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How One Lender Is Assembling A One-Stop Shop To Finance Affordable Housing


The U.S. was already in the grips of a housing crisis before the coronavirus outbreak. As more Americans lose their jobs, the need for affordable housing is only growing.

But the same economic forces that have made affordable housing all the more necessary may also make affordable housing scarcer and more difficult to develop. With local coffers drained and some institutional lenders paring back their real estate exposure, assembling a capital stack for affordable housing during the coronavirus crisis may present additional challenges.

“Because they have so many moving parts, affordable housing developments can take years to get off the ground at the local, state and federal level, prior to raising equity and debt,” said Stacie Nekus, the team leader for KeyBank’s Equity Growth Initiative. “The gap between the demand for affordable housing and current supply is the largest we’ve seen in many years, and we need to speed up production if we want to fix that.”

Hired by KeyBank in March, Nekus is working to assemble staff, resources, capital and relationships to create a more robust equity platform to streamline the creation of affordable housing developments across the nation.

The goal for the Equity Growth Initiative is for KeyBank to offer a one-stop solution that allows affordable housing to move forward expeditiously nationwide. By bringing together experts in debt, equity and mortgage banking, Nekus hopes to offer more streamlined execution for affordable projects and deepen the pool of affordable housing investors.

“If we can make the process more efficient for the owners and developers that acquire, develop, manage and preserve affordable properties, they are then freed up to focus on creating more affordable housing, which is what the country critically needs,” KeyBank National Affordable Housing Platform Manager Rob Likes said.

Without the logistical hurdles of financing their affordable developments, Likes said, developers can spend time on other tasks, like partnering with architects and contractors to finalize designs, and working with communities to make sure that their housing needs are being met.

Nekus explained that KeyBank is now positioned to partner with investors to meet their affordable housing goals by offering equity, participation, community investment and reinvestment, and providing customized opportunities to suit different financial institutions and economic investors.


By tapping into its long list of relationships with developers, financial institutions, municipalities and the investment community overall, KeyBank wants to bring all the players under one roof.

“Rather than having one person try to figure out every piece on their own, we’re giving them access to a team of experts,” Likes said. “We have people on the equity investment side, a team from KeyBank’s balance sheet who could handle construction loans and experts who work exclusively with Fannie, Freddie and HUD, all working together as a team.”

It is not lost on Nekus how important the next few months are going to be for the affordable housing pipeline. With millions of households losing their main source of income and uncertainty around when all economic sectors will reopen, even more Americans are going to be looking for affordable housing.

“Having a safe, clean, affordable place to live is a prerequisite for staying healthy during the coronavirus outbreak,” Nekus said.

However, there are a few bright spots for affordable housing right now. Even in markets like the Bay Area where construction has been curtailed, affordable housing developments have been deemed essential construction, so affordable units that were being built should still be delivered, albeit at a slower pace than originally anticipated.

There may be good news soon on the legislative front, too. An expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program is one of the proposed solutions to the homelessness and housing crisis. Organizations such as the National Council of State Housing Agencies and the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition have been advocating in favor of such an expansion, along with other creative responses to the housing crisis. 

“This crisis has underlined just how important housing is,” Likes said. “When people have housing that they can afford, it creates significant positive outcomes from health to education. Housing is among the most critical factors to help stabilize people’s lives.”

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and KeyBank Real Estate Capital. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.