MHN Interview: Challenges and Trends in Affordable Housing
Philadelphia—Pennrose, a development and property management company located in Philadelphia, recently hired a new vice president of operations, Lopa Kolluri, who previously worked at HUD. MHN talks to Kolluri about her new position and some challenges and trends affordable housing is seeing.
MHN: Congratulations on your new position. What are your main priorities?
Kolluri: Thank you! I appreciate that. I want to start out by saying that I’ve known the leaders at Pennrose for a long time and have admired the work they’ve done in communities, and I like the team they have in place. My goal—for the short term and the long term—is to be a meaningful contributor to the Pennrose team. I’m really excited for the opportunity to be able to work with the team they have at the organization. I like their business philosophy, and I’m just happy to be here.
MHN: What is their business philosophy?
Kolluri: In terms of its products, it’s about setting the bar and focusing on quality. I think they’re focused on hiring and retaining the best staff. They have focused on work/life issues. I think that Pennrose has a great work environment for its employees.
MHN: You previously worked with HUD. How will this help you grow Pennrose’s relationships?
Kolluri: I was at HUD for two years—I was deputy chief of staff for Shaun Donovan. Working with HUD for the last couple of years has really given me the opportunity to understand the federal space for affordable housing. What we’ve seen here at Pennrose are tighter budgets at the federal level as well as the state level, really a tightening of resources, and an uncertainty of the low income tax credit program. So what I’ve been fortunate to have at HUD is the opportunity to work on some innovative programs that will help to address some of the affordable housing gaps and community development issues in communities. These are areas in which Pennrose works. So I think understanding some of the work that HUD does is going to be helpful for Pennrose in terms of being able to continue making an impact in these communities, even in the wake of declining resources and budget constraints.
MHN: Beyond declining resources and budget constraints, are there any other challenges you’re seeing?
Kolluri: Companies like Pennrose and other housing authorities are concerned about the impact of the sequester and its impact on affordable housing programs and our ability to provide products in low- and moderate-income communities. I think that’s a challenge that, until it’s dealt with holistically, we’ll have to continue to look at how it’s going to impact the developments and the communities in which we work in.
MHN: What are some positive trends you’ve seen?
Kolluri: What we’re seeing in the federal government, and even in the state government, is that despite the resource constraints that we spoke about, I think there’s some innovation and creativity going on in places like HUD and other federal agencies with the development of new programs like the rental assistance demonstration program and the ability for public housing authorities to convert public housing units to a Section 8 platform, which is a much more for private-sector-driven product. This provides the ability for housing authorities to attract capital into their developments in a way that they’ve never been able to do before. So that’s an exciting new program that HUD has developed. Pennrose and a number of its partners may have the ability to tap into those types of programs. You also see the development of Choice, which is the neighborhood-based community development program, which is also focused on the development of affordable housing as well as many other elements of community development, and so that is also very exciting and interesting. We always talk about the declining of resources, and this has fostered some innovation and creativity around [the idea of] “what is it we can do with less resources?”
MHN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kolluri: I just want to mention that I’ve had the privilege of working in both government and the private sector over the last 15 years, and affordable housing in management and leadership positions. I look forward to bringing my skillset and experiences to a growing company like Pennrose.