The vibe at AHF Live: The 2010 Affordable Housing Developers' Summit in early November in Chicago was mostly positive throughout the sessions and exhibit hall.

That cautious optimism carries over to our 2011 forecasts as well, starting on page 16. The capital markets have slowly improved throughout 2010, and that momentum is expected to continue into at least the first half of 2011. Over the past month, low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) pricing has surged, a dynamic that many expect to continue into the new year as well.

Yet, there's still uncertainty ahead for the affordable housing industry. Unknowns abound—from whether the Tax Credit Exchange Program and New Markets Tax Credit will be extended to what the future holds for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And 2011's fate could be decided by the new makeup of Congress.

With approximately 100 freshman members of Congress descending on Washington, D.C., in January, one clear message was echoed throughout the three days of AHF Live: Educating legislators on the benefits of the LIHTC program and affordable housing is crucial.

From the opening roundtable of AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE's Editorial Advisory Board (the day after the midterm elections) to the final general session on LIHTC equity, speakers and attendees sounded the alarm to developers and owners about the need for showcasing their developments and the people they serve.

Attendees were urged to invite their local legislators to every groundbreaking, ribbon cutting, and grand opening at their developments.

They also were encouraged to go further—to invite legislative staffers for coffee, walk them through the developments, let them hear the personal stories of the residents, and educate them about the economic and social benefits in terms of cost savings and job creation.

Other takeaways from the seventh annual event included:

Ӽ If a deal pencils out, close it now since you don't know what the future might hold.

Ӽ Asset and property management should be a top priority for owners in today's climate.

Ӽ There's never been a better time to refinance and deleverage your portfolio.

Ӽ Lenders are increasingly scrutinizing borrowers, but they are realistic. It's not about whether you have problems in your portfolio, it's about bringing those problems to the table early and having a plan to correct them.

Ӽ Gap funding sometimes comes with operational and construction-cost strings attached, so proceed with caution.

Ӽ Developers are increasingly building debt-service cushions into their deals given the flat rent environment and volatility of utility costs.