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Former Bottoms Chief Of Staff Named President Of Columbia Residential

Columbia Residential has tapped a former civil servant and affordable housing expert to help lead the firm's continued expansion in the Southeast, the firm's first hire since founder Noel Khalil died of cancer last year. 

Columbia Residential President Carmen Chubb

Columbia Residential has named Carmen Chubb as president, tasked with managing both its asset and development pipeline as well as leading the housing preservation division. Chubb will report directly to CEO Jim Grauley, who took over the position after Khalil's death in October.

“The need [for affordable housing] is so great in Atlanta, and we have the platform and we have the know-how and the expertise,” Chubb told Bisnow in an interview. "The goal is to do more, to produce more affordable housing."

Chubb's 25-year career has focused on affordable housing on the government side. For the past two years, she served as chief of staff for former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Prior to that, Chubb spent two decades with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, where for the last seven years of her tenure, Chubb served as deputy commissioner with the department's Georgia Housing and Finance Authority, which oversees the state's affordable housing policies and financing resources, including Department of Housing and Urban Development and Treasury funding, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and mortgage revenue bonds for development projects.

“Carmen Chubb is strong as acid,” said Rod Mullice, a prominent Atlanta-area multifamily and condominium developer. Mullice is the managing partner of Windsor Stevens Holdings and was named to MARTA's board of directors in December, and he said Chubb's hire was savvy in that it give Columbia not only an affordable housing expert, but also a city insider who can help the firm navigate tax credits and other incentives.

“This is an excellent move for her. It builds upon her previous job experience at DCA and allows her to bring [to Columbia] the relationships and police implementation that she's done over the last three years as Keisha Lance Bottom's chief of staff,” Mullice said. “Carmen was the point person not only for Mayor Bottoms' affordable housing policy but aligning outside agencies like Invest Atlanta and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development with private sector capital partners from the Enterprise Foundation, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.”

Housing affordability has become a primary issue for Metro Atlanta. Over the past year, prices have skyrocketed for single-family homes and rents for market-rate apartments have climbed, both in the city and the suburbs. More than 43% of the nearly 598,000 renters in Georgia were considered cost-burdened in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and rents have gone up since then.

Columbia was one of the pioneers of mixed-income development, blending market-rate units with those preserved for households earning a portion of an area's median income. Under Khalil's leadership, Columbia set high standards for residents in its communities, including residency requirements that non-senior residents work full time and children attend school full time. The higher standards were an important part of what Khalil felt was the key to a mixed-income community's success.

The firm currently owns and operates 9,000 apartment units across the Southeast. Columbia is expected to complete seven new projects, six of which are in Atlanta, this year and plans to start construction on six new ones this year, a company spokesperson told Bisnow.

“We would love to double the size of what we’re doing,” Grauley told the Atlanta Civic Circle this month, adding that Chubb's knowledge of affordable tax credits and other incentives is critical to growing its affordable footprint. “If you want affordable housing, it has to have subsidy, because the cost is essentially what the cost is of market-rate housing.”

Mullice said Chubb's involvement in Columbia will help the firm attract a wider variety of government incentives for its projects, which should help it accelerate its development.

“Because so many of the tax credit deals require support from local, state and federal agencies as a part of the capital stack, I believe her experience is going to be invaluable in Atlanta and across the southeastern United States,” he said.

Chubb told Bisnow that incentives are critical for affordable developers like Columbia in the face of rising construction and land costs. At the same time, Chubb said Columbia will canvass the market for capital outside of traditional financing and government incentives.

“Jim [Grauley] and I already talked about ways we can make outreach with businesses and companies and corporations that are expanding in Atlanta and expanding in Georgia,” Chubb said. “Having me on the team gives us more bandwidth to do that.”

Chubb said that Columbia will continue to focus on mixed-income properties moving forward since they are valued as assets by communities in the long run.

“My general thought on what Noel did for affordable housing was to remind us all not just in words, but in deed, that people who are low- and moderate-income deserve beautiful and well-developed places to live,” she said. “He made a mark on the industry that raised the bar for the quality affordable housing that we should all deliver, Columbia and beyond.”