ST. LOUIS— MCCORMACK BARON SALAZAR, INC., started seven developments with 1,026 affordable housing units in 2008 and hopes to start another eight projects this year.

The St. Louis-based company will begin development of a 400-unit public housing and mixed-income community in Florida's Miami-Dade County and plans to expand its portfolio of transitoriented and mixed-use developments.

The firm ranks No. 4 on AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE's Top 50 list of developers and No. 8 on the list of owners. McCormack Baron Salazar builds across the country, giving the firm a wide perspective on what's happening in the industry.

President Kevin J. McCormack shares his thoughts about the year ahead.

Q: How are the tough economic conditions changing the way you approach and finance your developments?

A: We're focusing our development efforts on deals that (i) are high priority for cities; (ii) that have identified predevelopment funding and subsidies; and (iii) that can close this year or next.

Q: What's one lesson that McCormack Baron Salazar has learned during this economic crisis that other developers can learn from?

A: Don't put significant people and dollar resources into deals that are too far in the future.

Q: What will be your firm's biggest challenge in the next 12 months?

A: We are concerned that it will take many months for the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) stimulus measures to be “digested” and turned into a functioning program.

Q: What industry trends will you be keeping a close eye on this year and why?

A: The health of the financial institutions and the pace that state housing finance agencies, cities, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development develop the new set of LIHTC finance rules.