Tracy Doran is president of Humanities Foundation, a nonprofit affordable housing development firm that she founded with her husband, Bob Doran, in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Celebrating its 20th year, the organization has delivered approximately 1,400 housing units and expanded into several states.
Doran also serves as president-elect of the Affordable Housing Coalition of South Carolina.
She tells us how she began in the business and what's in the pipeline.
What motivated you to start Humanities Foundation?
I chaired the Mayor's Council on Homelessness and Affordable Housing in Charleston in 1991, and my husband and I founded Humanities Foundation in response to the great need for affordable housing in our community.
What was the very first affordable housing development that you worked on and what was the biggest lesson learned from it?
Before we founded the Humanities Foundation, my husband and I volunteered our development services to build an SRO in Charleston. I was chairing the Mayor's Council on Homelessness and Affordable Housing, and there wasn't a nonprofit in Charleston that could address the need for affordable housing. I learned the importance of a nonprofit organization that has the business and development experience to address the demands of affordable housing development and the heart to address the social service needs of the residents.
Tell us about a development that you are working on now.
Humanities Foundation recently closed and started construction on our first bond deal with 4 percent low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs). It is a 56-unit senior development in Baton Rouge, La. It also has a large Community Development Block Grant award from the Louisiana Office of Community Development.
What has been the firm's overall development strategy?
Humanities Foundation focuses primarily on 9 percent LIHTC transactions in growing markets in the South. We are currently in South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, and, most recently, Georgia. We develop both family and senior housing with a strong emphasis on resident services.
Now that Humanities Foundation is celebrating its 20th year, can you look back and point to one or two pivotal decisions/moves that have been key to its success?
One pivotal decision that has paid off was to expand our development activities to multiple states. Now four years later we are more diverse and have grown into a stronger organization.
Another pivotal decision was made 16 years ago when we chose to create a homelessness prevention program called ShelterNet. We have partnered with hundreds of organizations and have helped over 23,000 families stay in their homes. ShelterNet is also a safety net for residents of Humanities Foundation developments that face a financial crisis or temporary setback.
Looking ahead, what's coming up for the organization?
We are continuing to look for new development opportunities in our target states as well as partnerships that will help us expand into new markets. We recently were chosen as the lead developer for the Winder Housing Authority in Georgia, and we look forward to working with them in creative ways to redevelop their housing stock.
Biggest challenge for you as a developer today?
I think it is always challenging to keep up with the various state requirements and changing qualified allocation plans as a multi-state developer. We work very hard to stay up to date with the changing priorities is each state and find sites that not only score well but are also good long-term additions to our portfolio.
What industry issue is keeping you up at night and why?
I am most concerned about legislative challenges to the LIHTC program and the cutbacks to Department of Housing and Urban Development programs that support our housing efforts.
Since the recession, what changes have you seen in your resident population or requests for housing?
We are serving more people who never expected they would need to move into an affordable housing development. We are also seeing more residents that view our housing as a stepping-stone to regaining their former level of financial independence.
Affordable housing matters because ”¦
People matter, and varying income levels make up the diverse fabric of our communities.
Besides the usual work papers, what's on your desk or in your office?
My iPad, my HP 12-C calculator, and an assortment of family photos.
Who's your hero and why?
My husband, he is one of the smartest and most optimistic people I know.
If you had the afternoon off from work where would we find you?
Probably sailing in the Charleston Harbor or reading a book on my back porch.
What's next for Tracy Doran?
I currently serve as president-elect of the Affordable Housing Coalition of South Carolina, and I look forward to growing in my leadership role to address affordable housing issues in our state over the next few years.