Leading affordable housing authority Carol Galante will provide an industry outlook and discuss an effective housing policy at Affordable Housing Finance’s virtual conference, April 13-14.

Carol Galante
Carol Galante

Galante is faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley and former commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration during the Obama administration. Prior to that, she was president and CEO of BRIDGE Housing, a major nonprofit affordable housing developer and owner.

Her opening address, “Building A Better Ladder of Housing Opportunity,” will kick off the conference.

For more information about the virtual event as well as AHF Live in November, visit ahflive.com.

AHF caught up with Galante to get her thoughts on a few current housing issues.

AHF: What is your outlook for affordable housing in the next 12 to 24 months, and where are we in the market cycle?

Galante: The need for more housing, be it from new construction or repositioning of assets like hotels and older office buildings, is more urgent than ever. High-end apartments, particularly in the urban core and high-cost markets like San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, have seen rents drop dramatically and vacancies go up. I think for that segment of the market, the recovery will be slow, likely over a couple of years. That said, I fear a repeat of the aftermath of the 2008 recession where nothing got built for four to five years and rents escalated in response.

AHF: How has COVID moved the needle on the affordable housing discussion?

Galante: It has exposed the deep disparities in income, wealth, and opportunity for BIPOC. It has also exposed the divide between lower-wage workers who cannot work from home to perform their duties and fueling the need for more housing that is affordable to these workers close to their jobs.

AHF: What should the new administration’s priorities be regarding affordable housing in the short term and long term?

Galante: In the short term, the most important priority is to keep people housed (or get them housed if they are unsheltered). This means rental assistance and mortgage forbearance and assistance to homeowners and small landlords. Longer term, it means reprioritizing and rethinking how we structure and scale housing assistance to the full spectrum of needs.

AHF: What do you see as the most promising strategies for lowering development costs and producing more affordable housing?

Galante: While there is no single silver bullet, I am bullish on industrialized construction techniques to dramatically lower the time and cost of building. Public policy should do more to optimize the benefits of these approaches by aligning financing, tax credits, and other regulatory structures to facilitate greater adoption.

AHF: What trends should developers keep an eye on this year?

Galante: There is so much to keep track of right now! I’d pay close attention to all of the ideas coming out of the Biden administration, including the American Jobs Act, and help inform and shape the ultimate outcome.