Public Housing Revitalization: Be Part of the Solution

3 min read

This month NH&RA will be hosting our first ever Public Housing Revitalization Symposium (Feb. 18) in Key Largo, Florida, in conjunction with the NH&RA Annual Meeting (Feb. 19-22). The topic itself is not new to NH&RA – our Public Housing Revitalization Council (formerly known as the HOPE VI Developers Council) and its offshoot, the Rental Assistance Demonstration User Group, have been convening private and non-profit sector participants for nearly 10 years to provide feedback to HUD on HOPE VI, Choice Neighborhoods and Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) programs, and to help work through transactional and operational issues on the existing mixed-finance portfolio.

You might be thinking, “Why is NH&RA hosting a symposium on public housing revitalization now?”  And maybe even, “Why should I care?” After all, most of our readers are LIHTC developers and owners of HUD-assisted properties, not housing authority staff.  Furthermore the days when HOPE VI was funded annually at $600 million+ are way back in the rearview mirror. Yes, we may be forced to do more with less, but the need is great, the opportunities are numerous, new resources are available (I think you’ve heard me mention RAD before in this column) and perhaps most importantly, it is going to require the creative acumen of the private sector to solve the growing number of challenges housing authorities face.

To provide a little bit of perspective, consider that in the first three years of the HOPE VI program (1997-1999) Congress appropriated over $1.5 billion, funding 67 distinct projects in big cities like New York, Atlanta and Baltimore, as well as smaller communities like Missoula, MT, and Wheeling, WV. Almost all of these projects leveraged the LIHTC and they are all quickly approaching a year 15 unwind and shake-up.

I believe there will be numerous opportunities for developers to joint venture with these housing authorities going forward – many of the PHAs that chose to go it alone the first time around will need developer partners if they are going to succeed in the future and even those that joint-ventured first time around may decide it’s time to revisit their original partnerships. It is a major priority across the board to insure that the significant federal investments made in the 1990s are maintained and expanded, so that these communities will stay vibrant into the future. The regulating and operating agreements that govern these projects are complicated, as will be the limited partnerships that unwind and recapitalize. These projects will need to be recapitalized without huge federal grants, which means private sector investment by NH&RA members will be required.

Developing a practice and experience in public housing revitalization will create more opportunities for our members as the RAD program continues to expand, more HOPE VI developments approach year 15, and the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative evolves further. I invite you to join the conversation and be part of the solution.