Representatives from more than 100 of the nation’s top affordable housing organizations gathered at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, FL, last week for the 2015 NH&RA Annual Meeting. The event was much more than an escape from the frigid cold and snow that plagued many parts of the country. It was an opportunity for the best and brightest of the industry to meet in person, learn from each other, and form lasting business connections to strengthen their work and the affordable housing community.

The event was preceded by a one-day Public Housing Joint Venture Symposium, which brought together officials from the Department of Housing & Urban Development with the affordable housing community to discuss updates and changes to the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program, HOPE VI, Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, and HUD’s proposed rule on demolition and disposition of public housing projects.

The Annual Meeting panel sessions created dialogues on what’s challenging – and exciting – affordable housing developers, illuminated the products and people who will shape the tax credit transactions in upcoming year, offered options to properties approaching year 15, and surveyed key changes to tax credit programs and legislation.

What Multifamily Affordable Housing Owners and Developers are Working On

Multifamily affordable housing developers were the first focus of the 2015 NH&RA Annual Meeting. More than 40 owners and developers came together for a luncheon on Thursday afternoon. Though often competitors, the group took time to convene on common challenges and share lessons learned.

Following the luncheon, the Annual Meeting kicked-off with a Multifamily Developers Roundtable. Geoff Brown (USA Properties Fund), David Leon (Broad and Cassel), Kenneth Polsinelli (McKinley), and Joe Wishcamper (The Wishcamper Companies) participated in the panel, discussing the merits of working with third party property management companies, the potential impacts of changes to the tax code, the unpredictable treatment of real estate taxes for affordable properties, and other issues developers are facing. The panel offered insight into their own organizations’ successes and lessons learned, and encouraged conference attendees to contribute thoughts and questions on the subjects. The panel also discussed emerging trends they’re seeing, such as housing needs for a rapidly expanding elderly population.

Financing Options from the Tried and True to the New and Innovative

Sessions at the Annual Meeting looked a variety of issues related to financing affordable housing, including tax credit equity, tax exempt bonds, historic tax credits, and renewable energy tax credits.

NH&RA President and CEO Peter Bell moderated a roundtable on Tax Credit Equity with panelists Laura Sheehan (Bank of America Merrill Lynch), Victor Sostar (First Sterling), Ronne Thielen (R4 Capital), and Craig Wagner (RBC Capital Markets). The session offered insight into best practices for meeting investors’ needs and underwriting for new emerging deal structures.

On Friday morning, industry experts shared emerging products and innovations in the tax exempt bond marketplace. Angela Kelcher (Fannie Mae) and Shaun Smith (Freddie Mac) revealed what new affordable housing products owners can expect to see from their organizations over the next several months. Alongside Barry Krinsky (Citi Community Capital), Wade Norris (Eichner Norris & Neumann), and John Rucker (Stifel, Nicolaus & Company), they provided a survey of the current tax exempt bond executions and looked at the future of multifamily rental housing demand.

The final day of the conference opened with a look at the historic tax credit as an alternative financing source. Chris Barnes (Dominium Development & Acquisition), Miles Hapgood (Stratford Capital Group), Bill MacRostie (MacRostie Historic Advisors), and John Nolde (Winthrop Weinstein) pulled back the curtain on two recent projects that used the historic tax credit. These case studies provided an in-depth look into their lessons learned, educating attendees on what to consider doing a deal with the historic tax credit.

In the next panel, Jerry Breed (Bryan Cave), Darien Crimmin (WinnDevelopment), and Jared Lang (National Housing Trust) shared their experiences financing solar panels for multifamily rental housing using renewable energy tax credits. The panelists helped attendees navigate the complexities of investing in solar, weighing purchasing versus leasing and illuminating common legal and accounting challenges. The session made the case for investing in solar in 2015, citing rising economic returns and dropping prices.

Year 15 Options for Properties With and Without Value

Both of Thursday and Friday’s final sessions presented options for properties approaching year 15. The circumstances, however, varied significantly. Thursday afternoon’s panel asked a tricky question on the minds of many in the affordable housing community:  what year 15 options exist for properties with limited or no economic value? Greg Griffin (Enterprise Community Asset Management), Jeff Rahn (Boston Financial Investment Management), Armand Tiberio (Tax Credit Group of Marcus & Millichap), and Marianne Votta (Bank of America Merrill Lynch) pulled from their own experiences and lessons learned to provides answers and suggestions.

Friday’s last panel of the day also looked at options for year 15 properties, but this time they were properties with value. Pam Bower (The Richman Group Affordable Housing Corporation), Rob Charest (Boston Financial Investment Management), Tim Flint (Tax Credit Group of Marcus & Millichap), John Gahan (Murtha Cullina), and Joan Hoover (Conifer Realty) examined what it takes to negotiate favorable terms for both limited and general partners and how to create an exit strategy from the very beginning of a transaction.

Evolving Policies and Regulations

Of course, the topics of every panel discussion are subject to routinely evolving policies and legislation at the federal level. Sharon Dworkin Bell (National Association of Home Builders), David Gasson (Housing Advisory Group), and Bob Moss (CohnReznick) gave event participants an overview of what affordable housing professionals should know and expect from Capitol Hill. The panelists looked at changes in Congress, the potential impacts of tax reform, and predictions for 2015 and beyond.

The Annual Meeting’s final panel provided a survey of new policies, regulations, and news at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dan Rosen (Klein Hornig) and Monica Sussman (Nixon Peabody) updated participants on the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, National Housing Trust and Capital Magnet Fund, Section 8 Porting, and Project-Based Vouchers.

Over the course of three days, the 2015 NH&RA Annual Meeting gave affordable housing owners, developers, syndicators, lenders, market analysts, and other members of the community a chance to step outside their day-to-day work to connect and learn from each other. The panel sessions provided insight and solutions for the issues that are most pressing and challenging, and the event’s myriad of networking opportunities built new connections and strengthened existing business relationships.

NH&RA will host its 2016 Annual Meeting on February 24-28 at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL. For a complete list of upcoming NH&RA and NCHMA events, please click here.