With many financial indicators signaling an economic downturn on the horizon, the task before the affordable housing community has seldom been more challenging or necessary.
Given the conditions, it’s understandable that some project stakeholders might slow the pace of affordable housing development and investment. The good news is there are others doubling down on their commitment to providing clean, safe. and affordable housing.
A good example of a firm taking the latter approach is JPMorgan Chase. Recently, the firm announced the hiring of Rochelle Dotzenrod as division manager of Community Development Banking’s Central region. Dotzenrod brings a wealth of community development experience to a region that covers 27 states, from Minnesota to Texas.
She recently took time to share her views on the challenges and opportunities going forward.
Tell us about your role as Division Manager.
I’m here to help facilitate a team of very experienced bankers across the Central region. We work on all types of transactions, including 9% and 4% low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investments, permanent and construction loans, and letters of credit as well as multiple balance sheet offerings and GSE permanent executions.
Our team has deep local relationships, and they know their markets well. Underpinning it all is the firm’s abiding commitment to affordable housing, demonstrated by the $17 billion we’ve committed to affordable housing over the last 10 years.
What’s your take on the current state of affordable housing nationwide? How does the Central region compare?
Affordable housing can’t be built fast enough. I’m talking about the full spectrum of affordable housing, everything from 30% of the area median income (AMI) through workforce housing at 60%¬ to 80% of the AMI. Add a rising rate environment and construction costs, and you make a difficult situation even tougher on developers.
The states in the Central region are as nuanced as the townships and cities within each state. That’s why it’s so important to know each submarket. That insight can help developers invest in projects that better weather changing economic conditions.
What demographic groups do you worry most about going into a recession?
The impact of a job loss and the worry that creates puts enormous stress on families. “How do we pay the rent?” “How do we put food on the table?” A group that deserves more attention during uncertainty is children. As a mother myself, I worry about the challenges we saw when the pandemic was at its height—and the food insecurity caused by lost or reduced wages. A child living out of a car and going to school doesn’t have the same educational possibilities as a child growing up with safe, stable housing.
It's imperative we help fill the gaps federal subsidies miss. That’s why the firm is stepping up to broaden its community development business through our Capital Solutions team. The group provides debt to help fund new types of affordable, workforce, and mixed-income housing as well as community development projects such as grocery stores and community facilities.
Capital Solutions helps fill the gap between LIHTC and market-rate housing. To do that, we leverage our relationships with equity investors, developers, and the public sector. We’re also a leading investor in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs). With Capital Solutions, we offer debt in addition to NMTC investments to support the capital needs of community development projects.
What does success look like in your role? What are your short- and longer-term goals?
For the first 90 days: I want to get to know the firm’s people and processes. I need to understand our strengths and areas where we could improve and grow.
For the first six months: I am going to visit our markets, see our projects, and meet the people behind them.
For the first year: I want a handle on the various ways we can deliver the best experience possible for our developers.
For years three through five: I hope to lead a team that’s making improvements to grow efficiencies and execute deals as consistent and timely as possible.
Production is, of course, always a priority. But loan growth is organic when you have excellent processes and people in place, supported by competitive pricing and structures. Clients want to work with organizations that make it easy to do their job with speed, dependability and with minimal surprises.
What voices remain underrepresented in the nation’s affordable housing conversation?
I’m based in Minneapolis. You know the impact George Floyd’s death and the tragic events that followed had on the state and the nation. I am so encouraged by not only the firm’s support but also how so many other organizations rallied to work with minorities to help improve wealth-building in various ways. JPMorgan Chase has a very active racial equity initiative that focuses on minority-owned or led projects.
Another area I’d like to advance is the role of women, specifically in real estate. As a group, we remain underrepresented in terms of women-led or owned projects. While it’s true many women lead nonprofit organizations and serve in executive director, CFO, and lead developer roles, much fewer have real project ownership. I’d like to see more support for projects where women have an ownership or equity stake.
What excites you the most about your role?
I mentioned I’m thrilled by the strength of our Central region team. I’m humbled and fortunate. I also love that our firm doesn’t run away from complicated, highly structured deals. With so many tools and resources at our disposal, we can tackle so many projects. I’m excited to be here!
To learn more, get in touch with the JPMorgan Chase Community Development Banking team.