Jonathan L. Wolf is president of Wendover Housing Partners, a privately-held real estate development, investment, and management company founded in 1995 and one of the Southeast’s leading multifamily housing companies.
Wolf and his firm have developed an extensive portfolio of real estate assets made up of over 7,000 multifamily, affordable, and single-family homes.
He shares how his developments are changing, his goals for the new year, and what makes a good developer.
What role does affordable housing have in your overall company?
The primary focus of the company is multifamily housing. The largest portion of our portfolio and a key part of our operation is affordable housing. We spend a significant amount of time and attention on affordable housing because it’s such an important issue, and we want to continue to be a company that provides solutions to the affordable housing crisis.
How are your affordable housing developments changing?
Years ago, we were able to build communities in the 200-unit range. Today, they’re half that size. This is a direct result of increasing costs while financing for affordable communities has remained the same. We’re building only a portion of units that we would have with the traditional allocation of funding from 10 years ago, in today’s economic environment that would require two allocations of funding—which simply aren’t available. Simply put, the demand for affordable housing is rising exponentially, and it’s far more challenging to bring projects online than it was 10 years ago.
Share a pivotal moment in your firm’s history.
An interesting time for us was during the recession. Development came to a halt for a number of years because funding dried up. The drop in interest rates gave us an opportunity to refinance a lot of the debt in our portfolio. We came out with a firmer financial footing while allowing ourselves the flexibility to upgrade our existing properties and create greater cash flow.
What are Wendover’s goals for 2018?
We will do at least another half-dozen new communities, including market-rate, student, and affordable communities. We currently have a pipeline of 40 different land positions around the Southeast and have already begun working to secure funding for these future locations.
What issue have you been spending most of your time on lately?
We’ve been spending a good deal of time recently on bringing a homeless community to Seminole County, Fla. Central Florida’s homeless population has shown a one-year increase of nearly 29%, many of those children. We have funding in place and have partnered with Step Up on Second, one of the nation’s leading providers of permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
What makes a good developer?
It’s the ability to interact at 30,000 feet above the ground to envision and at the same time be 100 feet above the ground to look at the details. It’s also having the ability to motivate and encourage a staff that shares in your vision and values. A good developer is one who can envision a site and a community and then execute it in a way that makes it better than each one prior.
Nimitz by E.B. Potter, a biography on Admiral Chester Nimitz, the commander of the Pacific Fleet in World War II. Someone gave me a copy of it as a management book. Nimitz was tasked with leading the Pacific Fleet after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and he had to figure out how to respond with very little time and the fate of the world hanging in the balance. It’s a great lesson in managing people; how to navigate egos and personalities while at the same time capitalizing on their strengths and capabilities.
What is your typical Saturday like?
Generally, I’ll have some interaction with staff and perhaps visit one of our properties or look at a piece of land. After that I’ll spend time at the gym, take a bike ride, or play golf. The rest of my day is spent with my family.
What’s next for Jonathan L. Wolf?
It’s a lot more growth here. We’re looking at more than doubling the portfolio over the next five to seven years, which could include expanding into one or two more states. We’re bringing on new people, training them, and helping them grow and play significant roles in our company. We’re adding a number of millennials to our staff who share the passion that we have to provide a variety of high-quality housing options and meet the challenges we face in this industry.