David Leopold Berkadia

Berkadia’s David Leopold on Tackling the Affordable Housing Crisis

by Sarah Daniels

It’s no secret America is in a housing crisis, but the problem is easier to identify than it is to tackle. David Leopold, senior vice president and head of affordable housing for Berkadia, believes it can be tackled, however, if the industry’s best and brightest can collaborate on a nationwide strategy.

Finance Insight (FI): What is your view on the affordable housing market?

Leopold: It’s an exciting time in the affordable housing market. There’s massive demand for affordable housing nationwide, which means new opportunities for innovation and new needs to be fulfilled. There’s also a real sense of urgency and commitment galvanizing players across the industry to pursue innovative solutions that will result in decent, affordable and safe housing in every single community across the country. This extends to developers, lawmakers, real estate professionals and beyond. It’s a tall order, but this work is essential to the well-being of our communities.

FI: Speaking of tall orders, what are some of the challenges facing the affordable housing industry?

Leopold: Rent control is certainly a hot topic and will remain one in the year ahead. Last year was a significant chapter in the rent control debate, with comprehensive statewide reform enacted in Oregon, New York and California. These are the boldest steps yet in a surge of initiatives to address the nationwide affordable housing shortage.

Rent reform has also become a national issue. Housing affordability is clearly top of mind for residents, real estate professionals and lawmakers alike. Unfortunately, many legislators continue to leverage rent control as a source of immediate relief, but the solutions to the nation’s shortfall of available housing are far more complex. We are actively expanding our engagement with affordable housing investors and public agencies to preserve existing affordable housing stock without the need for rent control.

FI: Where do you see the opportunities in 2020 in terms of affordable housing?

Leopold: While the need for affordable housing is apparent, the sector is complex. Affordable housing requires significant technical expertise to understand all the nuances — public policy, tax-exempt finance, etc. — that influence its execution. There is a tremendous need for best-in-class technical advice and expertise to support developers, investors and operators as they dissect the complexities of the space.

At Berkadia, we see a huge opportunity to bring together that full ecosystem of knowledge and expertise in one centralized platform. This enables us to better guide investors through every step of the process. This not only makes the process more streamlined and efficient, but gives investors more peace of mind and, ultimately, creates more value.

FI: In your opinion, what makes Berkadia’s affordable housing platform stand out?

Leopold: Our integrated platform offers mortgage banking, investment sales and tax credit syndication to provide comprehensive solutions and expertise for our clients. We’re a growing team making significant investment to tackle the affordable housing crisis head on and to be a leader in this space — but it always comes back to our clients. Client service is the foundation of all that we do, and we’re committed to supporting our clients and their goals as they provide critical resources to the communities they serve.

— Interview by Nellie Day. This article is posted as part of REBusinessOnline’s Finance Insight series, leading up to MBA CREF 2020. Click here to subscribe to the Finance Insight newsletter, a four-week newsletter series, followed by video interviews from MBA CREF.

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