TCAM has decades of experience in affordable housing but, of course, no crystal ball. Like you, we are concerned about what the future holds for public health and the economy. We are working with participants throughout the affordable housing sector to prepare for the uncertainties ahead. In the meantime, properties continue to operate and – perhaps to a lesser extent – deals continue to progress. Below, please find some thoughts from our senior leadership team on how affordable housing organizations can address the current situation and prepare for what’s to come.

  1. Stability must come from the bottom up. The primary focus at this point, in the midst of a dynamic and unfamiliar situation, should be on property operations. Provide property managers what they need to keep themselves and their residents safely housed and as healthy as possible. It’s the right thing to do; moreover, properties that have taken steps to maintain as much order and normalcy as possible will likely be more resilient once the crisis phase ends. Know that operating budgets will be strained as property managers establish rent payment plans for residents who cannot pay and increase spending on cleaning and staffing.
  2. Asset Management, in this moment, works for Property Management. Asset Managers should be keeping track of what costs and crises are occurring at the sites, but should not make major efforts to rein those in. It wouldn’t work anyway.
  3. Investors will, understandably, be anxious. Everyone is anxious right now. Tax credit investing is often prized because of its relatively low risk profile – but the pandemic and economic downturn introduces an entirely new set of risks. Investors’ concerns are understandable, but there are as yet no answers to most of their questions. The lack of answers is uncomfortable for all concerned, but this phase will pass and there will be more answers as we learn more. Capital providers and regulatory agencies, please be patient and limit your questions and demands of your owner/operator partners for the time being. They may not yet have firm answers for you, and attending to your needs will draw their focus from crisis management.
    • At the same time, to demonstrate your commitment to good partnership, GPs, please share as much as you can with your investors, lenders, and regulators. Let them know that you are indeed paying attention, that you are taking prudent actions where you can, and that you remain fully committed to your properties and investments.
  4. Asset Managers should pre-emptively identify likely problem properties as well as potential solutions for managing cash flow. An immediate concern should be projects that are currently in construction in any jurisdiction where construction activities have been halted; try to quantify what the cost of delay will be from stopped construction, downward adjusters, and the risk of missing critical tax credit deadlines. Look at the makeup of revenue of properties that are up and running, because while highly subsidized properties may emerge largely unscathed, it is likely that tenant-paid rents will be under significant stress for the coming months.
  5. Fortunately, there appear to be signs of broad-based collaboration on temporary debt service relief. Many lenders, including GSEs and HUD, have expressed commitments to work with borrowers on the revenue shortfalls that will follow from the income loss many residents are experiencing. At the moment, most solutions appear to be 90-day deferrals of debt service, to accommodate similar respite on rent collections and widespread moratoria on evictions. Whether that will be sufficient remains to be seen, but Asset Managers should be identifying the properties that could benefit from such deferrals, and the conditions under which the deferrals are available.  
  6. Expect that, once we emerge from this dynamic crisis period, our industry will take stock of the damage. The tragic reality is that a recession is likely to only increase the demand for the product that our sector provides, but both capital markets and public-sector interventions will determine our collective ability to respond with supply. It is possible that an economic correction will ultimately facilitate the creation of more affordable product in the coming months and years; we can all hope for such a silver lining. Nevertheless, in the near term, our focus as an industry must be solely on providing housing as safely as possible. 

We at TCAM, like many of you, have seen financial crises before and have seen the remarkable resilience of our industry. We encourage anyone involved in the sector to be patient and allow frontline operators to focus on the myriad tasks in front of them. Asset Managers, be vigilant, responsive, and prepare to address the trouble spots in your portfolios. Regulators, likewise, focus on stemming the pain being felt in your states and cities, and be ready to talk if your developer/owner partners seek you out, but please be patient with them in seeking updates. Investors, recognize that this unexpected turn of events is likely to impact your investments, but that the dimensions of that impact are simply unknowable at this time. And anyone looking to speak directly with TCAM’s leadership about what you are grappling with, please reach out to us at the contacts below.  We will share what we know, brainstorm where it’s helpful, matchmake if we can, and as always, we will listen to our colleagues from across the country and across the industry as we collectively prepare for the future.

Sincerely,

Jenny Netzer

Jenny.Netzer@tcamre.com

Martha Shults

Martha.Shults@tcamre.com

Tracy McDermott

Tracy.McDermott@tcamre.com

Peter Haley

Peter.Haley@tcamre.com

Brian Urban

Brian.Urban@tcamre.com

Elaine Magil

Elaine.Magil@tcamre.com

Brian Gelow

Brian.Gelow@tcamre.com

 

 

Note: The letter does not constitute financial or legal advice.