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How Scaled Affordable Housing Asset Management Helps in the Time of COVID
Peter Madden does asset management for a portfolio of around 2,200 units of primarily low-income, subsidized housing across New York City. And yes, most of the time, asset management for housing is as boring as it sounds, even now, during a pandemic that has millions of tenants on the verge of eviction.
The thing is, asset management isn’t supposed to be exciting. There are lots of tasks associated with it, but what asset management boils down to is making sure that there is enough cash flow from the portfolio being set aside today to cover for maintenance or modernization the buildings will need tomorrow. It’s the kind of work that, when it’s done well, doesn’t make headlines. But when it’s done poorly, it looks like headlines about squalid living conditions that no one should have to endure.
As executive director of JOE NYC, short for Joint Ownership Entity NYC, Madden has a portfolio unlike any other in New York City. He doesn’t report to one developer or a lead investor who might be in the business of squeezing the properties for as much profit as possible. He currently reports to 11 community development corporations, each representing a slice of JOE’s portfolio.
Established in 2017, JOE NYC jointly owns housing with each member CDC. The idea is that combining at least part of each CDC’s portfolio into joint ownership with JOE NYC creates an entity with a larger balance sheet, which has the ability to negotiate better bulk purchasing deals from utilities, insurance companies, contractors, and building supply companies, as well as better interest rates from lenders to finance rehab and other projects—the basic tasks of asset management. While these CDCs have been doing asset management with their respective portfolios for years, changes in the real estate landscape spurred them to create JOE NYC.
Since asset management operates on a timeline of years, not months or weeks, in this moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madden isn’t thrown for a major loop.
He’s working now on how much cash JOE NYC will be able to set aside from last year and this year so that it can create a cushion for its portfolio buildings as it plans for a protracted economic downturn. Meanwhile, the CDC members’ sense of collaboration has deepened as they are now bound closer together financially.
“It’s not only a financial cushion, but … you feel like somebody’s got your back, group to group and to JOE,” says Ismene Speliotis, executive director of Mutual Housing Association of New York, a JOE NYC founding member.