Affordable Housing’s Headwinds

You can add financing to the litany of challenges being faced by affordable housing developers. From the Wall Street Journal:

Rising interest rates are undermining efforts to build more affordable housing, creating larger funding gaps for an industry already grappling with cuts in government subsidies and rising construction costs.

This year’s climb in borrowing costs—coupled with expectations that they will keep rising—has driven down the amount of debt used to fund affordable housing deals, said Michael Novogradac, managing partner of Novogradac & Co., an accounting firm that specializes in affordable housing…

The permanent debt rate—a measure of the long-term debt projects pay to lenders—was 4.18% for a Bridge project completed in the Mission District of San Francisco in 2016. This year, a proposed development less than a mile away, with the same developer and a similar amount of debt, closed at a rate of 5.06%. The fed-funds rate rose about 1% in the interim…

Affordable housing, which constitutes about a quarter of all new apartment construction in the U.S., is already facing a number of difficulties, including a decline in government subsidies and rising construction costs.

Fannie Mae Offers Incentives Tied to Well Being of Tenants

Fannie Mae is offering incentives for borrowers that are tied to providing services that improve the health and well being of residents. From an article in Multifamily Executive:

The incentive, in the form of a lower borrowing rate, is called Enhanced Resident Services and aims to foster services that address the needs of renters and support health and wellness programs, day care, food access, youth and education programming, and job training, according to Fannie Mae. The new offering became available to borrowers on Jan. 15.

“We believe the strength of an affordable rental housing property is directly linked to the health and stability of the people and families who live there,” said Bob Simpson, vice president of affordable and green financing at Fannie Mae, in a statement. “Affordable borrowers have recognized the value of providing enhanced resident services at their properties for years but have been constrained by the inability to ensure a long-term source of financial support. By participating in our Healthy Housing Rewards program, borrowers will save between $15,000 and $75,000 per year. The amounts saved can be used to offset resident-services costs at [the borrowers’] property for the life of the loan, thus ensuring that the low-income residents who live there have access to health care, education, and other community services.”

Fannie will implement Enhanced Resident Services with the assistance of Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), a nonprofit, multistate group of affordable housing providers that offers initial and ongoing compliance certifications for both the borrower and the multifamily affordable housing property providing the special services. To qualify, at least 60% of the units in the properties seeking the pricing incentive must serve residents earning 60% or less of the area median income.

 

FHA Initiative Intended to Boost Development of Affordable Housing

From Housing Wire (via NAA Industry Insider):

The Federal Housing Administration announced a new plan to reduce multifamily insurance rates in order to encourage capital financing of affordable and energy-efficient apartments…

The rate reductions will take effect on April 1, 2016, and will directly impact FHA’s Multifamily Housing Programs and properties housing low- and moderate-income families and/or developments installing energy-efficient systems or building within federal energy guidelines.

As a result, the FHA said it expects the multifamily insurance rate reductions to cause the rehabilitation of an additional 12,000 units of affordable housing per year nationally…

The FHA also announced that it is reducing upfront premiums to support its affordable housing and energy efficiency goals. Upfront insurance rates will be set at 25 basis points for Broadly Affordable and Energy-Efficient properties and 35 basis points for Mixed-Income properties. 

Miami Using EB-5 Visa Program to Finance Affordable Housing Development

The city of Miam, FL is taking a creative approach to addressing its shortage of affordable housing. They are tapping the EB-5 visa program to attract foreign development dollars:

The city will arrange for selected developments to be partially funded by a federal visa program known as EB-5, which grants green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in businesses or construction projects that create American jobs. The overwhelming majority of EB-5 investors are individuals from China eager to obtain U.S. residency…

Businesses seeking EB-5 funds typically contact middlemen—often lawyers—who run what are known as regional centers, which work with brokers in China and other countries to recruit investors, pool their investing dollars and funnel the money, often in the form of low-cost financing, to the businesses. The regional centers are paid a fee based on the amount of money they raise.

In the past year, Miami and a few other governments decided to create their own EB-5 regional centers, which allows them to select projects to help finance what would benefit the local community, charge a lower fee to the businesses and, in some cases, use the fees to supplement services such as police and firefighters…

Miami officials said they decided to start a regional center mainly to tackle its lack of affordable housing. According to an analysis prepared for The Wall Street Journal by the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, Miami-Dade County lost nearly 21,000 affordable apartments—or those that low- or medium-income people can rent without spending more than 40% of their income each month—from 2000 to 2012. In most cases, the buildings were torn down or converted to attract residents with higher incomes.

The city’s first development is actually an 83-story luxury tower, but they stated that it helped finance the creation of the regional center and that they expect many future projects to target affordable housing. In fact after getting wind of the program a veterans group and some members of the business community came out with a plan to build mixed use facility for veterans near the University of Miami hospital.