Pedcor Cos. leads the AHF 50 list of developers after starting construction on six developments with 1,070 affordable housing units in 2015. The Indiana-based company saw a big jump in production from the three developments with 684 units it started the year before. Active in 16 states, Pedcor is poised for another big year, projecting it will start construction on another dozen developments in 2016.
“Like many apartment developers, we’re experiencing strong demand for our product at a point when financing is relatively inexpensive,” says Tom Crowe, executive vice president. “Our company may benefit a bit more than other developers, given its 29-year tenure in the affordable housing industry. The implication is such that our people are able to apply this depth of experience gained to accomplish more.”
Overall, there are 52 companies on the AHF 50 list this year, including two ties. Collectively, the firms started construction on 226 developments with 17,653 affordable units in 2015. Last year, 56 firms were on the list, starting more than 19,000 units.
The only list of its kind, the AHF 50 reveals how many units are being built by the leading national and regional developers. To be considered, approximately 100 firms completed surveys detailing their recent activities.
The survey also helps paint a portrait of the development landscape and gauges the mood of developers. Respondents are clearly worried about rising development costs, having cited increasing costs as the most significant issue of 2015 and naming it their biggest concern this year, as well.
The numbers back their concerns: The average development cost per unit for new-construction projects increased to $253,984 in 2015, according to the survey. The year before, the average was $238,296.
Another theme emerged as several companies that specialize in affordable housing plan to broaden their scope to include market-rate housing.
Several factors are driving this trend, including the availability of capital for both market-rate and affordable housing deals, says Geoff Brown, president and CEO of USA Properties Fund, a California firm that has begun construction on its first market-rate development, a 270-unit project in Sacramento.
Volunteers of America is looking at expanding into workforce market-rate housing in areas where it already has a presence. Although the idea is to build market-rate units, the developments would still be true to the nonprofit’s mission, says Patrick Sheridan, VOA’s executive vice president of housing. He wants to reach households that earn just above the limit for a low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) home but still need an affordable place to live. This would likely be residents earning from about 60% of the area median income (AMI) to about 120% of the AMI.
“We look at this as a big need that’s out there,” Sheridan says, noting that young families starting out and seniors on a fixed income are among those in this income range who struggle with housing costs.
These market-rate deals may include an affordable component as well, not necessarily through the housing credit or other formal programs, but more to create a strong deal and meet investor needs.
Community Investment Strategies (CIS), a developer in New Jersey, is working on an 80-unit market-rate project in Jersey City, N.J., a desirable community close to New York.
Christiana Foglio, CIS owner and CEO, seeks to transition into building workforce housing that would serve households earning up to about 120% of the AMI.
“I think the other interesting lesson for me over the last two years is the number of people that we have to turn away because they make too much,” says Foglio, citing how many of the applicants for a senior development in Bloomfield, N.J., earned too much money to qualify for the CIS building, yet their incomes were not enough to afford the new developments being built in town.