Some might view an industry grappling with spiraling insurance costs, high lending rates, construction labor shortages, and funding challenges with alarm.

Less so for Dana Boole. Industry concern, yes. Project frustrations, definitely. But 2024 pessimism? Not so much.

“I’m optimistic these headwinds will lighten the latter half of the year,” says the president and CEO of Raleigh, North Carolina-based CAHEC, one of the country’s premier regional low-income housing tax credit syndicators and community investment firms. Its affiliates, CAHEC Management, Inc. (property management) and CAHEC Properties Corp (general partnerships) are, respectively, among the largest operating within the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Rural Development (USDA—RD) Section 515 program. “I anticipate interest rates will be more favorable, supply chains should be less volatile, and housing finance agencies returning to a full year of credit allocations.”

The long-time affordable housing leader recently shared other 2024 observations, including an open challenge to his peers.

Your day job is running CAHEC and its affiliates. But you also serve as a powerful voice for affordable housing at the state and federal levels. Is enough being done to advance the affordable housing story with public officials?

Industry colleagues and I can always be doing more. It’s not enough to simply join an industry trade group or coalition. I consider that passive participation. My industry peers are exceptionally gifted, resourceful, and mission focused. We must utilize that vast talent in a more active, present, and one-on-one manner.

What do you suggest?

It is paramount to build relationships with public officials and, when available, their legislative aides. I remember my first visit to Capitol Hill 10 years ago. I met with my district congressman and started the conversation with, “Sir, there are a lot of things I’m good at. This is not one of them.” He smiled, leaned forward, and replied, “Just talk. Tell me from the heart what’s important.” I’ve followed that advice ever since.

We can all advocate more. This is our livelihood. We’ve made a commitment to preserve, improve, and expand safe and affordable housing for the nation’s greatest in need. The best time to build a relationship with officials (as with any customer) is when we do not have an ask. That way, when our industry is facing a material headwind or tailwind, and legislators have an opportunity to make an impact, we can call them and be told “We’re happy to hear from you. How can we help?”

Insurance premiums and terms are top of mind with most affordable housing owners and operators. What’s your view?

I believe skyrocketing premiums—driven by climate, social, and tort-related inflation—are in search of their new baseline. Once established, we’ll experience ebbs and flows based on a variety of factors. In the near term, we ask development partners to underwrite property, casualty, and liability insurance as early as possible. The days of addressing insurance late in the game are no longer prudent.

CAHEC is a leader in RD development. What’s been decisive in your service to rural communities?

For nearly 20 years, we established a niche of aggregating/rehabilitating large tranches of USDA—RD communities in a single execution. Preserving these assets on a one-off basis could take decades. Aggregation is a powerful tool, but it’s not for everyone. It’s a commitment that advances a mantra of “doing what’s best to further the greater good.”

How would you describe the days ahead?

Imagine you’re flying out of your local airport during inclement weather. While there’s turbulence, you’re always gaining elevation. It’s not unlike our industry. We’re always confronted with fiscal, monetary, legislative, and program headwinds. Driven by persistence, agility, and creativity, we (CAHEC and our industry peers) can get above the cloud line and travel in calmer skies.

Learn more about CAHEC’s mission and vision.