The Alabama Housing Finance Authority has featured The Bennett Group partner & chief operating officer Ann Marie Rowlett in the first edition of its new series, Developer Tips for Success. They write:
Q: How long have you worked in the affordable housing industry?
A: I began working in affordable housing July 2002.
Q: What inspired you to participate in developing affordable housing?
A: At first, it was just a new job and something I had no experience doing. As time went on, I learned more about the processes, funding sources available for this housing, and the amazing difference that this housing can provide in the lives of the population that need it most. This housing fills a large demand for those families and individuals that make too much money to live in public housing yet cannot afford rents in conventional multifamily housing. Seeing the end product, which is always beautiful, is such a blessing to the community in which it’s located as well as the tenants who reside there. We always invite tenants to speak at our open house functions. Listening to their stories and how much this housing means to them is worth all the effort that it takes to get there.
Q: What tips would you give others who might be interested in a career in affordable housing development?
A: It is a very steep learning curve and is very complicated. But if you can give it 3 years – which is approximately the time it takes to go from locating a site to having tenants move in – then you can do it. Also, creating strong relationships with banks that deal in affordable housing and quality equity investors is a must.
Q: What about tips when it comes to being a successful owner and/or developer?
A: The biggest tip is to make as many contacts as possible. First, having a strong, dependable and responsive management company is imperative. The more professionals that you know and have rapport with, the more successful you will be. This industry takes a village to manage. No one can do it alone. Relationships that developers/owners can establish with knowledgeable, reputable, and trustworthy general contractors, accountants, attorneys, architects, engineers, market analysts, environmental professionals, etc., can make or break a successful housing development.
Q: What do you see as the greatest benefit of affordable housing?
A: Giving people who otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to live in beautiful, affordable housing that is safe, sanitary, and located close to jobs, shopping, medical facilities, schools, and worship facilities.
Q: Anything else you’d like to include?
A: The low-income housing tax credit program started in 1986 and has been the most successful source of affordable housing production in history. I hope that all the developers/owners out there will continue to do all that is necessary to make this program continue to be a success. Additionally, none of this would be at all possible without our state housing finance agencies who work tirelessly to continue making this program available.