Q&A: Navigating the Landscape of Affordable Housing Finance and Development with Grow America's RHDFP Certification Program

For professionals in public and affordable housing, this is a time of both tremendous need and immense opportunity. Affordable rental housing is scarce, disrupting the availability of homes for workers and families across most demographics—ranging from recent graduates embarking on their careers to working families, low-income individuals, and those reliant on fixed incomes such as senior citizens, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

Education is necessary to equip the current and next generation of housing professionals with the knowledge required to solve rental housing challenges. Amidst the pressing need and substantial opportunities in the field, HAI Group Online Training and Grow America (formerly the National Development Council) have teamed up to offer Grow America - HD420 - Rental Housing Development Finance, the first in Grow America's three-course Rental Housing Development Finance Professional (RHDFP) Certification Program™.

This partnership extends the reach of the course—previously accessible only through in-person training sessions—by integrating it into HAI Group Online Training's library, enhancing accessibility and allowing housing professionals to engage with the material at their own pace and convenience.

The RHDFP Certification Program teaches participants the steps of the housing development process, the techniques used to analyze and structure financing for rental housing deals, and the problem-solving and negotiating skills needed to make complicated deals feasible. Topics include rehabilitation and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, negotiating, problem-solving, deal structuring, and more.

HAI Group spoke with Jackie L. Gorman, EDFP, RHDFP, managing director of training at Grow America, to discuss the rationale behind developing this targeted curriculum and who stands to gain the most from this comprehensive training. 

Jackie Gorman                                                                                                   Jackie L. Gorman, EDFP, RHDFP                

HAI Group: Who is this certification for? Please describe the professional who will most benefit from this curriculum and how this certification enlarges their scope of work and opportunity.

Jackie Gorman: Grow America’s training is targeted to housing and community development professionals working with federal, state, and local government agencies, nonprofit development corporations, public housing authorities, community development bankers, and community lenders (CDFIs, credit unions, etc.). These professionals work diligently in their communities to increase the supply of safe and affordable housing but often lack the skills needed to understand a project’s debt and equity capacity and how to utilize gap financing programs to help projects move forward. Completion of Grow America’s Rental Housing Development Finance Professional (RHDFP) Certification Series enhances participant’s careers, their organizations, and their impact on their communities.

HAI Group: The curriculum is self-paced and interactive to keep participants engaged. Beyond the format, how would you describe the unique benefits this certification provides? What specific challenges does this training address better than others?

Gorman: Grow America’s 50+ years of work in underserved communities has taught us that failing to close financing gaps in critically needed projects is one of the biggest impediments to increasing the supply of affordable housing. Throughout our RHDFP certification series, we’ve turned our decades of experience into lessons and case studies that help professionals build essential skills needed to analyze financing obstacles and craft solutions that move projects from the drawing board to completion. Having access to this training via interactive multimedia instruction (IMI), with live remote office hours and email support, expands access to this skill-building training to every corner of our country without the burden of flying to distant training sites.

HAI Group: For those working in or interested in rental housing development, this is a noteworthy time. Research shows that a majority of Americans believe that more housing is needed to address issues of affordability and other community concerns. Given the climate of opportunity, how would you like to see professionals use this certification? What is the ripple effect of this specialized knowledge?

Gorman: All levels of government and nonprofits are desperately seeking to fill housing development positions with professionals who have been trained in the skills Grow America teaches better than any other organization. The impact that well-trained professionals can have on the supply of high-quality affordable housing is immense. We see these impacts and their benefits to communities every day in Grow America’s work as technical assistance providers, tax credit syndicators, housing developers, underwriters, as well as teachers.

HAI Group: This certification covers the nuts and bolts of financing–the criteria lenders use, private investor expectations, financial projections, the various financing programs, etc.—yet there is also significant time devoted to deal structuring and strategy. Can you touch on the non-financial elements that impact development deals and the nuanced insight that this certification offers?

Gorman: There are many steps in the rental housing development process and students need to understand how they impact each other and a project’s overall feasibility. Zoning, permitting, project design, labor and supply costs, risk perceptions, political opposition, and a myriad of other issues impact project feasibility along with financial considerations and structuring options. Grow America’s training emphasizes the use of case studies to help students practice the skills they are learning in the context of actual projects where Grow America played one or more roles.   

HAI Group: What words of insight or encouragement would you share with someone interested in pursuing certification?

Gorman: I was introduced to Grow America 15 years ago when I was CEO of a small non-profit charged with the economic revitalization of an underserved community. I was amazed at how much the Grow America training enhanced my ability to advance my economic, housing, and community development projects. As an instructor and in leading our training division, I’m deeply gratified when the light bulb goes off in a student’s head and they understand how bankers determine maximum loan amounts, investors determine how much they’ll put at risk in a project, and how we can all make scarce public and philanthropic development subsidies stretch to get more affordable housing built. Grow America training is rigorous and challenging, but the skills a student builds through completing a course or certification will positively impact their careers, their organizations, and their communities long after the course is over.

Explore HD420 course details: watch our video breakdown!


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