Affordable Housing And Economic Mobility With Alicia Matricardi

Affordable Housing And Economic Mobility With Alicia Matricardi

MCFA 30 | Affordable Housing


In this day and age, affordable housing and economic mobility can be difficult to come by, especially for those in the minority. This is where Alicia Matricardi comes in with New Economics for Women. NEW is a nonprofit focused on building affordable housing and looking at how to move families into economic stability. In this episode, Alicia talks with Athena Paquette Cormier about NEW’s history and mission for the community, as well as their plans for the future. She also relates how she went from being a volunteer at NEW as a young girl to becoming the Director of Real Estate Development and General Counsel.

Listen to the podcast here:

Affordable Housing And Economic Mobility With Alicia Matricardi

I’m really excited to introduce you to a mover and shaker in the affordable housing and homebuyer education space, Alicia Matricardi, JD. Alicia is the General Counsel and Director of Real Estate for New Economics for Women. I’d love for you to share your story and the steps that led you to this very exciting place that you’re in where you can make such a change in Los Angeles and other places too. I’m sure it’s a challenging position, but you’re an attorney, so I’m sure you’re handling it. Welcome, I’m so glad to have you here.

Thank you, Athena. Likewise.

Tell us a little bit about you. Who is Ali and where did you grow up?

I’m an Angeleno. Our offices are here. New Economics for Women is a nonprofit that has been in operation for 30 years building affordable housing and looking at how to move families into economic stability. We pride ourselves on building economic mobility and we do that through programs, services, and affordable housing offerings that help families to realize their own potential. We don’t prescribe what economic mobility or success means for a family. They tell us what their vision is and we help to enable that. We have families that have an entrepreneurial spirit. We have other families that need more basic stability that come from situations of domestic violence or homelessness. It really runs quite the gamut as to where we meet our clients, and where they need to go. We help to give them the strength of mind and confidence and resources to be able to articulate what their next level would be. For a lot of families, we tend to focus our marketing activities on single-parent families or female-headed households, but we serve everyone. We’ve been doing so for 30 years.

Do you know how that all started? Do you know the story of how the founder germinated?

I do. It was a group of women. They were Latinas who were together. They came together after meeting with a group called Comisión Femenil de Los Angeles. That was the women’s rights Latina activist chain of Los Angeles. They were looking at how their families overcame poverty. All of them resoundingly having come from situations of poverty and being able to articulate with undergrad and master’s degrees and run these incredible careers. What made them the outliers and why should they be outliers? What they found was that it was the ability for someone in their family somehow along the way to be touched by an influence that allowed them to break out of a mindset and allowed them resources as well. It’s not just the change of mindset, but do you have access? If your family doesn’t come from money, do you have access to be able to get an education for yourself, access to childcare? That was a big issue in terms of how to advance economic mobility.

The organization was founded by a group of these feisty women who said, “We need to break poverty for families and we’re going to be the ones who’ll initiate that and hopefully we can spread it as a movement and take it across the country.” That was their vision and they continue to work on it. One of our founders continues to be very active with the board. We have other friends and board members along the way, and staff that have all bought into the idea that we can help to build a pipeline of economic mobility for a family. That’s a little different than the affordable housing industry as an industry where we need so many more participants in the industry. The industry is not necessarily geared towards ending poverty. It’s geared towards stability.

To end generational poverty for a family, you have to equip the whole family with the mindset to get there. The kids have to be on board. The kids can’t be crazy spenders. Trying to get them into a new place or a new economic dynamic. Even the children we’ve found, need to be sensitized to why they’re not getting $300 sneaker. The extended family, the grandparent generation, the aunts and uncles that helps them to get on board so that they don’t feel isolated. There are certain family members that are moving out of sync with the rest of the family. These are all lessons over time, but we try to work on what we call whole family transformation. We’re addressing what are the needs of a senior population versus the needs of a working parent of child-rearing age, or a parent who has teens need some different resources versus the children and trying to meet children where they’re at as well. It’s a fun organization to work for. It’s been amazing.

Do you count by rooms in your business or student housing beds? How do you count?

We have given in our portfolio with partnerships, the total figure is about 1,300 apartments throughout the city of Los Angeles. We acquired, rehabbed and sold a property in Denver. That was almost 300 units in one facility. That was the biggest at one point out of our projects. We’ve taken partnerships. We’ve acquired and sold along the way, but affordable housing for new economics isn’t a participant in the affordable housing industry in the long-term hold. You’re looking at not only addressing the safe space for a family to live but ensuring that affordability for the next 30 years. We tend to be the first to the table in underinvested communities. When you make that investment, you change the level of the value of the real estate. How do you hedge against the inflation of the value and the gentrification of the neighborhood when you’re performing that work that really affects the land value?

It’s a catch-22 for you guys.

It is for every nonprofit that works in underinvested areas. How do you try to prevent displacement because you brought such a quality resource? Whether that’s housing or an economic development center, how do you make sure that the very community that you’re trying to benefit doesn’t have to go someplace else because you’ve raised the land value of the place that you’re affecting? Within the industry, that’s place-based community development strategies. Bearing in mind, to make sure that the economic investment can reap an earning for investors. We’re a nonprofit, it’s not as important but for our investors so that we can stay current on loans. We’ve got to look at the end-user, and how we are affecting the end-user and making that place-based improvement a long-term strategy rather than a short-term that will lead to their displacement. It’s important especially here in LA.

What a tricky thing. It’s a very delicate balance. Even still, if you bought up a whole block, you’d still have the other blocks displaced. It’s a ripple effect, even if it’s 1 or 10 properties.

We knew economics operates all throughout Los Angeles. I’m speaking to you from what we call our Pico-Union or Westlake headquarters. This area is under extreme gentrification because we’re feeling the brunt of a push to expand downtown LA is corridors in terms of live-work-play. We’re getting a lot of moderate to high-end income housing being built all around us. To give you an example, the property across the street is soon to be developed by a developer that’s looking at market-rate housing. That’s going to eventually mean the displacement of the 22 families across the street. What do we do? Do we organize them to fight the development? Do we teach them how to maximize their relocation benefit and move to an area where their families might be able to thrive a little bit better? It brings up so many values and it makes things difficult.

If I’m hearing you right, the building across the street is 22 units, but that building has been sold to a developer who’s going to tear it down and build something monstrous at market rate?

This happens all the time.

This is not your building, but it’s people that you would be helping because they’re being displaced.

We looked at it and wanted to buy it. As a nonprofit, we run many programs that our balance sheet doesn’t reflect how robust our real estate portfolio is. To any lender, the running programs require fundraising year after year. Our risk ratios are too high. We don’t qualify for the loans that other groups will qualify for because we’re not as well capitalized as private developers. A private developer was able to acquire and they take the first position. My write-ups as an LOI and my attempt to buy buildings fall flat often because we’re making sure that we have the resources to compete with market players. Sometimes market players can blow us out of the water. Our product delivery is far and better in terms of what the market can bring. However, the foot in the door to take seriously an offer from a nonprofit that doesn’t have the capitalization of a million or more liquid assets on its balance sheet can be difficult. There are very few in LA that have that. This is the good work that we try to do every day.

We don't prescribe what economic mobility or what success means for a family. They tell us what their vision is and we help to enable that. Share on X

You need a solution to that so that you can play against some of these developers.

We need partnerships. We could also go to the developer and say, “You guys are a great builder. I don’t want the headache of lease-up. You guys know how to do it.” That’s our next level is to look at innovative partnerships with developers. We can fight it all day if we can carve out affordable units. It depends on what the specifics of each deal is but I’m more inclined to say, “Let’s look for some wonderful partners. Let’s look for some groups that are trying to incorporate as social impact organizations that want to use opportunities’ own funding. Let’s see how we can do that rather than become the obstacles to development.”

That doesn’t push you forward when you’re being someone’s obstacle.

It bears a very important role, but it’s a particularly heated and controversial conversation because we have to be at the front lines of advocating for our community. What does that advocacy have to look like? For me, it’s not always to be the obstacle. It just depends. It’s still the deal.

What I’m trying to understand is this business model. If you could beat out that builder across the street and build a nice building, you still wouldn’t charge market rents, because you’re trying to help people afford it. Do you help them get Section 8 and try and push it up as much as you can?

Either one. We deliver back results for whoever is our investor or our lender, but would we have the cashflows of a completely market-rate building? No. Would we have the property tax exemption that this new developer would want? Yes, because there are certain tax-exempt property uses that we’re able to get if we can reduce the cost of the housing and make it more affordable. That’s where the advantage lies in terms of working with nonprofit.

The cashflow could be a little bit better because in the end too, these buildings need to not only pay the lender or the investor but also have cashflow to support the organization and keep growing.

It never pencils to support the organization. It goes right back into the building’s operating expenses because we have to underwrite the reduction in the rental income. That’s where our pro forma gets a little complicated. The numbers and that those are interesting and they are the fun part of what I do. That breaks up my day to work on some pro formas and then work on some programs. We’re in renovation on a building, and we’re in construction on four buildings. We’re in the renovation of a 60-unit property called La Posada. A transitional housing for single-parent women and one child, or single women.

How about people that are homeless or formerly homeless?

Yes, including them. They do have to pay rent, and rents are generally $500 a month in the building, but we provide onsite case management services.

Like social services?

Yes. It’s transitional because it’s got a cap of a two-year stay. This is a safe place. No visitors are allowed past the second floor of the building. We want to make sure that every resident is protected and that her rights are primary. We have some restraining orders active for former abusers that have attacked residents who now live in that building.

That’s 60 units and is it one woman per room?

Yes. One woman and their child up to age eighteen. The units are small. It’s between 250 and 300 square feet.

It’s like a small hotel room.

It’s a former SRO. They have shared kitchens on each floor and shared laundry facilities. There’s common space at the ground floor and program offices. That building is under renovation while it’s fully occupied. A labor of love that it’s going to be a fantastic renovation. We’re proud and honored to work on that. That’s one that’s on renovation, rehab. Our new construction is on four single-family homes that were actually in escrow. We have four purchasers that earn no greater than 120% of area median income.

What’s the median? Is it at 80 or 69?

MCFA 30 | Affordable Housing
Affordable Housing: When you make that investment in underinvested communitie, you change the level of the value of the real estate.


That’s for a family of four. For a single person, it’s even less as I recall. I don’t know the family sizes of the families that are buyers.

Where are these homes approximately? Is it downtown Los Angeles or Los Angeles?

They’re at Canoga Park, a city in LA in the valley. That is our second multimillion-dollar investment in Canoga Park. We’ve got a fifteen-year history of investing, I want to say, the total figure is $15 million into Canoga. When we first acquired land to build, it was a former DWP site and five acres. New Economics spearheaded the creation of a charter school, affordable housing, and community center in that acreage. One hundred and fifteen units of affordable is Tierra del Sol, a 100% affordable housing project. Every renter in that building meets a criterion to be able to apply and earn a space in that building for affordability purposes. Our charter school partner occupies the charter school. It’s owned by LAUSD and leased back to our partner. The Dennis P. Zine Community Center is a 20,000 square foot building with two stories, where we have our family source center providing programs and opportunities to families and Canoga. At the bottom floor is our Childcare Development Center. It’s a nonprofit partner. That’s three nonprofits operating in one space.

It’s an example of a successful partnership for you guys.

Where I’m speaking to you from is another example. It’s going to be potentially five nonprofits operating out of one building. Our acreage here is 1.25 acres at the corner. We call this building Prosperity Center. It’s New Economics for Women. It’s a Charter School downstairs from us. QueensCare Health Clinics is our new tenant who’s moving into primary health care services. We think they’re going to also offer dental services on our ground floor. We have been working with five keys, which does ESL and GED programs for adults. They work with recent parolees and have an anti-recidivism program. We’re working with a fifth nonprofit who’s phenomenal and hopefully, they’ll come on board and also be able to offer their services here in the building. We’re proud of that. Our model is, how can we get groups that share our vision? Let’s get families on pathways to economic mobility. Let’s get the middle class out of poverty. These groups, they get it.

You don’t have to explain a lot.

We also work fantastic for profits that also get it. I don’t want to leave them out. The world cannot go around. I fully embrace their participation with us. We have to and we should. There are more and more groups that are interested in the triple bottom line, people, profits, and places. That’s a big part of who I am as a philosophy.

You mentioned the past numbers. I was reading somewhere that your goal is to have 364 units built in the next few years. Is that part of your business plan?

It’s 2,000 units in the next few years. We’re tracking. That can be from partnerships, or that can be from new construction or rehab. We’ve got a couple of ideas that we’re moving on, so deals in the pipeline as you would say. It’s exciting. Every day we vet new opportunities and partnerships. That’s only out of my shop, out of the real estate department.

What are the other departments that bring NEW together?

We have an economic mobility department that looks at homeownership, financial education, and debt reduction. It’s the backbone of getting into the head of a family as to the financial education component. We have family source centers, which run a number of different projects. There’s a housing navigator project that works with everything from families in the situational crisis living in motels and the last figure was several hundred families that have been touched by instances of homelessness, domestic violence, or complete housing instability. We work with them over the long-term. We try to build relationships with them and place them and then find avenues out of crisis for them. That’s our program functions. That’s a different department as well. We have our learning centers. We have learning centers that serve over 100 children every day. After school activities, so they start at 3:00 and they don’t until 7:00 or 8:00 at night.

The parent can come to get them? Is it like a Boys and Girls Club or something like that?

It’s a safe space that accelerates their learning. It’s not just to do homework. How can we help a family to do homework altogether? How can we ensure that that parent feels comfortable challenging the teacher at school or participating at school? For them to understand their role in the relationship. For them to feel more confident in terms of being able to read with their kids or do science homework. I’ve got a little one at home. I cannot imagine doing math, science homework, or grammar, and even an essay. It’s got to be daunting.

There’s a point where the parent goes, maybe 9th grade, 10th grade, maybe even 7th grade. You start going, “This is getting beyond me.”

We help parents to overcome that gap or at least not fake it. Maybe they don’t know advanced algebra, but how do you serve as a sounding board to your kid, making sure that they feel comfortable asking questions? They have an environment where they can do their work, where they are not hearing gunshots or being threatened by a gang recruiter on the corner. We need to establish safe spaces. Another big thing that we’re into, which is just fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, is we did a big community survey in 2017. Where we asked children I mean, 1st through 5th grade, to draw what their favorite healthy food was, favorite place and where they feel safest.

It came out of those conversations was that the little ones, especially the young ladies, instance after instance, where they couldn’t hear their peers. They said that they felt most vulnerable on the street to and from school in. Walking home from school made them feel vulnerable. The girls would say, “I don’t like how I’m talking to,” or “They try to talk to mommy,” or “Men look at me and they’re drunk.” It was so heartbreaking. New Economics for Women actually has established us as one of our central community organizing tenants that we will go to speak to the most vulnerable voices. These are often the voices of children. In our place-based strategy, how do we increase eyes on the street and increase the level of responsibility that we take among one another as neighbors to own that our children need safe passage everywhere you go. I am not okay for women to feel threatened of any age on the street whatsoever. It’s a big deal.

How do you do that? Do you make sure that there are other people walking with them?

We want to make sure that every resident is protected and that their rights are primary. Share on X

It gets into everything. It gets on my side. It gets into, “How do we design the outside of the building? How can we use our resources? Can we share the camera to not only look at our building but can we catch the street too?” Make sure that if we do have security in the building that they have a very clear visible view of the entire block, not just our own building. How can we use the resources that we have to engage in a community strategy? How can we train people as to what their rights are or who to call? How do we make some ties with the LAPD? How do we sensitize LAPD as to what is happening or get their involvement? It’s something that we’re working on. It’s a very hot issue for us. It’s something that is particularly challenging too. How do you solve for the world’s A-holes?

The little neighborhoods are the microcosm of the bigger issues. If you tackle that then it becomes an example of what can be done.

It goes back to us wanting to bring to bare what the resources are that we can bring to an area. Let’s not stop our work. Who else is doing this work? Who is a community organizer that can help us with dealing with that? Who addresses the issues of violence in our streets? Where did our young men go? Where’s their program? It brings in dynamics.

Once you start thinking of one aspect, it leads you to the chain. Do you still have properties in Denver? The vision is to be all over the world or all over the US. Do you have just in Los Angeles so far?

It’s only Los Angeles.

Where in Los Angeles without telling me the addresses, but can you mention the places? I read San Pedro.

Yes, we have some in San Pedro, Pico-Union, East LA, Glassell Park. We have services and Van Nuys and we’re expanding.

It’s 2,000 units in the next two years. Tell us a little bit on the personal side, how did you end up here? You grew up here. Did your mom look at you and say, “One day you’ll be a community activist, my little baby.”

Actually, she did. I grew up in LA, a small family with my older brother and younger brother. My grandmother raised me. My parents worked long hours so I was with my grandmother the whole time. This is the Puerto Rican side. At one point, my mom decided that I had to do an externship in high school. I went to a very incredible high school, a very fancy Marlborough School. It’s an all-girls school in LA in Hancock Park and I had to do a community service project. She decided that I would work at New Economics for Women and brought me here. The LA Posada had just opened. That’s the transitional housing project for young moms. It used to serve teen moms. This is in the ‘90s. She said the best way for me to learn abstinence and family planning is to work in an environment of high poverty who now have children and understand how my experience was so unique and understand how I was no different. That’s how I started in New Economics.

You’re in high school and was that a brief thing? Did you keep coming back every summer?

I worked for one summer. I left. I had an incredible experience here that was very scary because teen moms told me what’s what. I was doing organizing with them or helping them with financial literacy stuff. I don’t recall but it was an incredible experience. I learned about New Economics for Women’s philosophy around economic mobility and using housing as a catalyst for social change. I was thinking about how I’ve always wanted to be someone that yapped all day. I read about ancient Greek philosophers and how they would stand on the soapbox and articulate their points. I thought, “If that’s a career, that’s what I would want to do,” but that doesn’t exist. I was thinking of the law at a young age. The experience at New Economics sent me off to undergrad thinking that what I was interested in is spaces and places, and how spaces and places interact with people.

I also witnessed the LA ri-bellion, riots rebellion. That was a period of incredible vulnerability for me and my family. To see my own neighborhood set afire was awful. To know what happened that the officers who beat Rodney King to a pulp were also exonerated set me afire as well. It was a horrible four days and it made me think about the strength of what does it mean to live in a city? What does it mean to have neighbors? What does it mean to rebuild, and what is resilience? I took all of that and the experience at New Economics for Women when I went to undergrad and I did my senior thesis on New Economics for Women’s housing. It’s housing as a catalyst for change.

What was your bachelor’s degree in?

I went to UC Berkeley, and I was an American Studies major in Urban Policy and I minor in City Planning and Public Policy. It was this rich amalgamation of all of the urban-related studies that I do. It was almost a prelaw thing. I don’t even think that prelaw existed at Berkeley at the time but it was almost a prelaw thing but more on the city planning side.

Did you come out of there thinking you would want to be a city planner?

I thought I would be a city manager.

You thought that would be a good one?

MCFA 30 | Affordable Housing
Affordable Housing: NEW’s model is to get groups that share their vision of getting families on pathways to economic mobility and getting the middle class out of poverty.


I thought that’s where it was at. City managers have knowledge of how all the departments work together to improve city function. I loved the concept. That’s what I thought I wanted to be. New Economics heard about my senior thesis and they called me up and offered me a job. Instead of staying in Oakland, where I was happy as a clam, after graduating and working a little bit up north, I did move back home. I took a job as a project manager and so began a three-year stint at New Economics for Women for the second time. I was completely under-qualified for my position and working alongside brilliant leadership here who was churning out affordable housing. It’s innovative at the forefront of where affordable housing was growing as a movement, and this is in the early 2000s. For me, I was excited to do it. I also ran our homeownership programs for a period of years. I taught classes in financial literacy and homeownership in English and in Spanish. At one point, I was managing a staff of six I believe.

That’s a pretty good group. That’s a good program.

I wasn’t even 23. This was a lot but I was loving it. I ended up leaving New Economics only to go to law school. A beautiful story is, our executive director at my going away party said, “When you become a lawyer, we’re going to hire you back as our general counsel.” I was like, “How funny.” I thought there’s no way NEW would have that much business for me to have to handle. I was thinking, “First-year law students are so full of themselves,” and I was so full of myself. I thought, “I’m going to be writing Supreme Court briefs.” This is before law school that tears out your ego. I went to law school and I ended up working for various firms. I got more into transactional real estate because I love real estate. I love cities. Where’s the heartbeat of a city and how does it operate? I continue to do transactional real estate through my law practice statutory law, and a broker as well. I do some brokerage work through a different group. New Economics called me again.

How many years were you doing this on your own thing before they called?

It was for ten years. I’ve gained some good experience and make it worthwhile so that I knew what I was talking about.

That’s helpful.

At least I thought I did. I got a call again that they were looking for a director of real estate. It has phenomenal leadership here and an incredible predecessor to my job, who was wonderful to me. I wanted to make sure that I stayed in the law because I had worked so hard to build up my own practice. I didn’t want to close that down. I wanted to continue thinking as a lawyer, I didn’t want to hang that up and go right into real estate. It has actually been beneficial because we don’t have as much of an outside counsel bill since I’m on board, which is wonderful. That worked for the organization. I’ve been here for several years as an instructor of real estate and general counsel. I wear two hats. It’s not a full-time position for me, but I’m here quite a lot. It’s been incredibly fun, and I’m proud of it. This is what I do. For me and my personality type, I love switching gears. I’m not exclusively on one project and delivering on one issue. It’s fun to get into the weave on a lot of different issues and figure out how best my role can be. How can I be most impactful with each project? What role was best for me.

When you mentioned that you loved seeing how things come together and a city manager sees how everything comes together, I have a feeling that probably is part of it. You go into several things because you can see more and more how they go together and that enhances each part.

I’m totally comfortable in identifying when the role is not for me when we bring in an expert in a certain area. Especially as affordable housing changes, I can tell you what has been a challenge for New Economics for Women is we don’t do what’s called permanent supportive housing. That’s housing for the homeless with wraparound services. The level of intensity for that housing model has an incredible level of intensity, the acuity is very high. We tend to serve working families. There’s a different acuity level there in terms of the psychosocial work that has to be done. We’ve got a learning curve and we’re getting there but making sure that we’re all trained up and being able to understand that dynamic and contribute meaningfully for the city and county is something that’s been a challenge to a lot of nonprofits. Few nonprofits were doing homeless housing years ago. That’s a challenge across the board that we certainly feel.

In your funding, you mentioned private individuals, private investors, and then you get loans. Do you get city support, like triple H support? You also have grants of some kind.

We have loans at various interest rates from the city with regulatory compliance, to make sure that we’re serving the population that we say we’re going to serve. We can deliver back on those promises and then just typically a forgivable loan after time, some of them are not. Some of them are no interest. Some of them run interest like lenders. The bulk of our portfolio has to be at least in some part touched by public sources.

Do you do the reporting or do you have a financial branch?

I do not. It’s typically program reporting or resident reporting. We have a property management arm that would do that and a program arm to then collect the data on what they’re doing.

They amalgamate that to make their report to whatever city department gave you the money.

It could be a state agency. Federal reporting is not like that. It’s a little different because the federal programs, the federal distributes low-income housing tax dollars but HUD is not looking at reporting in that way. They deputize states to look at those outgoing orders received.

It’s like Section 8, they usually pass it on a local agency that runs things.

That’s housing authorities.

The best way to learn abstinence and family planning is to work in an environment of high poverty teens who now have children. Share on X

If someone wanted to donate to help New Economics for Women, how would they do that? Is it individual donations?

We have such an incredible thing. These ladies at Compatto Yarn Shop in Santa Monica heard about what we do and they got together and started knitting blankets for our infants and our children in our La Posada building. They have created 40 blankets thus far for us to distribute. That is phenomenal. We’ve had other individual donors, our biggest donation was a private donation from a family trust of $2 million. It’s a game-changing donation, dedicated, marked for affordable housing. We do things like that and it runs in the gamut. From the blankets, from the beautiful ladies who were knitting to the family that identified, “New Economics is where we want to put our family’s trust money.”

That’s a big responsibility too. It’s one thing if it’s the government, but personally, I would feel more pressure if it’s a family foundation. These people chose you and want you to have their family’s life and work.

For the family to have made this decision is incredible. There are a lot of other donors along the way. Our next huge event will be a 5K run-walk. This will be our fourth annual 5K.

Those are a lot of work to organize.

It’s on the Saturday before the Sunday, Mother’s Day on May of 2020. It will be phenomenal. We have a special category there. We have a category for adults with children in their strollers. We have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winner and dads participate too. We’re going to break it up this time so that the gentleman and the ladies will have their own 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in the stroller category.

Encourage them to enter because the races I’m in, they’re at the back because everyone’s mad that they’ve got the stroller in the middle. These average athletes think they’re elite.

We work with a wonderful partner that helps produce the run for athletics. The strollers go to the back. We also run with kids. We encourage families from all of our buildings, our local residents, anybody to bring their children because it is a family-friendly event. We also had over 100 child runners in our last event. Our partner, the nonprofit that operates our charter schools, has a running club. They brought their running club. Its 4th and 5th graders. The whole idea is to encourage families to get outdoors and engage in exercise. The stat that we heard was that among all of the run population, participants in 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons, and even Ironman type of stuff. The lowest rate of participation was among Latina females. We thought, “What is that about?”

There are Latinas around here that are always the winners in our race.

That was a national aggregate. Not only for that segment of our population but for everybody to feel comfortable. The outdoor space is theirs. It’s a fun way to hang out with your kids and encourage that lifelong sensitivity to the competition.

To stay fit in the competition.

Sports is a big deal for me. I can tell you, having played soccer for twelve years, being on a team, being outdoors and being able to compete, taught me how to be a better lawyer, mom, advocate and friend.

There are a lot of life lessons in playing sports, especially team sports.

Running sensitized me to, “I’m not afraid to look sweaty.” There’s this notion, “Don’t look at me because I’ve been working out.” There’s nothing more beautiful. Why would we have that weird social connotation that you’re not as beautiful when you’re sweaty?

I don’t have that but the younger generation definitely has this thing. I think because of social media, Instagram, everyone looks so perfect that if you don’t look perfect, you’re already not perfect.

We’ve done that 5k three years in a row.

Especially because you mentioned the safe spaces that walking to and from school feels dangerous to them. If they’re in a crowd where it’s joyful, it starts knocking that notion down. That’s an awesome thing. What a great idea.

MCFA 30 | Affordable Housing
Affordable Housing: The LA Riots make one think about the strength of what it means to live in a city, what it means to have neighbors, what it means to rebuild, and what resilience is.


Any other donations can be run through our website at That’s also another way of participating. I try and update that. Our Instagram is @NewEconomicsForWomen.

Thanks for taking the time with me. This is so interesting.

Thank you for everything that you do. It sounds like you’re bringing so much good information for all of us.

I try to. In those 2,000 units, do you have an idea of the mix of what housing it’s going to be? Is it a plan to do so much affordable for women?

Maybe 100% affordable.

What the community it’s going to serve or whatever.

I’ve got some ideas, but nothing for sure to be published yet. We’re trying to get the lowest area median incomes we can hit. I can tell you what we’re seeing is a dearth housing is workforce housing. Not only is it affordable housing which is 128 AMI and under, but our teachers don’t qualify at 128 AMI. Our firefighters who are public servants don’t qualify. The school crossing guard doesn’t qualify. We’re looking at some workforce housing between 120 and 150 area median income for our union members and for some of our skilled labor workforce.

That way they can work close to home.

That’s where we’re going to go.

This freeway business is becoming outrageous so I don’t know how people even do it. If you suck it up and live in Palmdale because it’s affordable, but then you’re on the freeway for three hours. The quality of life is sacrificed.

I see us looking at not only lower affordability, trying to serve 30% to 128% AMI, but also pushing the bounds to say, “Our professional workers, union friends, those that teach our children also deserve to be our neighbors. Those that patrol our streets deserve to be our neighbors too.” That’s between 120 AMI and 150 AMI in general. There are so few programs for that. At that point, you’re looking at people who are completely displaced and who would move out to other regions and then become lower class, lower-income residents of these higher-end places. That’s an interesting and very difficult challenge, but I see us in our 2,000 units also looking to embrace workforce housing.

I do have a question from one of our audience. He says, “If I was interested in doing low-income housing of my own, how would I reach out to make sure that demand/vouchers exist before I start pursuing this type of investment?” I guess that there are people eligible before he starts building.

Typically, every lender requires a market study. They can be between $5,000 and $10,000, but there are groups that churn out this work that can give you based on demographic profiles, what the market capacity of a certain area is. What’s the occupancy rate? What’s the absorption rate as people move in and out not only for affordable but for market developments? The voucher side is different. The voucher side, generally there’s an incredible lack of Section 8 housing. That’s what the voucher would be. The Local Housing Authority would be the place to start and whatever locality you’re looking at. They often run programs to sensitize developers or owners as to why it would be advantageous to work with the housing authority. It’s two different things, but a market study would give the most robust answers but we always go to a third party to be able to hire up to do that work.

That’s not a organizing thing. It’s a lending piece that you need to have to move forward on financing, and so it has to be from a third party. I could tell you all day, the rents around here is that. It won’t be used for underwriting purposes. It’s a part of your pre-development budget. You should go directly to the Local Housing Authority to tell you, what do you have to do. HUD rules are all going to be the same. They have rules for how you renovate a door. What is ADA compliance? How big does the kitchen have to be? That’s the standard. The administration of the vouchers, what’s available, how do you apply. That’s with the Housing Authority.

His question also was, “Are there limits to how much funding is available?” On the voucher side, that’s HUD’s money and HUD has plenty of money. In fact, they complain that people don’t come and ask for the vouchers, or people who are eligible don’t go so that’s priced still okay.

Where there is a complete lack of vouchers is for the end-user to get the voucher. That’s why the waitlists are eight years where there is a total lack of housing stock is for these housing authorities to work with owners to designate something as Section 8. In my familiarity, I’ve never seen a housing authority say, “We have too much Section 8 here.” Maybe that is a problem.

I talked to the Housing Authority locally one time and they said, “You can convert an entire building to Section 8.” That way they don’t have to apply or it’s the owner applying to be the Section 8 building as opposed to onesie, twosie tenants that has Section 8. The VA one also has that. You can make an entire VA building as well. Hopefully, that answered Keith’s question or gave them some direction. Thank you so much for joining me and hopefully, people will go to your website.

Thank you, Athena.

On the next episode, I have something similar. I have Frank Furman who’s the CEO of PadSplit and they are committed to solving the affordable housing crisis one room at a time. They have shared rooms, they’re in Atlanta, and they also hope to be all over the US very soon. I have Larry Takahashi, who’s going to share with all about writs and how they differ from regular real estate. Thank you so much again, Ali, for joining us. It was awesome.

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