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NMHC’s Sharon Wilson Géno on the Impact of Rental Housing

During the upcoming Connect Texas Multifamily event slated for August 22 in Dallas, you’ll hear a keynote presentation featuring Sharon Wilson Géno, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, in conversation with Laurie Baker, EVP and COO at Camden Property Trust. Ahead of the keynote conversation, Connect CRE sounded out Wilson Géno on some of NMHC’s current priorities.

Q: Talk for a little about the “Resident-Centered Challenge.” What is it, and what has been the overreaching goal of this initiative? NMHC has been working with the White House on this. Where is the NMHC now on this and what have you accomplished? What more will the NHMC be doing and why? What do multifamily investors and developers need to know about this?

A: This past January, the Biden administration announced its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge. As part of this effort, NMHC worked in good faith with the White House and we made a commitment to coordinate with our 2,000 members to identify business standards, such as helping residents build credit and providing resource information to residents in financial distress that support residents.

NMHC also agreed to develop a new web-based resource hub on our website that provided information about the rights and responsibilities of rental housing to renters and housing providers alike. We have also included resources on best practices related to housing equity, affordability and diversity, equity and inclusion. We are really proud of this work and think it will help highlight the incredible impact that rental housing can have in building vibrant communities.

This project is well underway, and we look forward to announcing exciting updates in the coming weeks.

Q: Overall, what does NMHC view as the most pressing need/challenges for multifamily housing, both in Texas and nationally? What is driving this need? What needs to be done to meet some of these challenges?

A: One of the biggest challenges facing the nation today is the lack of affordable housing. A number of cities in Texas, as well as many more throughout the country, face increasing housing costs and a lack of availability. Simply put, we must expand housing supply if we are going to broaden housing opportunity and equity.

We have underbuilt in this country for many years. Our population is continuing to grow, and we need to find ways to provide for not just families trying to find housing now, but for generations to come.

Unfortunately, too many states and municipalities are trying to deal with housing affordability challenges not by enacting policies that will expand housing supply and allocate the financial resources needed to create affordable housing, but instead are gravitating to politically expedient, but failed approaches like rent regulations. Decades of research on rent regulation policies have proven that they actually hurt renters and increase rents, but some politicians continue to support it because its short-term political upside.

Finally, there seems to be a growing sentiment that somehow housing providers are the problem and that there is a pervasive rift between housing providers and the customers that they serve. And again, having worked in that area for a very long time, that is not my perception at all. Certainly, there are bad actors in some cases. Where we see housing providers acting illegally or inappropriately, they should be addressed. Despite some of the press coverage, the idea that there’s a pervasive eviction problem with landlords acting inappropriately has not been proven. We have a lot of work to do in getting back to a place where people understand that multifamily is a complicated industry and understand that housing providers exist to serve their customers.

Q: How is the current economic situation impacting the multifamily sector? What does the situation mean for development and investment? How is it likely to impact the housing supply? What will this mean for rents and housing availability? What can be done about this? What should investors and developers do to work around the current headwinds?

A: There’s no doubt there is a lot of economic uncertainty right now. However, at NMHC we remain confident in the fundamentals supporting rental housing businesses. Research commissioned by NMHC and NAA has found that as a country we need to build 4.3 million more apartments by 2035. The population of the U.S. continues to grow, so demand is not going away. Housing is a basic human need that federal, state and local lawmakers need to invest in with financial incentives and enact other policies that will enable private actors to build the housing that is needed for renters of today and in the future.

That said, NMHC’s Quarterly Survey and other research products make clear that, right now, multifamily businesses are facing some headwinds. The current interest rate environment is almost unparalleled. I think it is likely that we will need some clarity and confidence in what further inflation-driven steps the Fed will be taking over the next few months. Additionally, we are still dealing with impacts caused by the pandemic. Many projects were delayed for a number of reasons, but some communities are only now catching up. The current uncertainty around the regulatory environment is also not helpful.

All of that said, it is clear that there is so much demand for housing, especially affordable and equitable housing throughout the nation. We will continue to need to expand housing supply for many years to come.

Connect Texas Multifamily 2023 will take place on Aug. 22, 2023 at Virgin Hotel in Dallas. Click here for more information and to register.


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About Amy Wolff Sorter

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