to start the next day at Chicago's Hyatt Regency, and President-elect Barack Obama was in the hotel.
I didn't see him at the hotel, but I did listen to his speech that night in a crowded Grant Park. When I imagined what the crowd would be like beforehand, I thought about the rowdiness after a World Series win. But it was amazingly peaceful. The nation is ready for the changes that Obama has promised to bring.
The financial crisis has hit the affordable housing industry hard, and many of the issues facing owners and developers were addressed at AHF Live. The industry is in for another rough year, but I think it will be an energizing time with positive changes.
The Democrats are putting together a stimulus they hope will be ready when Obama is inaugurated. Many industry organizations are rallying to have affordable housing included in this package.
The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition is proposing to temporarily reduce the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) period from 10 years to five, in hopes of bringing in new investors. The National Low Income Housing Coalition is proposing $5 billion for public housing capital funds as well as action from Congress to address the projected $3 billion to $4 billion gap in LIHTC resources for 2008.
At press time, Obama had yet to name the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but many of the possible candidates mentioned so far have made strides regarding affordable housing and have the potential to make strides at the embattled agency. Another good sign is that Obama is going to create a White House Office of Urban Policy, which will provide a comprehensive approach to urban development.
Reznick Group Chairman David Reznick said it best at AHF Live's Editorial Advisory Board Roundtable: “What we really need is unity. Our industry is wounded. Its traditional investors are really not where they always had been—the GSEs, the governmentsponsored enterprises. We have developers who are carrying projects that they can't afford to carry at this point. Closings are delayed. Closings are not happening. Operating costs are rising. Incomes are flat. Citizens are losing jobs. They are losing homes. Our business, though, is on the ground floor of the return to prosperity.”
From what I have seen over the past eight years at AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE, this is an industry with a lot of passion and community. Everyone should unite for the common goal of producing quality affordable housing.
Call your legislators to urge affordable housing to be part of the stimulus package. Support the advocacy groups that are there to lobby for you. With this kind of action, a turnaround might not be that far away.