NeighborWorks invests $1.3 billion into rental homes
NeighborWorks America, which finances community development around the country, invested more than $1.3 billion in rental housing over its fiscal year ended Sept. 30. The NeighborWorks network consists of 235 independent nonprofit organizations. It owns or manages more than 90,000 rental homes, according to its latest data. The investment of the last year included more than 5,100 homes and 2,800 apartments NeighborWorks built or purchased. The organization's CEO Eileen Fitzgerald expects to grow the portfolio past 100,000 rental homes through 2013. It plans to acquire properties and construct some as well. The Washington firm expects additional nonprofits to join its network. "Government housing budgets at all levels are under stress and the competition for capital priced at rates that make housing accessible for working families, while improved from a year ago, is still a factor in creating quality affordable rental homes for families with modest incomes," Fitzgerald said. "In short, the cost to construct, purchase and refinance homes to ensure tenant affordability remains a challenge." The NeighborWorks money came from a variety of avenues. Community Housing Capital based in Georgia lends to NeighborWorks and helps it raise funds from other firms. NeighborWorks Capital in Maryland is another loan fund within the network that coordinates with other sources of private dollars such as the Calvert Foundation and the S.H. Cowell Foundation. Acquiring and managing rental properties is becoming a growing interest. In August, the White House along with the Federal Housing Finance Agency began working on plans to sell large amounts of government-owned, repossessed homes in bulk to investors, who would possibly rent them out. The first transactions are expected in early 2012. As a result, several firms are building out property management divisions. TenantAccess launched PropertyAccess in August to sell investors systems for management, billing and reporting. Green River Capital, an asset management firm that handles REO for Freddie Mac, also launched an REO rental program in September. The challenge for these potential investors is gathering enough cash to meet the supply. NeighborWorks said it will continue reaching out to "social investors" to build out its portfolio as borrowing costs have risen and underwriting standards remain tight. "In one of the toughest markets for securing capital for quality, affordable rental housing, the NeighborWorks network pushed ahead and found the partners they needed to create great housing for families," Fitzgerald said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.