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Matt Rocco, new MBA chair, emphasizes affordable rental housing focus

CEO of Grandbridge says MBA will look to expand the supply of housing and grow the ranks of minority professionals in multifamily

On stage in Nashville on Monday, Mortgage Bankers Association Chairwoman Kristy Fercho passed the torch to Matt Rocco, who will take over as chairman in 2023.

Rocco, the CEO of Grandbridge Real Estate, a commercial real estate investment bank subsidiary of Truist Bank, said he’s laser-focused on strengthening the MBA’s affordable housing initiatives amid an affordability crisis.

“I joined the company in 1998, and over nearly 25 years, affordable housing has always been a strategic focus our portfolio,” Rocco said. “Today, I estimate that 50% of my job involves affordable and workforce housing, which are really the same thing.

“My passion for affordable housing is the core of my vision as MBA chair,” he said. “I have made this issue my top priority, and in the next 12 months, my goal is to help all of us expand affordable housing like never before. We all know why this issue matters. Affordable housing is essential to the future of our industry, our communities, and ultimately, our country.”  

Rocco takes over from Wells Fargo’s Fercho amid one of the most challenging mortgage markets in memory. He spoke to the work he did as the country crawled out of the savings & loan crisis in the 1990s and the parallels to the current challenges, which he described as “holding America back.”

“The only good news is that the situation would be even worse if it weren’t for you,” he said. “Your companies have devoted significant time, talent and treasure trying to lower costs. Your work has borne fruit, and you should be proud. But it’s also true we can do a lot more. The good news is that we’re building on a remarkably strong foundation. Both of my predecessors have prioritized this issue, in different ways. And both made phenomenal progress.”

He spoke to Susan Stewart’s “building generational wealth through homeownership” initiative and Fercho’s “MBA home for all” pledge, of which 400 members have signed on.

Rocco said he would champion an affordable rental housing strategy.

“First, we’ll expand our existing efforts to increase the supply of housing,” he said. “We’ll focus on policies, programs, and practices, using a whole-of-industry and whole-of-society approach. There’s no shortage of opportunities to provide more affordable housing.”

Rocco said the MBA would forge a stronger link between affordable rental housing and rental counseling and education; grow the ranks of minority professionals in multifamily lending and development; and better define and standardize the various and “often inconsistent” definitions of affordable multifamily and workforce housing. Doing so would allow the industry to increase targeted investment in affordable housing and support a wider community of renters and potential homeowners, he said.

Mark Jones, CEO and co-founder of Amerifirst Home Mortgage, and Laura Escobar, President of Lennar Mortgage, were also sworn in Monday as chairman-elect and vice chair, respectively.

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