The nation’s largest affordable housing owners continue to add to their sizable portfolios by building new communities and acquiring new properties.
This year’s AHF 50 owners hold a combined 6,760 developments with 620,649 affordable housing units. That’s a notable 6% hike in the number of projects and a nearly 3.5% increase in the number of affordable homes over last year’s list of top owners.
The Michaels Organization of Marlton, N.J., continues to lead the way, with more than 44,500 affordable housing units in 367 properties, followed by Plymouth, Minn.–based Dominium, which owns more than 23,000 units in 196 properties. For Dominium, that’s a jump from just over 20,000 units in 180 developments last year.
Mercy Housing also makes a big move, taking over the No. 3 spot after recently acquiring 3,666 units from Franciscan Ministries, a deal that increased Mercy Housing’s portfolio by approximately 20%. The organization, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, becomes the largest nonprofit owner on the AHF 50 list.
The rankings are based on the number of affordable housing units owned as of Jan. 1. Only general-partner owners are eligible. This year, 106 firms completed affordable housing finance’s survey to be considered for the annual list.
In addition to housing thousands of low-income family, senior, special-needs, and veteran households across the country, the AHF 50 firms employ nearly 45,000 people.
Many of the companies reported taking steps to become stronger organizations and to reduce costs. For example, Avanath Capital Management, which owns 6,591 affordable units, is carefully monitoring water consumption at its properties to minimize operating expenses that can significantly impact an asset’s performance over time. At a large development in Sacramento, Calif., the firm has saved approximately $10,000 annually by replacing turf with drought-resistant plants.
Dominium says it continues to work to standardize the development process in the forms of financing documents, partnership agreements, debt executions, and design standards. The use of a standardized process helps create greater efficiency when applied to a large pipeline of transactions, according to company leaders.
“I wish people could fully understand that affordable housing is an essential foundation to a healthy, productive life, and that without it, there is little hope for good health and a quality education—all critical components that lead to a productive life.”
In addition to operating thousands of affordable housing properties, the owners are also delivering key programs and services to their residents. Mercy Housing, for instance, reported that it “scaled up” an evidence-based reading and literacy program to its after-school programs at more than 30 properties across the country.
Volunteers of America, which owns nearly 20,000 affordable housing units, is also reaching out to children living at its properties. It used a grant to implement extended after-school learning programs at a Columbus, Ohio, property that’s home to a large number of families of Somali descent.
A number of owners are also delivering health services to residents.
Vitus Group, a Seattle-based firm that owns approximately 10,000 units around the country, says residents at several senior housing communities are equipped with medical-alert pendants.
Westerville, Ohio–based Woda Group, which owns nearly 12,000 housing units, has incorporated medical facilities into three recent developments.