No. 1 Owner
The Michaels Organization continues to hold the No. 1 spot on the AHF 50 owners list and is ranked No. 18 on developers list. As of Jan. 1, the affordable housing firm owned 45,647 units in 377 developments. In 2020, Michaels closed 11 deals, started 31 new communities, and welcomed 12,500 residents across its portfolio, which also includes student and market-rate housing.
In March 2020, Gorman & Co. (No. 14 developer) became an employee-owned company, with 40% of the company being sold by Gary Gorman, chairman of the board, to 30 key employees in the firm through a preferred stock sale. Since 1984, Gary Gorman has historically been the sole shareholder of the firm. The move was made as part of a long-term succession strategy to ensure the future leaders of the company had a vested interest in both its short-term and long-term performance.
Linc Housing (No. 35 developer) recently became part owner of the Autovol modular factory with the goal of lowering costs and speeding up production of affordable housing. It’s part of the organization’s efforts to look forward at new solutions, says CEO Rebecca Clark, noting that Linc aims to add more modular construction to its product in the coming years.
In addition, Linc launched its Intensive Case Management Services group in 2020, allowing more control of its properties and closer alignment with the special-needs residents the nonprofit is serving at its permanent supportive housing communities.
Taft-Mills Group (No. 33 developer) made several hires throughout 2020, including individuals from outside the affordable housing sector. As a result, the company established Taft-Mills University, a 10-week program that meets one full day per week to provide industry-specific training that matches the company’s needs for each employee. “We received feedback from our new employees that the program was worthwhile and allowed them to gain the skills necessary to succeed in our organization,” said firm leaders.
2020 was a record for The NRP Group (No. 2 developer and No. 9 owner) on all fronts. The Cleveland-based developer closed 21 projects with 4,865 units— including affordable, moderate-income, and market-rate—and deployed $1.3 billion in capital. Project closings occurred in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. It plans to close on another 20-plus projects and approximately 4,000 units this year.
Dominium (No. 3 developer and No. 2 owner) made an assertive move to regionalize its development functions in 2020, saying it’s “likely the most important change within the company in the past decade, if not longer.” The Plymouth, Minnesota-based owner and developer opened offices in three new regions—Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix—to focus development activities in locations where it is seeing significant opportunity and strong talent.
Mix of Deals
Meta Housing (No. 9 developer) launched construction on eight projects in California last year. The developments are a mix of affordable family, mixed-use, and permanent supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, says president Kasey Burke. New to the AHF 50, Meta kept deals moving during the pandemic with an immediate focus on safety and then ensuring its team had the resources to work remotely.
St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar (No. 22 developer and No. 12 owner) rolled out a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program to the entire company last year. Already planned for 2020 but made more impactful by last summer’s demonstrations, the program includes in-depth training and discussions for all levels of employees.
Woda Cooper Cos. (No. 10 developer and No. 18 owner) produced a video series showcasing the stories of residents and how their lives are impacted by the availability of high-quality, well-managed affordable housing communities. The first installment focused on veterans in conjunction with Veterans Day, the second on seniors, and the third on families. These videos have helped counteract negative impressions and messages about affordable housing.
In addition, the developer responded quickly to the needs of its residents related to the pandemic. It established one of the industry’s first rental assistance funds on March 17, 2020, for residents impacted by COVID-19, and it fought pandemic-related food insecurity in multiple locations.
Preservation of Affordable Housing (No. 32 owner) is making a significant commitment to developing its new housing to energy-efficient passive house standards and now has six such projects in the pipeline. The nonprofit is also focusing more on climate resiliency in planning its projects. These measures will save money for tenants, provide healthier housing, and contribute to addressing climate change.
POAH and its partners also are poised to start construction in late 2021 on its first all-modular, high- and mid-rise construction project consisting of nearly 500 units of affordable and market-rate housing.
In 2020, Belveron Partners, a privately held investment firm focused on housing preservation, closed on a deal that gave it controlling interest in Conifer Realty, one of the nation’s largest affordable housing firms. The closing encompassed more than 500 employees, 194 properties, 15,340 homes, nearly 30,000 residents, and 12 new construction projects in various phases of development. Belveron-Conifer Realty ranks No. 5 on the owners list.
Housing Trust Group (No. 20 developer) is ramping up in several new states. The Miami-based company has restructured and appointed executives to oversee pipeline growth and development activities in four territories: the Gulf Region (Alabama, Florida, and Puerto Rico), Atlantic Region (Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina), Midwest Region (Illinois and Missouri), and Southwest Region (Arizona, Colorado, and Texas).
In 2020, KCG Cos. (No. 26 developer) held a companywide contest to come up with “unique features” for future communities that would differentiate them from other developments. One of the concepts the Indianapolis-based developer plans to incorporate is beefing up lobbies and common space areas to contain more of a coffee lounge feel with free Wi-Fi, workstations, and comfortable furniture to accommodate evolving work styles and foster a community feel.
Columbia Residential (No. 28 developer) is substantially expanding its Year 15 redevelopment and preservation activity. Given the large number of complex in-place rehab projects and major renovation projects underway in its portfolio and for its partners, the Atlanta-based developer and owner has created a new company to handle resident relocation.
Fairstead (No. 42 owner, No. 4 firm completing acquisitions, and No. 5 firm completing substantial rehabs) is converting the historic Park 79 Hotel in Manhattan’s Upper West Side into 77 affordable housing units for seniors. In a neighborhood known for luxury condos, the building’s long-term future will be affordable housing for at least the next 60 years.
Nonprofit partner Project FIND will play an integral role in the project, consulting on the development, offering in-house service programming aimed at fostering community among residents, and connecting them to the different activities available in their neighborhood.
Fairstead and Project FIND will dedicate two full-time social workers in addition to other building staff to oversee resident management and supportive services.
Commonwealth Development Corporation of America (No. 12 developer) recently expanded its development footprint by entering two new states, North Carolina and Iowa, and opening new regional development offices in Minneapolis and Atlanta.
The Wisconsin-based firm also reached and exceeded its milestone of developing 100 affordable communities and closed out the year with a total of 110 affordable housing projects and 6,442 units.
The NHP Foundation (No. 45 owner) recently worked on its first single-family rental transaction that preserved 94 homes spanning several “neighborhoods of opportunity” in Baltimore.
The single-family homes, which range from one to four bedrooms, are in areas with thriving and diverse communities, low crime, low rates of poverty, high-performing schools, and with neighborhood amenities, including grocery stores, medical facilities, and community centers.
The Hollander Ridge housing is representative of Baltimore’s architectural diversity, including townhomes, single-family detached, and semi-detached homes. Most of the homes underwent moderate rehabilitation.
Jonathan Rose Cos. (No. 4 developer and No. 13 owner) closed on its $525 million Rose Affordable Housing Preservation Fund V to acquire and preserve affordable housing, implement green strategies, and connect residents with services. The fund provides the resources to support preservation on a broad scale—either investing directly or in a joint venture with other mission-aligned private and nonprofit developers.
The Community Builders (No. 38 developer and No. 38 owner) launched its Strategic Plan 2020-2024 at a virtual event in September. The plan challenges the Boston-based nonprofit to place residents at the center of all it does and build on the investments of the last five years to increase productivity and community impact. For 2021, the firm will focus on making progress on its five-year goal of 5,500 units of construction.
With roots in student housing, The Annex Group (No. 42 developer) has shifted to primarily developing affordable and workforce housing communities that serve families and individuals in areas where housing needs are great. Fresh to the AHF 50, the Indianapolis-based firm has new developments planned in Indiana, Michigan, Montana, and Oregon, expanding its reach beyond the Midwest.
In 2020, Affirmed Housing (No. 43 developer) hit its goal of closing on five new construction developments. Over the last three years, the San Diego-based developer has averaged five new starts per year and has a goal of maintaining that production over the next few years with six new construction starts expected in 2021.
Omni New York (No. 28 owner and No. 7 firm completing acquisitions) marked the largest closing in its history last year—the NYCHA PACT Brooklyn Bundle II. According to the New York-based firm, it is the country’s largest Rental Assistance Demonstration transaction closed to date at 2,625 units and $992 million in total development costs. Omni partnered with The Arker Cos. (No. 47 owner and No. 6 firm completing acquisitions), local M/WBE developer Dabar Development, and nonprofit Brooklyn-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp. to close this deal with the New York City Housing Authority.
In 2020, Fairfield Residential (No. 30 owner) increased its sole-investor discretionary equity commitment for affordable housing to $500 million. The San Diego-based owner also bought out the majority interest in a 23-project, 5,519-unit affordable housing portfolio, completed the renovation on its first 4% low-income housing tax credit resyndication in 15 years, and closed five 4% resyndications.
Avanath Capital Management (No. 36 owner), which is focused on the acquisition and preservation of affordable and workforce housing, closed its fourth discretionary fund in 2020 with $760 million in equity commitments, above its original commitment target of $550 million. Nearly half of the fund was raised during the pandemic and featured several foreign investors.
According to Eden Housing (No. 44 owner), 2020 was its best year financially. The Hayward, California, nonprofit completed its merger with South County Housing, resulting in the preservation of 1,695 affordable homes across 41 properties in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties, and assumed management of eight properties in Vacaville.
Standard Communities (No. 46 owner) continued its focus on preserving “at-risk” affordable and workforce housing in 2020. Utilizing California’s public-private partnership structure for middle-income housing, the Los Angeles-based owner transitioned Renaissance at City Center in Carson from market-rate to 150 units of dedicated workforce housing.
Starwood Capital (No. 3 owner) grew its affordable housing portfolio in 2020, acquiring 90 developments with more than 13,000 units and topping the AHF list of companies completing acquisitions. This Washington, D.C.-based private investment firm also landed at No. 10 on the AHF list of companies completing substantial rehabs, with 895 units in eight developments.