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May. 1, 2013

MHN Interview: Centerline Capital Group’s New Director of Affordable Housing Debt James Boris

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor

New York—Centerline Capital Group, a subsidiary of Centerline Holding Company, recently hired James F. Boris III as director, affordable housing debt. MHN talks to Boris about his new position and his predictions for the affordable and seniors housing industry.

MHN: What are your priorities in your new position?

Boris: My number one priority is that I’m charged with heading up the FHA multifamily and senior housing production nationwide, so I’ll be originating my own FHA loans as well as educating originators throughout the organization nationwide all about the program and how we can help them get deals done.

MHN: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve seen in affordable housing?

Boris: Historically HUD of FHA used to be the lender of last resorts; however, with the economy in the last four years, the majority of banks are really backing out of lending in general. Especially in construction finance, HUD has become the lender of choice. To clarify, HUD doesn’t actually lend money. What they do is they issue a commitment to ensure a mortgage, providing a Double A-rated government-backed security, we then issue Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities, enhancing that to a Triple A-rated security, and ultimately then we sell those properties and the ultimate investors are basically buying government-backed securities. Ironically they don’t really care about the real estate, they care about putting out a lot of money that is being guaranteed by the credit enhancement of the federal government. So it’s a win-win situation with programs that enable developers to build and maintain housing throughout the country that otherwise would not be built.

MHN: What are Centerline’s main goals involving affordable or market-rate properties?

Boris: Centerline has been enormous in developing and managing low-income housing tax credit transactions and providing affordable housing across the country for many years. They provide both HUD-insured loans and Fannie Mae-backed loans, and all other types of conventional financings. Part of my joining the organization was to help get them into their seniors housing aspect of their business. While they’ve done a few senior deals, the backbone of the organization has always been affordable low-income tax housing credit deals, and they’ve been extremely successful in that. I bring the expertise of senior living to the organization. I not only financed hundreds of millions in senior living transactions, I’ve also developed my own assisted living and memory care facilities. Not only did I finance those, but I also managed the assets so I have a very insightful view of that world, being on both sides. I definitely have an unusual insight on the big picture of what’s involved in a transaction, and what we should promise and not over promise.

MHN: Do you ever have to take a different strategy in seniors housing versus market-rate communities?

Boris: With seniors housing it’s similar to apartments, so there are market-rate private-pay facilities. In fact there are assisted living and memory care facilities that I developed with HUD-insured financings and conventional private pay. There are also many facilities that I have financed over the years that accept Medicaid as well as Medicare for independent living and skilled-nursing care. So the HUD programs are very diversified, really helping cover a full spectrum of affordable and market-rate housing. It’s a terrific program, and with my talent and expertise that I bring to the organization, we’re going to help grow what the company has already established and expand our production nationwide.

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