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Collecting and analyzing data on subsidized affordable housing is important for identifying properties that might be at risk of being lost from the affordable housing stock. How are state and local groups using data to identify at risk housing and conduct outreach to interested buyers? What types of data are proving important for identifying at risk housing?

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Several years ago Oregon Housing and Community Services Department (Oregon’s HFA), convened a task force including City of Portland leaders and key housing stakeholders to begin work on a preservation plan. The task force evolved into larger Steering Committee which established the Oregon Housing Acquisition Project (OHAP). The Steering Committee developed strategies to avert the loss of the state’s subsidized housing stock by providing “Preservation” property owners and prospective purchasers with technical assistance on transferring ownership of their properties and renewing long-term funding subsidy contracts with the federal government.

Along with OHCS and the City of Portland, the OHAP Steering Committee and staff have invested considerable time in developing effective working relationships with federal, state and local housing agencies and with national preservation leaders, affordable housing lenders, property owners and potential purchasers. Many of the strategies adopted for the OHAP were adapted from best practices currently in use around the country. One of the key initiatives the Steering Committee identified was the creation of a database of Oregon’s affordable and subsidized properties to make current, accurate project information accessible to all interested parties. The database can be found at the PreserveOregonHousing.org website.

The database is a critical tool in managing Oregon’s preservation effort. The database design follows the protocols suggested in the 2007 Report “Creation of a National Preservation Data Infrastructure” prepared by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and the Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing. By supporting these design protocols, someday in the near future, Oregon’s data may be integrated into a national database of affordable housing.

The initial data was collected from several sources and includes data from HUD, RD, OHCS, management companies and individual owners. After the initial uploads, staff spent many hours testing the data, correcting errors, removing duplications and generally improving the data quality, definitions and the collection methods. Developing strong working relationships with our federal, state and local partners was an important first step in gaining access to the data initially and in receiving regular update. These relationships have evolved to the point where our Database Manager now receives regular data updates without having to request them.

We found the most useful data for identifying properties at risk of opting out is the subsidy contract information which includes contract expiration dates. Initially this information was used to triage the portfolio of Section 8 expiring-use properties and to help identify owners intending to opt out and those interested in selling to new owners willing to execute new long-term contracts. Other useful data compares project rents with HUD published Fair Market Rents to help indentify markets where owners may be likely to opt-out.

The effort to preserve as many subsidized properties in the state has taken a very proactive approach. OHCS and the City of Portland are actively cultivating mission-based nonprofits and for-profit developers as potential purchasers of Preservation Properties. The Director of Portland’s Bureau of Housing and Community Development personally contacted the owner of every Section 8 property in the city to discuss their options and encourage them to renew the federal subsidy agreements or to sell to a purchaser who intends to do so.

Staff at OHCS who administer Section 8 subsidy contracts, begin contacting owners years before their contract expiration date and when appropriate, put sellers in touch with prospective purchasers. Staff in the OHCS Housing Finance Section work closely with purchasers of Section 8 and Rural Development properties to streamline transfers and contract renewals as part of the financing package.

OHAP staff have been speaking at local housing conferences, talking with owners and management companies and working with potential purchasers of subsidized properties. Using a strategy borrowed from the Chicago Preservation Compact, our local HUD office has agreed to send a letter to owners of Section 8 properties under the Regional Multifamily Hub Director’s signature, advising them of resources available through the OHAP should they wish to sell their property to a new owner interested in extending the subsidy contracts.

These strategies would not be effective without having access to reliable data. Prior to the creation of the state-wide data system, this information was scattered about in a number of systems. The data was fragmented, confusing and often inconsistent. Now, the agencies which provide the data report using the database in their own operations.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about our database.
Rob Prasch, 503 501-5688.
Thanks, Rob, for this great summary. Based on Oregon’s experience, it seems there are several key steps involved for developing an effective early warning system:

• Collect and regularly update property data including subsidy expiration dates and data comparing project rents to FMRs.

• Develop effective working relationships with federal, state, and local partners for gaining access to data and identifying available resources for preservation.

• Take a proactive approach to outreach by contacting owners of subsidized properties well in advance of subsidy expiration dates to learn of their intention to keep the housing affordable or exit the government programs.

• Cultivate mission driven non-profit and for profit developers as potential purchasers and provide technical assistance on transferring ownership of properties or renewing subsidy contracts.

Below are several links to resources that might be helpful when it comes to collecting and analyzing data for the purposes of preserving affordable rental housing:

• The National Housing Trust makes available state subsidized housing data reports which can be found here.

• This short summary is helpful for understanding available federal datasets and how to combine them into a comprehensive database.

• In his post above, Rob mentioned a 2007 report “Creation of a National Preservation Data Infrastructure” from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and the Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing. The report can be found here.

• In 2006, HUD released a research report that describes the characteristics of HUD-subsidized rental properties that have left the affordable housing stock due to opt-outs or foreclosure/deterioration, as compared with those whose owners have continued to participate in assistance programs.

• The National Low Income Housing Coalition is researching the feasibility of a national database or Preservation Catalog of government subsidized rental properties. More information on this project can be found here.
Todd, there is a new policy brief from the Center for Housing Policy on the importance of data collection called
Taking Stock: The Role of "Preservation Inventories" in Preserving Affordable Rental Housing available at:
http://www.nhc.org/pdf/takingstockfinalreorder.pdf
In New York we've found that in addition to all the data sources and things mentioned by others in their comments, direct tenant outreach is an important source of information as to the condition and history of the buildings. We try to have tenant organizers survey the buildings we think may be at risk based on information from the HUD databases, REAC scores, city housing code violations, etc. Based on those surveys, we find that in some cases buildings are actually not at risk, in other cases they are - it helps us narrow down the set of buildings we're working on, and be sure that we're prioritizing well. We've also found that its often best to reach out to tenants prior to reaching out to owners, so that the tenants can have a strong voice in shaping the direction the building goes in from the start. In a situation where a preservation-friendly owner may need to make changes, do rehab, etc, this approach helps tenants understand and participate in the process. In a situation where the owner is not preservation-friendly, organizing the tenants first builds the leverage to push for whatever changes are needed (contract renewal, repairs, change of ownership, etc).
The Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida provides public access to housing data for Florida cities and counties through the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse (http://flhousingdata.shimberg.ufl.edu). One of our major projects is the Assisted Housing Inventory (AHI), a database of properties in Florida with funding from HUD, RD, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, and Local Housing Finance Agencies.

We’ve created a series of applications available on the AHI introduction page that allow users to query the database; see http://flhousingdata.shimberg.ufl.edu/AHI_introduction.html. The AHI-Preservation application is focused on preservation and includes these variables:
- Development name and address
- # of total units, assisted units, and units with project-based rental assistance
- Housing programs
- Year built or funded
- Non-profit/for-profit ownership
- Owner and manager contact info, where available
- Project rent/FMR ratio and REAC scores for HUD properties
- Subsidy expiration dates

A few months ago, we posted two new applications to help flag at-risk properties: the opt-out risk assessment tool and the deterioration/default risk assessment tool. We’d really appreciate feedback on these.

As Rob Prasch mentioned, the Shimberg Center and Florida Housing Finance Corporation also have been involved in efforts to create a national preservation data infrastructure. We’ve put up a website on research regarding preservation-related data collection at http://preservation.shimberg.ufl.edu.

Our next preservation-related project is to produce the Lost Properties Inventory (LPI), which will provide property-level data on projects that already have left the subsidized housing inventory. It includes HUD opt-outs and prepayments, early bond and LIHTC projects with expired compliance periods, and some expired RD 515 projects. We think it will be helpful for advocates if they can describe the stock that has already left the inventory. We also plan to use the LPI for research on what happens to properties after they leave the assisted housing inventory, and to test some of our assumptions about risk assessment retroactively.

I agree with Rob completely about the need for strong working relationships to facilitate data collection. We get most of our HUD data from their online databases, but our data on state, local and RD projects comes directly from those agencies. Our longstanding relationship with Florida Housing Finance Corporation has been especially helpful.
This is really interesting. I agree strong relationships facitilitate data collection and often the importance of the database is in the personal relationships that grow between its users, administrators, and the data providers/agencies. At NLIHC we look at the catalogs as an organizing tool primarily to facilitate preservation and build support.

NLIHC has a variety of materials about "preservation catalogs" on our website (http://www.preservationcatalog.org or http://www.nlihc.org/template/page.cfm?id=133).

Included on the site is the text of a recent bill that passed the DC Council calling for the creation of a catalog in fairly explicit terms. Our research told us at the federal as well as the local level, advocates and officials were worried that without some kind of statutory direction, their efforts would not come to fruition or be maintained. We are working with DC to implement this legislation and also working on the federal level to include similar requirements in any "preservation bill." The DC Catalog we maintain is here http://www.nlihc.org/doc/dcpreservationcatalog.pdf.
Great to hear about the DC bill. Now if can only get the same for loan modifications and foreclosures....

IF your a glutton for punishment (Rob and Todd clearly are, as they have previously seen) my attempt to create an Excel database of loan level details for ALL FHA insured multifamily projects (current and terminated) from 1934-FY 2008 [5.7 million units] is described and available for download from this blog post:
http://oregonhousing.blogspot.com/2009/02/first-ever-national-fha-m...


Note it does NOT include any HUD deep subsidy information (AKA "Section 8, PRAC, etc" , but does include 236's, preservation loans , etc. Also has first FHA loan, FHA loan on apartments President lived in while in HS in Hawaii, etc.


Tom Cusack
Oregon Housing Blog

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