The National Council of Housing Market Analysts gathered this week in New Orleans for discussions as bright and energetic as the legendary holiday decorations that lit up historic Roosevelt Hotel where they took place. While NCHMA is largely made up for market analysts, the event attracted professionals from across the industry. Eight in-depth panels featured the voices of Housing Finance Agency representatives, developers, and syndicators, in additional to market analysts. The conference participants delved into issues that spanned from adjusting for potential Section 8 subsidy loss to identifying market red flags to strategies for Year 15 projects.

State of the Art Affordable Housing Case Studies Panel
Bill Schwaller, Victor Smeltz, and Andrew Mazak discussing the Elysian Courtyards of Gentilly during the State of the Art Affordable Housing Case Studies panel.

The conference kicked off with a look at recent changes to the HUD Multifamily Accelerated Processing (MAP) Program. Panelists Jonette Hahn (CohnReznick) and Debbie VanHoosen (AmeriSphere) examined the changing office and staff structure, which will close local, field offices and consolidate them into 5 regional hubs. The panelists were optimistic that the transformation would lead to faster processing of applications and an alignment of HUD practices to industry practices. NCHMA FHA Committee Chair Bob Lefenfeld (Real Property Research Group) presented efforts to work with HUD on changes to the MAP Guidebook that will more closely reflect NCHMA standards. Mr. Lefenfeld said he fully expects a majority of the changes will be implemented.

A panel of Housing Finance Agency (HFA) representatives came together later on Monday afternoon to offer feedback to conference participants. Panel Moderator Arthur Krauer (Testa Companies) asked the panelists, who came from Illinois, North Carolina, and Louisiana, to walk the audience through their process of initiating and reviewing market studies. The panelists unanimously agreed they want to see more comments in the QAP and a proactive, thoughtful presentation of information. “We want to see any thoughts you have about a project or an area outside of the normal requirements of the market study,” said Marjorianna Willman (Lousiana Housing Corporation).

Tuesday’s sessions began with a look at a series of deals-gone-bad and unpacked the lessons learned for market analysis that could be helpful for ongoing and future projects. Later in the morning, Tad Scepaniak (Real Property Research Group) moderated a panel that delved into the criteria reviewers consider when looking at a market study. The panelists agreed that explaining the impact of characteristics and adjacencies is critical to a successful market study. Reviewers want analysis, in addition to the facts provided in a market study.

After a lively networking lunch, conference participants reconvened in the meeting room to consider how to adjust for potential Section 8 subsidy loss. Abhisek Mitra (US Bancorp CDC) highlighted several types of risk that the AHIC Subsidy Review Guidelines focused on, including property risk, contract risk, and overhang analysis. Rob Vogt (Vogt Santer Insights) reminded listeners to “plan for the worst,” and consider what will happen if the subsidy disappears. In many cases, he explained, there is “no market support without the subsidy” and it’s important to report this.

The conference wrapped up with a heartwarming look at a state-of-the-art affordable housing case study right in the conference’s host city of New Orleans. Renaissance Neighborhood Development Corporation (RNDC) developed Elysian Courtyards of Gentilly, which features abundant green and common space for residents in an area with limited multi-family rental options. Panelist Victor Smeltz, Executive Director of RNDC, explained that New Orleans is a very “neighborhood-centric” city, and this property finally gave residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina the opportunity to come back home.

NH&RA’s Thom Amdur and Caitlin Jones provided conference participants with a Washington Update that highlighted recent and potential changes in the political landscape. Thom Amdur reminded listeners that while a transition to a Republican-held Senate is notable, the United States will still have a divided federal government for at least the next two years, which may mean minimal changes in the foreseeable future. However, more than 80 new legislators will be sworn into Congress this January, which presents 80+ opportunities to educate new people about the importance of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. “You are all uniquely positioned for this task because you actually understand housing needs in communities and can back up that knowledge with data and research,” Thom Amdur told the market analysts in the room. NH&RA staff also extended our assistance and experience in reaching out to legislators to anyone who would like to work with us.

In addition to the event’s information-packed panels and engaging discussion, NCHMA leadership and members met to discuss ways to continue to standardize and elevate market analysis. NCHMA is considering developing resources and trainings for new and experienced market analysts to review and expand their knowledge base. The Council voted in a new Executive Committee to help spearhead this and other efforts.

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