Obama Administration is Doing A Lot More for Affordable Housing

Scott Reithel recently joined Community Housing Partners (CHP), a non-profit community development corporation, as vice president of property management. Reithel is active with the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) located in Alexandria, Va., where he is the president-elect and will serve as president in 2010. He also serves as the vice president of the NAHMA Educational Foundation and is a certified member of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).Previously, Reithel was involved in the Midwest Affordable Housing Management Association, where he was a three-time past president and Board of Director member. Reithel was also a property management instructor with the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) in Milwaukee.Reithel talks to MHN Online News Editor Anuradha Kher about his properties at CHP, hurdles in achieving them and what he thinks of the initiatives taken by the Obama administration toward affordable housing.MHN: What are your top priorities as VP of CHP?Reithel: I want to advance CHP’s mission of managing affordable housing to the fullest of our ability and further enhance their mission of achieving energy efficiency in affordable housing properties. We want to reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings in our portfolio.MHN: What are the hurdles you face in achieving them?Reithel: The biggest challenge has to be working with the various small local weatherization programs to reduce use of energy among our residents. The coordination between all these agencies makes our ability to process energy funds very tough. I have been in the Midwest for many years, so another challenge will be figuring out the local legislation and getting used to it. On the other hand, the local programs know the local market much better so it can also be a pro working with them.MHN: The Obama administration is providing a lot of money toward affordable housing. Do you think that will improve the situation considerably or is more action needed?Reithel: This administration is certainly more focused on affordable housing. I am impressed with the appointment of Shaun Donovan who has a lot of knowledge of the sector. I believe that with the help of the housing agency as well as private energies of owners and managers, affordable housing will progress in a better way. With any government project, the fear is always that things will get too bureaucratic, so we need to be mindful of that.MHN: What advice would you give small affordable housing owners and managers?Reithel: I see a real lack of training among the staff of small affordable housing companies. I would encourage them to join affordable housing groups like NAHMA and/or IREM to educate themselves and get involved. A lot of small affordable housing companies operate in a vacuum, which should not be the case.MHN: What are the important aspects of property management of affordable housing?Reithel: It is very important to manage affordable housing properties like the market-rate communities, in the sense that both are businesses. You have to keep an eye on the bottom-line in both cases. Unfortunately, some treat the needs of low-income residents as less worthy than those of market-rate residents. This should clearly not be the vase. An affordable housing property will do well when all the residents are involved and are treated properly. The management techniques, whether it is a market-rate, subsidized or affordable housing property, are the same. Marketing is absolutely essential. MHN: What are your thoughts on public housing in the U.S. right now?Reithel: I am not as much in touch with the situation in public housing as I used to be when I started my career, but I have heard that some public housing projects might be contracted to private management companies. Some public housing projects are run excellently and others have not been run well. I think public-private partnership will help in improving the situation. Private management companies should step up when needed.