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Experts Say Affordable Housing Should Be Seen As A Healthy Solution

On the list of the most important things in life, health has always taken the top billing.

Housing, though, should also be on top of that list and go hand and hand with a person's health, affordable housing experts said. 

Avanath Capital Management CEO Daryl Carter

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the nation, some of the hardest hit areas are in minority communities, Avanath Capital CEO Daryl Carter said.

Studies have shown that minorities, especially blacks and Latinxs, are disproportionately affected by the virus. Carter said this could be due to lack of access to quality food, healthcare and adequate housing. The coronavirus has shone a brighter light on the need for quality affordable housing developments and that need is only going to grow after this pandemic.

"There are still places that have lead paint," Carter said during a Bisnow webinar Thursday on Los Angeles affordable housing and the coronavirus. "We have to look at housing solutions as part of the core of health solutions."

Carter joined Alliant Strategic Investments Managing Partner Eddie Lorin in a discussion about the affordable housing landscape amid the coronavirus. More than 400 people registered for the webinar. 

During the 35-minute virtual event, Lorin and Carter stressed that social impact investors and city officials must continue to build affordable housing and mulled over the status of the opportunity zones program.

Lorin said the opportunity zones program was off to a rough start prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, it is in dire straits. 

"We've had a rough start to the OZ business," Lorin said. "We're way behind. We had three rounds of regulations that just finalized, of course, right as the coronavirus began to rear its invisible head, and less people are going to have gains."

"It's going to be tougher in the short-term until we get some more gains," Lorin added. 

Alliant Strategic Investments Managing Partner Eddie Lorin, Avanath Capital CEO Daryl Carter and Bisnow Vice President, West Coast Michael Guimond discuss the affordable housing landscape during a webinar

When it comes to the development of affordable housing, the government and social impact investors and philanthropic organizations can do more, Lorin said. 

Lorin's suggestions include having the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide more project-based Section 8 vouchers, and for philanthropic investor and social impact investors to provide equity in program-related investments.

"You can still do well by doing good by investing in real estate and make a long-term appreciation," Lorin said.  

Because many affordable housing developments are in minority communities, promoting good health to tenants in these buildings has to be top of mind for investors and developers, Lorin and Carter said. 

Lorin said health and wellness is important in his affordable housing buildings. Many of his buildings have a community garden, fitness classes, cooking classes and day care for tenants.

"All of these things are important because they create a sense of community through health," Lorin said. "Now more than ever, as we start to make new products, just like the office buildings have a healthy certification, we're going to certify our own buildings."

Both Lorin and Carter said that health and housing are going to be of paramount importance as the pandemic continues. Lorin said affordable housing designs are going to change to meet social distancing guidelines. 

Most importantly, building quality healthy affordable housing projects has to be just as important as someone taking care of their own health. 

"Impact investors should look at housing as really the foundation," Carter said.