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Q&A: Tackling Affordable Housing in D.C. with JPMorgan Chase’s Brett Macleod

It’s no secret that Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in. As such, there is a massive shortage of affordable housing in the area, leading D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to call for the construction of 12,000 new affordable housing units by 2025.

To learn more about the topic, we caught up with Brett Macleod, Executive Director at JPMorgan Chase in Washington, D.C., to discuss his work promoting affordable housing in the region.

Q. Let’s talk about affordable housing in D.C. Is there enough of it and what is JPMorgan Chase doing to help meet demand?

A. The short answer is “No.” There is absolutely not enough affordable housing in the D.C. metro region. One way the firm is working to increase supply is by providing products to help finance Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) transactions. We’re providing both construction and permanent financing for LIHTC deals. More broadly, we’re trying to create more innovative products and solutions to address the housing issue. For example, we provide acquisition loans to affordable housing developers that are trying to preserve affordable housing. In D.C. specifically, we’ve partnered with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD) through its preservation fund for providing first mortgage acquisition loans. The D.C. Preservation Fund provides subsidies to those transactions to help preserve affordable housing that’s at risk of being converted into market-rate housing. If this preservation fund money were not available, that would be the inevitable outcome. So, we’re very proud of our partnership with DHCD in D.C. to help preserve these units. We’ve done a number of those deals over the last four years.

Brett Macleod

Additionally, JPMorgan Chase is a very active investor in the New Markets Tax Credit program in the D.C. metro region, helping to create access to essential businesses and services such as healthcare and grocery stores providing healthy food options in neighborhoods that are chronically underserved. We take a much broader approach to address the need for affordable housing issue, going beyond the homes to revitalize neighborhoods and strengthen communities.  

Q. Besides being one of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in, why exactly is the D.C. market ‘ripe’ for more affordable housing?

A. There’s a massive lack of supply and a huge demand for affordable housing in D.C. Many neighborhoods are transitioning socially and economically, causing families who have lived there for generations to be priced out. So, helping address that issue by preserving existing affordable housing (i.e., projects with income or rent restrictions in place) is one important aspect of what JPMorgan Chase is focused on. But, another aspect is helping preserve what we refer to as naturally occurring affordable housing: units that don’t necessarily have income or rent restrictions, but have rent levels that are affordable for people making 60 to 80% of the area median income (AMI).

Why D.C. is ripe for affordable housing has a lot to do with the fact that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is incredibly supportive of affordable housing. My understanding is that there’s more subsidy per capita in D.C. for creating and preserving affordable housing than any other city in the country.

Q. Do you have any success stories to share?

A. One of the projects I want to highlight is called The John and Jill Kerr Conway Residence, which was completed in early 2017. It’s a 124-unit building, 60 units of which are reserved for formerly homeless veterans and the remaining 64 are LIHTC units reserved for people that earn 60% of AMI or below. Not only is it in a very strong location, it is helping what has sadly been an overlooked population in the U.S.—veterans who are struggling for various reasons. The development team was very thoughtful by including permanent supportive housing services for the veterans who are dealing with behavioral health issues, substance abuse issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. We are very proud to be a part of this transaction, for which the firm provided a $16.7 million construction loan and invested $9.8 million dollars of tax credit equity.

Another recent transaction is the Community of Hope Family Health and Birth Center, where we made a $6.9 million New Markets Tax Credit equity investment. It is the first birth center available in D.C. and it’s located in an area that can best serve low- and moderate-income individuals. The community impact of this project is fantastic because it provides access to healthcare that was majorly lacking in the market before. 

Q. Are there any specific areas of the District that have been targeted for more affordable developments?

A. As a firm we have a strong focus on D.C. Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River—from a community development banking perspective, but also more broadly across the firm, including our Corporate Responsibility group. This area of D.C., which has a predominantly Black and Brown population, has suffered from decades of chronic disinvestment and a lack of access to capital. We’ve done a number of deals in Ward 7 and 8 over the years to help revitalize these neighborhoods and provide high-quality affordable housing. Yet we’ve also done a number of transactions throughout D.C. in more affluent neighborhoods. From a housing policy perspective, I think these deals are equally important in providing low- and moderate-income individuals with a place to live affordably close to their work. I commend the D.C. government for adopting changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan that sets specific goals for providing affordable housing in all eight wards of city.

Q. How is the Community Development Banking team at JPMorgan Chase tackling more than just the housing need in the area?

A. We’re really focused on bringing the full force of the firm to the communities where we live and work. As a result, we’re not only focused on housing, but we’re also dedicated to creating better access to healthy food, medical care, education and jobs in underserved neighborhoods. For example, we developed a $5 million PRO Neighborhoods initiative to help preserve workforce housing along the Purple Line in D.C., which is going to be a big step in providing affordability along what is a rapidly changing corridor.


Inside The Story

JPMorgan Chase’s Brett Macleod

About David Cohen

David Cohen is Southeast Editorial Director at Connect Commercial Real Estate. David is a media veteran with more than 10 years of experience in journalism, copywriting and communications across a variety of roles. He is responsible for covering commercial real estate news and trends in the Southeast, Florida, Washington D.C. and Boston at Connect CRE as well as specializing in the Student Housing sector. Prior to joining Connect, David was the editor of Northeast Real Estate Business magazine and Student Housing Business magazine at France Media as well as spending time freelancing for ESPN and the Associated Press in the fast-paced field of live sports event production. He is also an owner and investor in multifamily real estate in Atlanta, GA. David currently resides in Atlanta and graduated from the College of Communication & Information at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

  • ◦Development
  • ◦Economy
  • ◦Policy/Gov't
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