The Struggle to Find Home Sweet Home

As our MAI appraisers complete multifamily housing commercial appraisals and rent comparability studies (RCS) for HUD and private clients, FRG has extensive multifamily housing knowledge.  And as a result FRG has a great deal of interest in remedies to the affordable housing shortage.

I can still remember signing my first apartment lease.  I was 19 years old and excited to move into my very own 500 sq-ft, one bedroom, one-bathroom home.  Well it wasn’t all mine, because I could not afford the apartment, thus I had a roommate.  Even with a roommate, this was the first time I felt like a responsible adult.

Unfortunately, many today are struggling to find a place to call home.  Nationally, the number of renters has reached historic highs, and as a result it is becoming increasing difficult for many to find safe, quality affordable housing.  In fact, according to a Harvard University Housing Study the availability of affordable rental housing is being affected by:

  • High rental demand and low vacancy rates, which allow landlords to continually increase rental rates
  • Demand from higher income renters is driving the construction of luxury vs affordable multifamily rental housing

A recent Ohio Housing Finance Agency report that assessed the state’s housing needs noted that lower income Ohioans are struggling to pay for housing as they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.  The agency discovered that there are only 43 available and affordable rental units for every 100 extremely low-income renter.  And these extremely low-income renter households are typically made up disproportionately with seniors and/or small children.

The shortage of affordable housing units will not be solved overnight, however, a lot can be done now to begin to spur an increase.  City officials can work with developers, lenders and state officials to leverage innovative approaches to drive an increase in the building of affordable housing units.

  • Offer private developers incentives and tax breaks to devote a portion of their multifamily housing developments to affordable units
  • Donate undeveloped land to developers seeking to build affordable housing
  • Explore lower cost construction methods eg prefab, containers, etc.
  • Encourage the conversion of blighted buildings into affordable housing.

The Ohio Development Services Agency is working to help finance projects, many of which will add affordable housing units throughout the state.  Recently the state awarded twenty-three projects with historic preservation tax credits, six of which are conversion projects in northeast Ohio, including the following:

  • Clark-Fulton neighborhood industrial complex vacant since 2008 to be converted into a mixed-use development with affordable units
  • Cleveland school (Longfellow) building closed since 2017 to be converted into affordable housing for seniors.

The affordable housing shortage presents an opportunity for city planners to drive growth and redevelopment in underserved areas.

FRG Wins 5-Year Contract with HUD

Feasibility Research Group (FRG) selected to perform rent comparability and post-rehabilitation studies (RCS) for the Midwest Region.

University Heights, OH (August 12, 2019) — FEASIBILITY RESEARCH GROUP (FRG), a real estate services firm based in Northeast Ohio, has been selected to provide rent comparability studies (RCS) for multifamily housing properties in the Midwest Region.  The Midwest Region includes the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the completion of rent comparability studies in compliance with the latest version of Chapter 9 of the Section 8 Renewal Policy Guide.

“We are excited to work with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development” said Gregory Williams, MAI and FRG‘s Owner and Managing Director. “We are looking forward to helping to provide safe and affordable housing to communities throughout the Midwest.”

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My 1st Leadership Development and Advisory Council Session

For more than 85 years, the Appraisal Institute (AI) has been a global professional association of real estate appraisers.  AI works to develop real estate industry leaders and establish an appraiser presence in the United Stated Congress through its Leadership Development and Advisory Council (LDAC).  The Council is a group of dedicated appraisers who together once a year in Washington DC to generate solutions to challenges facing the appraisal profession.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending my first LDAC session in Washington DC.  I entered with no expectations other than using it as an opportunity to learn more about the Appraisal Institute and offer up a thought or two on promoting our industry.  By the end of the week, I walked away from LDAC exceeding those expectations.

The LDAC discussion sessions afforded the opportunity to engage and brainstorm with appraisal professionals from all around the country.  The sessions served as opportunity for us to come together to generate actionable ideas to solve some of the appraisal industry’s toughest problems.  Serving as a member of the Ohio Chapter’s education committee I was very passionate about the education discussions. Based on my experience, I know that AI’s educational offering is superior to other competitive offerings.  Our group discussed ideas on how to not only get non-AI members to take AI courses but to also use our education offering to entice non-members to become members.

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Adventures in Property Inspections

As a MAI designated commercial appraiser, over the past 10 years, I have conducted a couple of thousand commercial property inspections, and each inspection is as unique as the commercial property appraisal.  During an inspection I am typically accompanied by the owner or the owner’s agent.  Most times the inspections are uneventful, and the owner/agent is helpful in providing insightful property, neighborhood and market area information needed to complete a comprehensive appraisal of the subject property.  However, there have been occasions when the inspection becomes eventful –

The Helpful Owner

I do occasionally encounter owners who want to point out all the subject property’s current or planned amenities that they believe will significantly impact the value.  Earlier this year I appraised an office park complex located parallel to a major highway in central Ohio.  I was advised by the lender that the complex was fully leased and thus the income approach would be required.  During the inspection, the owner shared that he thought it was vital that I consider the fact that he could have a billboard on his property which would generate additional income.  Further, the owner spent a considerable amount of time sharing his marketing brochures to clearly demonstrate the type of tenants he would soon have in the complex.  At the time of the inspection, the owner was the only tenant in the office complex, while the lender thought the property was fully leased.

The Fearful Tenant

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Eminent Domain: What Options Do Property Owners Have?

As a MAI designated appraiser who completes right-of-way, acquisition and disposition appraisals, I have encountered a variety of situations where property owners are unaware of the complex process involved in a full or partial taking of private property. During this process, the appraiser can in fact assist the property owner in making sure they achieve the best possible outcome when selling their property to a government agency.

For example, once a state agency has determined that property is needed for public use, the property owner does not have an option to simply refuse the sale of their property. However, the government is required to ensure they compensate the owner fairly and cannot place any undue burdens or hardships on the property owners during this process. Thus, when the state claims private property through eminent domain, the property owner can have an impact on getting the best deal possible.

Here are some ways that property owners can make sure they are justly compensated, in the case of a state claim to their property:

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FRG Continues Expansion Into Mid-Atlantic Region

Feasibility Research Group (FRG) has been selected to provide Appraisal Services for the District of Columbia Housing Authority.

University Heights, OH (April 3, 2019) — FEASIBILITY RESEARCH GROUP (FRG), a real estate appraisal and consulting firm based in Northeast Ohio, has been selected for Appraisal Services with the District of Columbia Housing Authority.

The District of Columbia Housing Authority requires professional appraisal services to support its Office of Capital Programs.  The programs that FRG will support include the appraisal of mixed income, mix use development, public housing apartments.

“FRG looks forward to supporting the District of Columbia Housing Authority with their appraisal needs” said Gregory Williams, MAI and FRG‘s Owner and Managing Director. “FRG’s appraisals will support DCHA’s initiative to provide livable housing to support healthy and sustainable communities.”

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FRG Expands into Maryland

Feasibility Research Group (FRG) awarded multi-year contract to provide appraisal services for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

University Heights, OH (March 11, 2019) — FEASIBILITY RESEARCH GROUP (FRG), a real estate appraisal and consulting firm based in Northeast Ohio, has been selected for Appraisal Services with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development requires professional appraisal services to support its Business Lending Division.  The programs that FRG will support include the appraisal of mixed-use commercial properties.

“We are excited to work with the state of Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development” said Gregory Williams, MAI and FRG‘s Owner and Managing Director. “Our commercial appraisal reports will be key in helping the Business Lending Division make sound lending decisions.”

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Affordable Multifamily Housing

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), today there is nowhere in the U.S. where a full-time, minimum wage worker can afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment.[i] Communities across the nation are reporting high levels of evictions, homelessness, and a lack of affordable housing.

So, let’s talk about affordable multifamily housing.

Affordable housing means different things depending on if you are an investor, property manager, tenant or government agency. For me, a commercial appraiser, affordable housing represents complex property types with a myriad of funding, ownership, and rental structures that require careful consideration to define property values, fair market rents, or physical conditions. Or put more simply, affordable housing can be very complicated!

And lining up the financing for affordable housing can seem more insurmountable than trying to convince your wife Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday– what’s the point in even trying? There are several available sources of funding including bank loans, municipal loans, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), Community Development Block Grants, tax abatements, and other local subsidies or support provided by Community Development Corporations, and other specialized subsidies, tax credits and financing such as assistance by the USDA Rural Development Office (in rural areas).

While there are a lot of possible funding sources, there are often not enough to cover the development costs and it can be tricky to qualify or take a long time to get approved.

As a commercial appraiser, I understand the financial hurdles overcome by developers and providers of affordable housing and in my work, I strive to support the financial well-being of these developments in several ways:

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