One of the nation’s fastest-growing metros, Texas’ capital has seen a consistent flux of businesses and people relocating here, especially from California, drawn by the area’s relatively affordable cost of living, deep talent pool, high quality of life, lower taxes and simpler regulation. A strong demographic expansion has been occurring at a rapid pace, and if on the one hand, it translates into job growth across the board, on the other it places the metro’s core workforce into a deepening affordability crisis.Affordable Central Texas President & CEO David Steinwedell and Dallas-based Carleton Residential Properties Founder, Managing Partner & CEO Printice Gary discussed with Multi-Housing News the affordable crisis threatening Austin, to what extent the federal Opportunity Zone investment program can help ease the issue, as well as approaches to address housing affordability in general.
How would you describe Austin’s multifamily market? How serious is the affordable housing crisis in Austin?
Steinwedell: Austin’s multifamily market is robust, dynamic and meeting the needs of the upper end of the market, and that is the challenge the city is facing. Job and population growth have been dramatic in the metro and the multifamily market has been significantly impacted by that growth as demonstrated by strong rental rate increases and new development activity. The unintended consequence of that growth is that the affordability challenge, previously felt at low- and very low-income levels, has now come to impact moderate-income families and individuals, Austin’s workforce. Teachers, medical workers, first responders and even entry-level professionals like real estate analysts, are all finding it difficult to find reasonably priced multifamily housing that is close to jobs, transit, schools and grocery stores.These properties are the most susceptible to redevelopment as they can easily be updated with new appliances and finishes, and then released at much higher rental rates, above what those in the workforce can afford. More than 5,000 units per year are being removed from the workforce affordable housing stock by this redevelopment activity. It is not economically viable to build new properties to meet the needs of workforce renters, so the decline in available units is severely squeezing the supply of available rental units.
How difficult is it to obtain public or private financial support to preserve affordable housing in Texas’ capital?
Steinwedell: Affordable housing needs encompass a wide spectrum—from serving the homeless to the low- and very low-income levels and into the workforce. Government programs exist to address some of the needs of the homeless and low- and very low-income segments, but no public programs exist to meet the needs of those in the workforce sector. Moreover, the existing programs for the homeless and low- and very low-income levels are complex, expensive and difficult to access. While they do provide some modest, yet insufficient relief, they require significant expense to access legal expertise and extensive layers of management to successfully administer on the long term.The Austin Housing Conservancy Fund targets a variety of private investment channels to build its comingled asset pool. The Fund was launched with the support of 35 individual investors and is reaching $10 million in invested and committed assets. A significant individual investor has yet to be identified to lead more substantial growth in the Fund, though efforts continue to find that visionary lead. In the meantime, to meet their Community Reinvestment Act requirements, the Fund is working with banks, foundations, social impact funds and other institutional investors who are drawn to the low-risk profile of the Fund.
How does the federal Opportunity Zone investment program help ease the affordability crisis?
What amendments would you apply to make it more efficient?
Gary:Opportunity Zone legislation was born from existing low-income census tract designations and unlike the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, it was not designed specifically to attract private capital for affordable housing development. OZ funds can make equity investments in any asset class located in the OZ. As for the creation of affordable housing in OZs, due to the high cost of new construction, it is unlikely that prevailing rents in the submarket could support the cost basis without subsidies. Regarding preservation, a core requirement is that OZ investments in real estate double the basis of the property within 30 months—substantial rehabilitation indeed.While OZ fund opportunities could help attract a new class of investors (high net-worth individuals and family offices) to community development, it is not clear that affordable housing will be the primary and direct beneficiary. I have heard that numerous Wall Street and private equity firms have already raised billion-dollar funds (commitments) for investments in OZ assets. It will be interesting to watch whether they can fill and how much will be invested in affordable housing real estate.Opportunity Zone fund legislation is brand new and untested. It took Treasury a long time to get the current rules in place and I think it is probably premature to suggest amendments to somewhat of a moving target. Real estate is only one element in the mix and affordable housing has not been targeted.
What are your thoughts on rent control as an approach to address the affordability issue?
Gary: I have never considered rent control as an appropriate means to help cure the affordable housing crisis. The dynamics of the open marketplace tend to be pretty good and efficient indicators of the dimensions of the affordability gap in housing and while not enough, subsidy programs like LIHTC are in place to help mitigate this problem. But LIHTC does not address the affordable housing need beyond the 60 percent AMI threshold and that is exactly what the AHC Fund is designed to address.I would rather see expansion of the existing subsidy programs in place that are working, as well as the creation of new market-driven programs. LIHTC has been the most successful public-private partnership to produce affordable housing in recent history. Consider expanding the LIHTC program to include up to 80 or 100 percent AMI, which would include workforce housing. Additionally, the program is consistently oversubscribed in most markets and perhaps an increase in per capita allocation from the Treasury would be appropriate in order to increase the stock of affordable housing around the country.
What do you think about the City’s latest program—Affordability Unlocked?
Steinwedell: The City Council in Austin has taken some compelling steps to address aspects of the affordability challenge facing the city. The recent approval of the general obligation bonds by the citizens of Austin, coupled with the Affordability Unlocked provisions, will provide the opportunity and capital to address many needs of those earning 50 percent and below of the area’s median income. These programs are a strong and needed step in the right direction for these income segments. We believe that similar steps are required to meet the needs of Austin’s workforce, if additional progress is to be made in the city.
How do you see the affordable housing market evolve in the next five years?
Gary: On the demand side, I see the Central Texas economy continuing to grow at a rate faster than most regions in the country and attracting the workforce segment to help fuel this growth. A significant portion of this workforce will require affordable housing at income levels in the 60-120 percent AMI range, to include workforce housing. When you combine this trend line with the existing pent-up demand for affordable housing at all income levels (less than 120 percent AMI) it does not bode well for expectations that the affordability gap will be diminished in the future. I would anticipate that the affordable housing market in the Austin area will look a lot more like the market in and around Palo Alto, Calif., over the next five years and experience a lot of the same challenges.
What is your investment strategy for 2019?
Steinwedell: We launched the Fund in 2018 with three investments totaling 792 units with more than 1,200 residents. These investments were made in conjunction with excellent partners including the Austin Affordable Housing Corporation, Community Development Trust and Enterprise Partners. Completing transactions with established partners leveraged our initial equity to allow for greater impact. In 2019, we seek to at least double the number of units in the portfolio and gain greater geographic diversity across the City of Austin. The Fund has three properties in various stages of acquisition with the hopes of identifying more prior to year-end. Our hope is to achieve a portfolio of 5,000 units in five years.
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Equity Advisor Committee Meeting
ACT/AHC Equity Advisory Committee Meeting
July 16, 2020
An Equity Advisory Committee was formed by Affordable Central Texas (ACT) to assist in reviewing practices,
policies and procedures at ACT and its investment fund, the Austin Housing Conservancy Fund (the “Fund”). The meeting was held by Zoom conference call on July 16, 2020 and participants included a variety of stakeholders including community members, ACT board members, a resident, investors and staff.
Participants, firms, roles and titles:
Marianne Dwight - Of Counsel, Michael Best and Board Member, Affordable Central Texas/Austin Housing Conservancy
Robert Burford - Veteran, student, resident in an ACT property
John McInernney - investor, Capital Hill Partners
Ray Owens - former Chief Investment Officer, Piedmont Realty Trust
Ashley Hunter - Managing Director, HM Risk Group and Board Member, Affordable Central Texas/Austin Housing Conservancy
Amanda Masino, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Biology, Huston-Tillotson University
Tam Hawkins - President and CEO, Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, facilitator for session
Christopher Rios - investor, Assistant Vice President, Texas Capital Bank
David Steinwedell - CEO, Affordable Central Texas/Austin Housing Conservancy
Yael Ouzillou - Strategy and Development Consultant
Brian Strickland - CFO, Affordable Central Texas/Austin Housing Conservancy
Amy Barbee - VP, Affordable Central Texas/Austin Housing Conservancy
Kathy Denny - Asset Management, Affordable Central Texas/Austin Housing Conservancy
The goal of the task force is to do a thorough examination of ACT as a non-profit and AHC as a social impact fund with a lens to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The organization wants help identifying blind spots and concrete actions to address issues and discuss timelines for taking those actions and mechanisms for tracking, measuring and reporting on the work done.
Since equity can mean different things to different people based on lived experiences, background and other factors, it was important to level-set on the definition of equity. The definition under which the taskforce operated was:
Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted statistical outcomes. Equity is that whatever your circumstance that you can’t control doesn’t determine your outcomes.
There are five items to consider within an equity framework when considering past, current or future programs and initiatives.
What is the policy, program, practice or budget decision under consideration? What are the desired results and outcomes?
Data: What’s the data? What does the data tell us?
Community engagement: How have communities been engaged? Are there opportunities to expand engagement?
Analysis and strategies: Who will benefit from or be burdened by your proposal? What are your strategies for advancing racial equity or mitigating unintended consequences?
Implementation: What is your plan for implementation?
This equity framework was then applied to multiple facets of ACT/AHC’s work and organization from outreach to prospective residents, programs for residents, marketing to potential investors, board and staff recruitment and more. To deepen the conversation, the group was asked to consider three questions.
Diversity: Are the diverse identities and perspectives of our stakeholders reflected in the demographics of those impacted by decisions?
Equity: Are the outcomes and results of this decision predictable by demographics or identity-markers?
Inclusion: Are the diverse identities and perspectives of stakeholders included in this decision making process that will impact their lives?
The conversation focused on the first and third questions because the organization, as a young organization, is still working on how to measure outcomes. These questions are to be applied to all aspects of the business and non-profit, from a resident perspective, to vendors, suppliers, and other business aspects.
Programs at properties:
There are several factors ACT needs to evaluate as it creates and provides programs for residents at different properties. Recommendations:
Continue to utilize surveys with questions that ask what services and programs residents desire.
Ensure the language around program offerings and the programs themselves reflect awareness of the
ethnicity of the residents and don’t imply a standard of worthiness or requirement to participate.
Community engagement for attracting new residents:
Currently, ACT properties are at 94% occupancy. As units become available, what can ACT do to broaden its outreach efforts to engage more diverse communities as potential residents? Recommendation:
Create marketing programs targeted toward a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds.
Engagement within ACT/AHC communities and building trust:
One of the taskforce members flagged that we were evaluating tactics but not addressing the softer, and overarching issues, like the culture we are building. Specifically, the taskforce member asked ACT/AHC to consider that the organization “might get everything correct but what is the step further that creates sustainable community building? Recommendations:
There are opportunities to start building this relationship with the onboarding process of new residents.
Residents should be asked what kind of programs they want or need and provide programming based on their needs rather than what the organization thinks they need.
Interactions with residents - from the onboarding process to on-site programming should be measured through surveys. The fundamental questions being asked are: “Have we met your expectations? Are
there other things you need?”
Creating “agents of trust” on properties. Perhaps identify residents who can act as trust agents on
When crafting materials, consider the audience those materials are directed to and the language used.
There is an opportunity to bring diversity into the vendor and supplier list for the non-profit and business side. Overall, the organization needs to be more intentional and prioritize bringing diversity into the vendor/supplier list and working with the partners in property management to make this a priority. Recommendations:
This is an opportunity to partner with the Multi-Ethnic Chamber Alliance (MECA) and its member chambers.
Create a property preferred vendors list as well as a corporate vendor list.
Educate and invest our property manager partners so they embrace the concept. Create goals, a plan and timelines for achieving those goals with property management partners.
Set goals throughout the organization for diversity in supplier, vendor and contractor list. Create a plan with benchmarks and ability to measure outcomes so the organization can report out to the taskforce and other stakeholders.
The taskforce encouraged the team to look at the demographics of the investors and think about opportunities to expand the investor portfolio. Overall, AHC needs to make a concerted effort to do a deeper dive into diverse communities and broaden the scope of who the organization is presenting investment opportunities to.
Create partnerships with MECA Chambers to present in front of their membership who could be potential investors.
Broaden scope of research and other tools used to identify prospects.
Try to create public/private partnerships which can attract institutional investors.
Staffing and Board diversity:
While the Board is diverse, the challenge has been in staff diversity. The staff has gender diversity but not racial diversity. This is part of a larger problem within the real-estate developer/investment profession. The taskforce was asked to provide recommendations on how ACT/AHC can do a better job given the resources and growth trajectory of the organization. As of right now, ACT/AHC has 2 full time employees and 3 part-time employees. ACT/AHC is still an early stage organization with limited resources. As the organization grows, a road-map is needed for building a diverse staff and ensuring that staff is supported in their success. Recommendations:
ACT/AHC is currently working with Huston-Tillotson University to recruit interns. Part of the scope of work for the internship is data-collection and how to create more culturally competent data collection working on “soft” indicators.
ACT/AHC needs to continue tapping into the wide range of institutions that have internship programs from Huston-Tillotson, St. Edwards, Texas State to ACC.
Create mentorship opportunities for soon-to-be or recent graduates.
As ACT/AHC has job opportunities available, look to minority recruiting firms to assist in filling the position and post the job with organizations or in outlets that have access to a diverse pool of candidates.
Next steps and planning
Three next major steps that the organization will take in this process with timeframes and ACT staff lead.
Review racial equity definitions and how those definitions apply to ACT and the fund, AHC – Complete by 3rd Quarter 2020.
The ACT team will set goals for ACT and AHC. The goals include:
Lookingk of ACT and AHC’s work and mission – 3rd Quarter 2020
Treating racial equity and inclusion as a core competency skill-set – 3rd Quarter 2020
Provide resources and training so teams, including property managers and others involved in ACT/AHC, can be effective on communicating about DEI – 4th Quarter 2020
ACT will create an action plan with benchmarks.
Goals, plans, executive summary, and timelines will be completed by August 30, 2020
Plan will address the following components that were discussed:
Communicate to various stakeholders on equity plan including putting executive summary and timeline on website – 3rd Quarter 2020
How to create “trust agents” and a program around those “trust agents” on property – 1st Quarter 2021
How to better target marketing for potential residents, onboarding process and current residents – 4th Quarter 2020
Explore partnerships with MECA chambers and other organizations to diversify the vendor programs and investor diversity – 3rd Quarter 2020
How to increase investor diversity – 4th Quarter 2020
Create a staffing plan that includes increasing staffing diversity – 4th Quarter 2020
How to address softer metrics like culture, trust, worthiness and sustainable community building – First Quarter 2021.
How to measure outcomes, benchmarks and report– 3rd Quarter 2020.
Reporting to Equity Advisory Committee
ACT/AHC is committed to bringing actions forward that are informed by the conversation with the task-force, residents and other stakeholders. ACT/AHC wants to ensure that there is a conversion from conversation to actionable plan. ACT/AHC is also committed to making goals and how those goals are being acted upon and presented to the public. And, as an organization, ACT/AHC is committed to a continued learning process and creating a feed-back loop between the organization, residents, investors and other stakeholders.
The task force will be reconvened in six to twelve months for an assessment of the work accomplished and goal setting for the next phase. Communication will continue in the interim with members of the task force that include reporting on progress to date and discussions around any blind spots or obstacles being faced.
Affordable Central Texas, Inc. is committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a
culture of diversity and inclusion. The collective sum of the individual differences, life
experiences, knowledge, inventiveness, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities
and talent that our employees invest in their work represents a significant part of not
only our culture, but our reputation and company’s achievement as well.
We embrace and encourage our employees’ differences in age, color, disability,
ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national
origin, physical and mental ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation,
socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make our
All employees of Affordable Central Texas have a responsibility to treat others with
dignity and respect at all times. All employees are expected to exhibit conduct that
reflects inclusion during work, at work functions on or off the work site, and at all other
company-sponsored and participative events.
Employees who believe they have been subjected to any kind of action that conflicts
with the company’s diversity statement should seek assistance from a supervisor or an
HR representative or refer to the Company’s Whistleblower Policy.
Affordable Central Texas Code of Ethics
This policy describes the code of conduct expected of all employees and Directors of Affordable Central Texas (the “Company”). It is general and not intended to be all-inclusive. Please read our code and follow it.
Affordable Central Texas, Inc. (ACT) is committed to being an ethical and responsible member
of society. In order to ensure the highest standards of ethics, honesty, governance, and
integrity are maintained, we have adopted this Code of Ethics Policy. We refer to the elements
of this policy as our Code. Our Code provides the guidelines and standards for acceptable
business conduct. It is our policy that all employees and directors shall abide by and comply
with the ACT’s Code.
An employee that believes they have discovered a matter that appears to be in violation of the
Code has a duty to report the matter. This matter may be reported to the employee’s
supervisor, other management level employees and the Board. We have also adopted a
Whistleblower policy to ensure that employees reporting a genuine concern or complaint will
not be discriminated or retaliated against and have the opportunity to make such reports
The conduct of the Company and its employees are to be in compliance with the laws and
regulations relating to the company’s business.
Equal Employment Opportunity
We do not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment of any kind. Employment here is
based solely on your merit and qualifications.
Moral and Ethical Standards
All employees are expected to adhere to sound moral and ethical standards.
All employees and Directors have a duty of loyalty to the Company and may not take personal
advantage of any opportunity that properly belongs to the Company.
Kickbacks and Gratuities
The Company considers it to be unethical for any employee, officer or Director to accept or
offer payment, gift, gratuity, or employment as an inducement for preferential treatment by or
for the Company. All offers for kickback and gratuity shall be reported to the CEO or Board
Chair. The Company does not consider the giving or acceptance of immaterial items and
activities through the normal course of business to be a kickback, gift or gratuity for the
purpose of this policy. If there are any questions in the interpretation of this policy, please see
CEO for clarity.
Conflicts of Interest
No employee, officer, or director shall be, potentially be, or appear to be, subject to influences,
interests, or relationships, which conflict with the best interests of the Company. Employees,
and their direct family members, without prior approval of the CEO and reported to the Board,
may not serve as an Officer, Director, manager, employee, or agent of any company that is a
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time employees should not engage in outside interests that divert time and attention necessary
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Improper Influence on Conduct of Audits
No employee, officer, director, or any other person acting under the direction thereof, shall
take any action to fraudulently influence, coerce, manipulate, or mislead anyone engaged in the
performance of an audit of the financial statements of the Company.
Employees and Directors may not divulge confidential or proprietary information except as
authorized by the CEO.
The Company is committed to protecting the privacy of its employees. This includes employee
data maintained by the company. Employee data will be used to support Company operations,
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employees are expected to comply with all data protection laws, regulations, and Company
Computing Resources, Email, and the Internet
Company provided internet related services are to be used for company business. All
information on company systems, whether physical or in the cloud, including electronic mail, is
the property of the Company and open to review by the Company. Management may inspect
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please do not store personal information on company devices. Use of computing resources to
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The Company considers itself an apolitical organization in accordance with its non-profit
designation. As such, no Company funds or assets will be contributed or used for the purpose
of influencing any election without the approval of the Company Board of Directors. This policy
does not prohibit Company participation in trade or special interest organizations.
Safety and the Environment
The Company is committed to full compliance with all safety and environmental laws and
regulations. All employees are expected to comply with these laws, regulations and Company
Drugs and Alcohol
Illegal drugs at our workplaces or sponsored events are strictly prohibited. We urge caution not
to consume alcohol in a way that leads to inappropriate behavior, impaired performance, or
endangers the safety of others.
Any planning or acting together with competitors about the nature, extent, or means of
competition is a violation of Company policy and anti-trust laws. This includes, but is not
limited to, price fixing, sales or production quotas, geographic competition, and boycotts.
All employees are expected to carry out their assigned duties in a timely manner.
Any employee who knows, or has reason to believe, of violations to this Code or other company
policies and procedures is expected to promptly report the violation to:
2525 Wallingwood, Building 13, Suite A
Austin, TX 78746
Reporting may be anonymous. No employee will be subject to retaliation, discrimination, or
other adverse treatment for reporting known or suspected violations of this and other
Company policies and procedures.
Reporting may be anonymous. No employee will be subject to retaliation, discrimination, or
other adverse treatment for reporting known or suspected violations of this and other
Company policies and procedures.
Approved by the Board of Directors – January 22, 2020