Bob Moss has come a long way from his days sitting in a model apartment as a property manager in Portland, Maine, in 1985 for affordable housing developer Joe Wishcamper.
Now you’ll find him walking the halls of Congress, rallying support to protect and expand the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program as a principal and national director of governmental affairs for CohnReznick, one of the nation’s largest accounting firms.
For the past three decades, Moss has been a key figure in the affordable housing industry and a champion for the LIHTC.
Prior to joining CohnReznick two years ago, he previously had been senior vice president and director of origination for Boston Capital, the national real estate investment and advisory firm founded by Jack Manning and Herb Collins, Moss’ father-in-law.
He credits Collins and Manning for teaching him the importance of advocacy. The Boston Capital founders, also both past Affordable Housing Hall of Fame inductees, were instrumental in crafting and championing the LIHTC program as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and making the program permanent in 1993. They also founded Housing Advisory Group (HAG) to protect and improve affordable housing programs, which Moss has been the chairman of for the past 16 years.
“I am trying to follow in Herb’s footsteps to bring people together and educate them,” Moss says. “That continues to be my goal.”
Whether it’s going out into the states or talking with Congress, Moss has spent much of his career doing just that.
“The thing I’m most proud of is working with the state housing finance agencies over the years and going to the qualified allocation plan public hearings,” he says. “A lot of times, I would be the only one in the room who showed up to provide input from the private sector.”
He also has been on the front lines of the industry’s grassroots efforts to get legislators out to LIHTC developments in their districts as well as bringing affordable housing developers to the Hill to meet with their local representatives.
“Every property that receives a tax credit award should be required to have a mayor or a member of Congress for ground breakings or grand openings. A lot of developers have stepped up,” he says. “But when we have a new Congress, you have to start all over. Congress changes a lot more than you think in terms of members. You really need an army.”
Every day that Congress is in session and Moss isn’t on the road traveling for a conference, he is on the Hill, says Ken Baggett, CohnReznick’s chairman of the board.
“Bob has turned the heads of fence-sitters in Congress who were interested in affordable housing, but not really proponents,” Baggett adds.
David Gasson, executive director of HAG and vice president at Boston Capital, agrees. “He has so much credibility with Congress and on the Hill. He has dedicated so much time to preserving the LIHTC program and expanding it.”
Moss has taken the advice that former Sen. Olympia Snowe, his first mentor on how to approach people on Capitol Hill, gave him. “She told me to be relentless,” says Moss. “I’m very proud of the overall relationships that I have built on Capitol Hill with the tax writing people.”
At the forefront for Moss is getting the fixed rate for the 9% LIHTC made permanent, but he says it will be challenge for this Congress to get everything done on its legislative agenda by the end of the year.
“I would like to see the 9% fixed rate made permanent or at least for two years to get us into tax reform,” he says. “I believe we’ll have it regardless of the party.”
Also on Moss’ agenda is spearheading an effort to bring together the independent housing councils that many states have, such as the Illinois Housing Council and New York State Association for Affordable Housing, so they can amplify advocacy efforts and share their best practices with one another.
“I have been traveling the country for so many years and know the executive directors, but I realized the executive directors didn’t know each other and they should,” he says.
The state council leaders met in September in Atlanta at CohnReznick's Fall Affordable Housing Conference to formalize the Council of Independent State Housing Association.
Moss contributes his success to his many mentors throughout his career, including Collins; affordable housing attorney Chuck Edson; Manning; David Reznick, the co-founder of Reznick Group and longtime affordable housing leader who passed away in December; and Wishcamper.
“One thing these people have in common is they are so kind and it’s not about themselves,” Moss says. “What’s important is what they do [for affordable housing]. I hope to continue to be that way.”
Baggett says having Moss join CohnReznick was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“We as a firm are fortunate to have him part of the organization,” says Baggett. “The industry is fortunate to have someone like Bob who fights for it every day.”
Bob and his wife, Julie, have a son and two daughters.