Affordable housing developer talks tax credits, challenges.

NHE CEO Taylor Davis and Development Director Robinson Villa never thought they would see a presidential debate where affordable housing would be a hot topic on the national stage.

Yet, they are hopeful that greater recognition will make affordable housing projects less of an uphill battle for developers. Especially those that specialize in affordable housing like NHE, a Greenville-based company that manages more than 90 affordable housing communities across South Carolina alone.

"Affordable housing just in general, historically, you may have a few additional kinds of barriers to overcome compared to market rate development," Davis told GSA Business Report. "First and foremost, financial barriers."

Affordable housing doesn't mean that it's any cheaper to build.

"The bricks and sticks, the wood and nails, they don't know it's an affordable housing project," Davis said. "They cost what they cost. We're paying pretty much market prices to build these things, so at no point are we getting a discount on how much it costs to build it."

In fact, the construction cost itself will be higher than the market cost in most cases. Projects that rely on federal funding sources like the low-income housing tax credit must use energy efficient materials that meet the federal standard and are durable to endure several decades without much wear or tear, according to Villa.

The greatest challenge of all in the Greenville area has been finding affordable land that is also within a designated "area of opportunity," or property that is hot for any kind of developer, according to Davis. Affordable housing developers can be the "odd man out" when competing with a new shopping center or luxury apartment complex from property off the beaten path, he added. In an area designated by the state to be bustling with growth, it is only more of a challenge.

"There's a cost to providing affordable housing, and then there's kind of the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)-ism and some of the local politics that can make building affordable housing harder," he said. "On both of those fronts, if we're talking about Greenville or, kind of the overall Greenville area, some of those barriers have come down or are coming down. I think on the financial side some pretty exciting changes in public policy on the federal, state and local level are really going to be impactful to deliver much more affordable housing in the future."

From an aerial perspective, zoning regulating the density of...

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