Rebecca Foster is the CEO of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund. The Accelerator Fund is a public private partnership that helps to finance affordable housing in San Francisco — in particular the many buildings currently being occupied affordably that are in danger of being purchased, and of their occupants being displaced.
The Accelerator Fund has set itself the challenging goal of preserving one-third of the existing 45,000 affordable housing units in San Francisco over the next 20 years. They plan to do that with a variety of powerful financial tools and subsidies to make sure that rents remain affordable. And Rebecca is working hard to educate and bring new investors into the Fund. In just three years they have saved 319 homes and raised $183 million in capital.
Prior to leading the Accelerator Fund, Rebecca was Director of Social Impact Investment for Mayor Lee, where she led the City’s exploration of results driven contracting and social impact finance, and developed capital tools to address the City’s housing shortage. She started her tenure in local government as a Fuse Fellow in the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation in 2012-13. Before that she worked in public sector and infrastructure investment banking at Goldman Sachs for eight years, where she raised capital for local governments, universities, non-profits, and utilities around the country.
Insights and Inspirations
- The average cost of an affordable housing unit in San Francisco is $500 – $800,000. That’s not affordable.
- “The number of affordable housing units needed is staggering,” says Rebecca.
- Rebecca’s team is tackling reducing the cost of housing from many angles — such as lower returns to investors and the use of modular construction to reduce costs.
- Bridge loans are the key to Accelerator Fund’s financing arsenal. By providing bridge loans to projects that cannot get traditional financing, they ensure a much more rapid preservation of housing stock. When the buildings stabilize after a few years, banks will step in.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: Hi there, thanks so much for joining me today for the latest episode of Impact Real Estate Investing. My guest today is Rebecca Foster, the CEO of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund. The accelerator fund is a public private partnership that helps to finance affordable housing in San Francisco, in particular, the many buildings currently being occupied affordably that are in danger of being purchased and of their occupants being displaced. Be sure to go to rethinkrealestateforgood.co to find out more about Rebecca on the show notes page for this episode and be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can access information about impact real estate investing and get the latest news about the exciting projects on my crowdfunding platform, Small change.
Eve: [00:00:00] Hi, Rebecca. Thanks for joining me.
Rebecca Foster: [00:00:02] Thank you so much for having me, yes.
Eve: [00:00:04] It’s really great. So I wanted to dive right in and find out all about the San Francisco housing accelerator, which you lead, and I saw that the headline on the accelerator site says, “Innovative financial tools to preserve and expand affordable housing.” And I wanted to ask you, what are innovative financial tools? What do you employ?
Rebecca: [00:00:27] Sure. So, what our goal was in … creating the accelerator fund and I think a key piece in our origin story is actually we were created and incubated out of the mayor’s office in San Francisco. And so we are truly a public-private partnership, and I think, especially in the world of affordable housing, that’s a fundamental component of what makes it effective. So, we bring together private, philanthropic and public sector funds to address gaps in … that the public sector can’t address with its sources of capital alone to achieve its affordable housing goals and so on. And in terms of innovative financial products, what that really means is that, for example, the … you can’t really finance permanently affordable housing, especially in a high-cost city like San Francisco, but really in most places around the country, without permanent subsidy funds from the public sector. Because the amounts that … of rent that are lower, extremely low-income or in the case of the Bay Area, even middle-income person can afford to pay just isn’t enough to cover the cost of building or acquiring a building, let alone some of the operating and services costs if they are extremely low-income and need services support. So you really need the power of the public sector and the tax base, essentially, to cover those long-term permanent costs.
Rebecca: [00:02:06] But it would … it’s probably no surprise that government does not move very quickly and it’s hard for government to deliver on capital, deliver their capital really quickly and to take risk with it. And so that’s where we come in, is with private and philanthropic capital we are able to be the first money in that can, for example, in the acquisition of a building where residents are at risk of displacement, we can help a nonprofit compete with all cash buyers and foreign buyers and close on a loan in less than 60 days, get to approval for a loan in less than 45 days, and that’s really hard for a government to be able to do. So we essentially can provide that bridge. And then once the property … the building is controlled and in nonprofit hands, the city can come in, 12 to 24 months later, with permanent funding. And then we can do something similar with new construction and just really use our capital to be much more innovative and allow the nonprofit housing, affordable housing developer to move faster, be creative, try construction innovation that it’s harder for the public sector to do so.
Eve: [00:03:21] Do you … like, I’ve worked enough in these types of projects to know that the gap can be really substantial, even in Pittsburgh. I think a few years back, it was really a 40 percent financing gap between what it costs to build an affordable unit and what return you would get for that unit. So, 40 percent in government subsidies, I can’t imagine there isn’t a bigger gap in San Francisco in the Bay Area.
Rebecca: [00:03:49] Yes, I mean, it is. You’re absolutely right. It is. Just for order of magnitude, the average cost of a new construction affordable housing unit in San Francisco ranges between 500 and 800 thousand dollars. And depending on the income level of the residents in that unit, the subsidy required can be, if you include the low income housing tax credit, so federal and state subsidies and local subsidies, it can be nearly all of that cost. The local government generally bears, in the case of San Francisco, about 200 to 300 thousand of that total cost. So, a similar percentage, but I think the total costs are … a similar percentage on the local level, but the total costs are probably much higher.
Eve: [00:04:41] And that means the traditional banks don’t want to be involved at some lower level?
Rebecca: [00:04:48] Yes. So they … so, basically in our … so we have many banks actually invested in the accelerator fund as senior lenders and so they are involved in our fund, in the bridging, at a senior level. And then we have below them funds from foundations and from the city of San Francisco itself. But in the permanent financing, yes, banks will both provide a construction loan, but they provide a construction loan when there is clarity on what the permanent, stabilized funding source is, which will include a significant amount of subsidies and often low-income housing tax credit. And then if the project is supportive housing for individuals who’ve been experiencing homelessness, generally there isn’t much revenue that can support a senior mortgage on the permanent. But if it’s a 50 or 60 percent median income project or, you know, workforce housing, if there is enough in rent, then there often will be a bank providing a senior mortgage. It’s just a small, relatively small percentage often of the entire capital stack.
Eve: [00:05:58] So you must get frustrated listening to some of the rhetoric about building affordable housing. And who’s to blame for where we are. It’s a really big problem.
Rebecca: [00:06:12] It is a tremendous problem. But I guess I also … it can be frustrating, but I also, like, part of why I love my job every day is that we are on the ground in a real blocking and tackling transactional way, and in a way where we see the impact on families. We are producing and preserving affordable housing every month with projects. And so that is a counterpoint to the feeling sometimes of how overwhelming the level of systems changes that’s necessary to actually address the hole that we have dug ourselves into, particularly in California, with so many decades of undersupply of housing, especially in urban infill housing, not enough density tax codes that don’t really encourage rental housing and affordable housing. I mean, we have a lot to dig our way out of. And I think we can do it.
Eve: [00:07:12] Yeah. I mean, I just made a little time in Australia talking to an architect who is working on affordable and sustainable housing there. And it was really fascinating to hear the story of what got them to this place where essentially there’s no government subsidy at all. And, you know, the cities, the major cities in Australia are some of the most expensive in the world. So, I think the problem is huge in many places. We, you know, we know it’s huge in San Francisco, but I think people are attacking this in many different ways, which we’ll talk, you know, about later. But I wanted to first know what’s your impact been to date? How long have you been in business, actually?
Rebecca: [00:07:53] Yes, so we are just about at our three-year mark. So, we are still very much a startup. But we have we’ve done a lot and the need has been great in the last three years. So, we have really two primary programs, I guess three primary programs, to date. And the one that we really started with, and then I would say it’s our most significant, is the bridge loans that I mentioned where we help nonprofit or affordable housing developers buy buildings, often, or land that is on the market, on the open market. And in the case of the buildings where the residents are at a very high risk of displacement, and just for a little context there, it is … we have rent control in San Francisco, but there’s no vacancy control. And so, basically when a unit becomes vacant, the rent can go from, if there has been a long-time rent-controlled resident living there, can go from, say, you know, 1500 dollars a month up to market, to 4500 dollars a month, depending on the size of the unit. So, that, in a market like this, means that there are a lot of buyers that are looking to buy five to 25-plus unit buildings and either very aggressively push the existing residents out who are low-income or wait them out. And, so, we are just experiencing tremendous displacement. So, we have with, our bridge loan fund has funded the preservation of 319 affordable homes since we started and that’s across 15 projects, and we have committed across those projects 183 million dollars of capital, across those projects plus an additional vacant land acquisition for the production of new affordable housing.
Rebecca: [00:09:50] And we have also, separately, so that’s our bridge loan fund and we basically raise capital, deploy it for non-profit, to go buy these buildings; also to rehab them, do the structural upgrades so they’re seismically safe; in any instances where it’s possible add new accessory dwelling units, so, turn the garages or the carriage houses in these buildings into new, permanently affordable units. So, we’ve also financed the first permanently affordable accessory dwelling units in San Francisco, in a couple of our buildings that we funded in the Mission. And then we separately have another fund, the homes for the homeless fund, that’s in partnership with a great local organization, Tipping Point Communities, and that is funded with 50 million dollars entirely of philanthropic capital. So, our other capital is impact that basically, but it is not … we have to repay it. And in this case, this month of a 50 million dollar restricted grant and the entire goal for those dollars is to significantly cut the cost and time for the production of supportive housing for individuals who’ve been experiencing homelessness. And we are halfway into the development of a 146-unit building in the Fillmore neighborhood in San Francisco that has 145 supportive housing units and a manager’s unit, and it will, knock on wood, the total development costs for it is going towards under 400 thousand dollars a unit, including land, which is, as I mentioned before, a really significant reduction from the status quo. And our whole schedule is two years and nine months from the time we bought the parking lot until when we should have individuals be able to move in. And that is …
Eve: [00:11:44] Yeh.
Rebecca: [00:11:45] … there are many factors there, but, I say, in both cases, really what we are … you know, we have we’ve deployed a lot of capital and we are, what we’re really focused on is like what can we do with every single project to help our partners, both just get it done and make sure the building isn’t lost and the homes aren’t lost in the case of the empty displacement work and preservation. But also to do it better, every time, and figure out how … we can do the next one a little bit faster at, you know, at a lower cost or with different capital sources that make it more sustainable for the government to support this work over the long term.
Eve: [00:12:28] What about construction in the equation? Are you sort of looking at different construction methods as a way of becoming more efficient?
Rebecca: [00:12:38] Yes. So, for the project that we are working on, that … the new construction supportive housing project, we are using modular construction, and this will be the first permanently affordable modular project in San Francisco. We are working with Factory OS, a modular manufacturer in Vallejo, and that is one of the many factors that is helping us cut the time and the cost for the project.
Eve: [00:13:07] It’s interesting. And so what’s the long term goal for the housing accelerator?
Rebecca: [00:13:12] I mean, I’d say, so when I mentioned that we really focus on three things; we have the bridge lending program, which really is about just helping the, you know, the government, the city, achieve its goals with much more flexible capital and faster, and problem solve. And then, we have a supportive housing work, which is really a more flexible investment focused on bringing down the cost and time of the production of housing. And then, the other big area that we’re focused on increasingly as well is innovation in how capital can be used to really help push the envelope in getting more affordable housing done and getting it done faster. Kind of more of those systems change elements. I mean, I’d say within the circle of the delivery of capital in dollars, which is really are, I think where we’re focused. And so, for a long term goal, we have really ambitious goals about getting to one-third of our existing multifamily building stock in San Francisco, where there are low-income and extremely low-income tenants. We have a 20-year goal, along with our nonprofit developer partners, of getting to one-third of those units being permanently affordable. So, like building more of a social housing stock or preserving more of a social housing stock. On the preservation side, we’re also starting to work with other partners in the Bay Area about how they can build out similar preservation programs in their cities, because unfortunately San Francisco has been at the tip of the spear with displacement.
Rebecca: [00:14:51] And I think it’s rippling out to, you know, a number of other places as well now. And then, I think on the partnership and, you know, that investment and construction side, I mean, we are … we’re looking at any way, as I said, that we can be really creative, and problem solving focus and capital delivery that can cut costs and time so that the long term permanent gap that the government puts for affordable housing can be reduced and that we can get more housing done faster. So, to your question about innovations in construction, we’re looking at are there ways we could support construction innovation where traditional banks and governments aren’t yet comfortable with taking on risks in this industry by, you know, so we’re looking at creating some insurance or backstop products for modular housing.
Eve: [00:15:46] Yeh, interesting.
Rebecca: [00:15:47] We’re also looking at other public-private partnerships, which I think is another key part of our model. So, we’re looking at working with the school district on educator housing and philanthropic partners and, you know, trying to in some ways, you know, and then just getting more done in San Francisco in the work that we’re doing and continuing to improve upon that.
Eve: [00:16:10] So, it’s great hearing you talk about all of this, because I think most people think, you know, an affordable housing unit is just the structure, but there’s so much more to it. There is how do you finance it, and how do you build it, and how do you insure it and all of this, all of those things. Have you estimated, I’m sure you have, how many affordable housing units are needed in San Francisco?
Rebecca: [00:16:34] That is a great question that everyone has. Yes, everyone has different numbers. So, I think on the preservation side, we are focused on preserving through … the lending program 15,000 units in San Francisco. And that’s our, based on the data that’s available, getting it about a third of what seems to be the at-risk, you know, generally rent control, the lower income, extremely low-income units, and on the new construction side, I don’t have the number at my fingertips, but when we started the accelerator fund, the goal was, this was in 2014, 2015, when the initial ideas … for the fund were getting incubated in the mayor’s office, we had set out at the city to to build 30,000 new units of housing by 2020. So, by the end of this year. Which now we’re here, with half of them being permanently affordable. And I think the city will be close to meeting that goal by the end of the year, knock on wood.
Eve: [00:17:41] That’s pretty great.
Rebecca: [00:17:41] And it is clear that it is not nearly enough. I mean, … in the last study I saw, regionally, is that we need about 250 thousand more units of affordable housing in the nine county Bay Area just to make up for what we haven’t produced over the last decade.
Eve: [00:18:00] Wow.
Rebecca: [00:18:01] And so, I mean, the numbers are staggering. And so, we can’t do it if, we have to be reducing the cost and the permanent gap from the government in every possible way we can. And I think, I mean, another piece here to focus on is the revenue side. We also have to, you know, we need to also be addressing how extremely low-income individuals and low-income in our workforce, what kind of opportunities they have to actually be earning enough or be supplementing their income in other ways so that they can afford rent.
Eve: [00:18:42] Right. It’s a huge problem. So, it’s really big, and it sounds like you’re attacking it from all sides. So, what’s your background and how did you get to this position?
Rebecca: [00:18:55] It’s been a meandering path. I’m sure like many people, but … I have always really, have always really loved communities and particularly the way that people interact with their environment and, like, the built environment. And I grew up in a very rural place on the river. My parents had a campground. And although that’s a far cry from the urban landscape, I think that threadbare as it is, in that case, the campground and the river were really a physical gathering place and like a hub of community. And I think similarly, in a place like San Francisco, I mean, this work we’re doing on preservation, you just see, although a building might have five units in it, five families, one of them is the, you know, marine biologist who tends the local community garden. And another family moved here from Central America 27 years ago and have built their live here. And I mean, you just the ripple impact of everybody’s story … in these buildings and what it does to community when they are displaced. We actually, we just helped our partner close on a building in, north of the panhandle of Golden Gate Park on December 23rd that has sick senior citizen African-American couples in the building. And I mean, that’s exactly the kind of situation where they have built their lives here, their friends are here, their communities here. And they are an integral part of what makes the fabric of San Francisco the place that everybody loves. And we, so I think there is that connection, I mean, it’s like the connection of people to place, not just the big fancy architecture, which also is really cool. But the, you know, the homes that make up these communities and how that all ripples out and, you know, makes a place a really unique special place it is, I think that, that is a common thread.
Rebecca: [00:21:12] And then, from a otherwise from a background expertise perspective, after I went to business school, I had an … I went to business school because I had zero background in finance and felt like, I started to realize in my work in urban development that I needed that. And then decided at the end of that to go really try to solidify what I had started to get at graduate school, with real world experience. And I spent eight years at Goldman Sachs as a public sector infrastructure banker in New York, and then in San Francisco, … and then left there to go to the mayor’s office in San Francisco. And so I really feel like now I am in the best professional opportunity of a lifetime to be able to be entrepreneurial and creating something that connects capital to solutions in communities. And it’s been really, it’s been really fun and challenging.
Eve: [00:22:17] It sounds like it. So, you know, I wonder … So we kind of heard what real estate impact investing is happening around the accelerator. But I’m wondering what difficulties you see with it and whether you think people still need to be better educated about what sort of returns to expect, and, you know, what it means to invest in something that isn’t just a commodity. Right?
Rebecca: [00:22:46] Yes. I mean, that is an excellent question and I think one that’s very top of mind right now, because we have had fortunately more of the largest employers in the Bay Area have started to focus on the tremendous need, locally, even though these are global companies and I think often in many ways had not really been focused as much on their local communities. And and are now, I think, both because it’s a real, that the lack of affordability and the housing challenges are a real issue for their workforce across the spectrum of their workforce. And because it’s just, you know, the extent of homelessness is really painful and you can’t exist in the Bay Area and not be feeling every day the impact of the level of poverty. And I think also of the dissonance between being at the center of wealth and innovation, arguably in the world, and the level of poverty.
Eve: [00:23:55] I was going to say that’s the most shocking part. You know, the fact that it’s one of the wealthiest places in the world and has this incredible homeless problem.
Rebecca: [00:24:04] Yes. I mean, and it is that, I mean, we all have to take so much responsibility … like, we got to fix it. And, I think, you know, when we started our fundraising, we talked to a lot of national foundations and it was frustrating at that time. But I get it. Many of them said to us, we’re sorry, we’re not going to invest in San Francisco. You have so much money there. You’ve got to solve your own problems. And, I think, it’s to some extent that’s true. Like we have to address this in the Bay Area. And, I think, that that is becoming more front and center for folks. And that being said, from an, to your point about the kinds of returns you can expect and the education question, we still have some work to do on that front. Because you can’t really, you can’t make money off of extremely low-income people.
Eve: [00:24:57] Yeh.
Rebecca: [00:24:57] Yes. There is the potential to have some, you know, high risk appetite. You get your principal back and get a one or two percent return type funding. We certainly have that sort of capital in our bridge loan fund, but that’s only as valuable as the amount of permanent gap dollars that the public sector has and that are available to address the needs of permanent affordability. And so I think the power of what you can do with flexible philanthropic and private impact-focused capital is take a lot of risk. Try new things. Innovate on construction. Parallel track on your design work before you have your entitlements, like, allow your, like those types of things. And that means you might not always get repaid. It is more risk. And, I think, though, that is, that’s a hard, that’s a hard balance to sort of figure out.
Eve: [00:25:55] It is. And it’s actually something I struggle with. I don’t know if you got a chance to look at my crowdfunding platform, small change, but I get asked all the time how the platform might help affordable housing projects. It’s a very difficult thing to answer for exactly the reason you said. The more return you provide to investors, the more rent you have to charge.
Rebecca: [00:26:15] Right.
Eve: [00:26:17] It’s very problematic. That’s not really the goal of affordable housing. But I’ve seen people tackle it and still manage to get some investment in just some different ways. But it’s really, it’s difficult to watch. I wish I knew with certainty that if we put affordable housing projects on the platform with a two percent return, people would invest.
Rebecca: [00:26:41] Right.
Eve: [00:26:41] But … I just, I don’t really believe that yet. You know?
Rebecca: [00:26:45] Yeah, I think it is a hard, we have talked, we’ve had many brainstorming sessions with various partners about, you know, well, what about like affordable housing and workforce housing? Your risk of turnover is minimal. And so the risk is significantly lower, and so, we have, you know, talked through before, well, could we get, you know, pension funds and larger institutional investors to really look at this more like infrastructure, than like, you know, real estate, market rate real estate returns. So, that’s one angle that we’ve talked about with folks. The challenge still is it’s very low. It’s one to two percent. And it’s long term. And, you know, until there is just …
Eve: [00:27:32] It’s got to be people in institutions with enough wealth that that particular investment isn’t going to impact them too much.
Rebecca: [00:27:40] Right. And where there is, I mean, I think there … and it’s a very true double bottom line. I mean … and where I’ve seen it work, you know, in some cases with crowdfunding, one of our partners, Mission Economic Development Agency, did a crowdfunding raise for a building acquisition that had a beloved mural in Mission Bernal neighborhood, the Precita Eyes Mural. And when there’s some, I think there is a benefit, especially because it’s so local. You know, engaging people who care about a place, and investing in something that makes that place vibrant and diverse, and the community that they, that they love and want to be in. Although, that may be in many cases, I guess, I think the other challenge with crowdfunding is the cost is so significant, of housing, that raising $20,000, which could be a lot of people with a lot of small contributions, is probably more meaningful in terms of engaging people in the work than it is in terms of actually moving the needle financially for the project.
Eve: [00:28:54] Yeah. Although I think of crowdfunding as a couple of different securities rules and you can crowdfund or advertise regulation D, as well, which lets you raise as much as you want. So, but only through accredited investors. So, but I think, you know, the small crowdfunding, retail crowdfunding that everyone can invest in is useful from a community building, asset building point of view. It’s not a way to raise a lot of money, that’s for sure.
Rebecca: [00:29:24] Right, right. Yeah, there’s a … one area we’re looking at where there could be overlap a little bit with the crowdfunding ideas, how we could create a product for investing in affordable housing that’s coming through donor-advised funds.
Eve: [00:29:42] Yes.
Rebecca: [00:29:42] There really is already the dollars that people have allocated to philanthropy and generally there is a lower desired return threshold, or they’re just not as focused on it. And so, and there are there are a lot of dollars in donor-advised funds, nationally, of course. So, that’s an area that we started to look at more, that it would be great to, for us to continue the conversation on.
Eve: [00:30:08] Absolutely. Absolutely. So do you think socially responsible real estate is necessary in today’s development landscape? I know you’re focused on housing, but in general?
Rebecca: [00:30:16] I mean … to the extent, and you can help me with the definition of socially responsible real estate …
Eve: [00:30:25] Oh, I don’t even really know it myself. I mean, I think there are a bunch of different definitions out there. Mine is, you know, something that makes life better for people. It might be a building that houses services that they need, or it could be a building that, or a space that is created that they can use. I mean, I think there’s many ways to define it, in real estate. For me.
Rebecca: [00:30:52] Yes, I mean, absolutely. I think especially in these, I mean, the trends toward urbanization. And we just, there are so many more people and I think probably will continue to be so many more people that are living in an urban environment. And it is, I think as we, everyone feels like, viscerally yourself, what your day to day interaction is with the space that is your home, and your community, and your walk to transportation, or your commute to work, and your interaction and your place of work with the space that you’re in. I mean, those that’s what makes up a big portion of people’s lives. And so I think it is totally fundamental that we are, that we, you know, are all thinking about making that positive and thinking about it in all of the ripple impact ways, from a sustainability and climate perspective and, you know, how people interact and as an affordability perspective. I mean, there’s so many elements in addition to affordable housing that improve the quality of someone’s life versus their rent cost …
Eve: [00:32:11] Right.
Rebecca: [00:32:11] … that also are very much tied to space, their commute, their job environment, the quality of their schools. And these are all tied to urban design, and the use of space, and the buildings that fill the space.
Eve: [00:32:27] And I think the ability to live somewhere and not have to have a car is like absolutely critical. Transit …
Rebecca: [00:32:34] Yes.
Eve: [00:32:35] … being able to walk to amenities, walk to work, walk to school. It’s really critical for living affordably. Actually, I wonder how successful you’ve been, where you’ve been sort of making your numbers extremely lean in, in getting the units to be very energy efficient. Has that been hard?
Rebecca: [00:32:57] So, a lot of the work we do is, as I said, is helping … developers buy existing buildings. And part of the upgrades are focused, whenever there’s enough, you know, capital budget for it on window upgrades and kind of those types of weatherization, and other things that will improve energy efficiency. And then in the new construction buildings, I mean, our, we are not a developer, but our developers are definitely focused on those things. And I think just by nature of, I mean, there’s no parking in affordable housing … There’s always bike storage. There is, you know, they’re generally, luckily, in San Francisco, like near and have great access to transit options. And, I mean, you know, one thing that is, we are doing to bring down costs in the, our new construction project is the individual unit sizes are smaller than most supportive housing studios are. Yes.
Eve: [00:34:05] Yeah. Interesting. Okay. Yeah, it’s a little bit harder when you have older buildings, you have to retrofit them because … you just can’t seal them as well.
Rebecca: [00:34:17] Yeh.
Eve: [00:34:17] You can’t really get as much energy efficiency as in, you know, a modular box that you’re thinking about that from day one. They just weren’t built that way. Yeah.
Rebecca: [00:34:26] Yeh. Right.
Eve: [00:34:27] So. Wrap up question. Where do you think the future of real estate impact investing lies?
Rebecca: [00:34:35] I mean, I think, definitely, as I said, where I think that private capital can be, from an affordable … from my lens, an affordable housing can be the most impactful, is in really coordinating closely, working with somebody like us, or others, that coordinate their dollars and the repayment of their dollars very closely with public sector dollars that are the permanent financing, which is a huge risk mitigation for their investment. And so, you know, I think in the case of San Francisco, it had the triple-A credit rating. So, investors really should feel comfortable as bridge lenders with taking on a fair amount of risk if they know that the city is a partner of ours. And so, and that can then allow us to help the, you know, the nonprofits move much faster and have one single funding source that could be extremely high loan to value ratio, for example, and not have to pull together many different funding sources, just anything that we can do with bringing in that private capital. And then really understanding how mitigated their risk is by the existence of the permanent capital at the back end. I think then can, you know, can help us deliver on greater efficiency and get them their goals of repayment and also get moved towards our goal, bringing down the permanent gap and getting more housing done faster and more cost effectively.
Eve: [00:36:11] So you’ve you’ve really bitten off a huge project. And I’m really, I’m really impressed and very grateful that you took the time to talk to me.
Rebecca: [00:36:22] Well, I love the work you’re doing, and it’s so great to be able to lift my head up sometimes and hear about what others are doing, innovating in this space around the world. So, with your, much appreciate the … documenting and sharing you are doing with the project.
Eve: [00:36:40] Well, thank you very much. And we’ll sign off. Thanks a lot. Bye.
Rebecca: [00:36:44] All right. Thank you. Bye.
Eve: That was Rebecca Foster, CEO of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator. What a huge challenge she has set herself. The accelerator wants to save one third of the existing 45,000 affordable housing units in San Francisco over the next 20 years. And they’re using a variety of financial tools to make sure that rents remain affordable. In just three years, the accelerator has saved 319 homes and raised $183 million in capital. You can find out more about impact real estate investing and access the show notes for today’s episode at my website rethinkrealestateforgood.co. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate while building better cities. Thank you so much for spending your time with me today. And thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your thoughts with me. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Foster, San Francisco Housing Accelerator