August 2021
In Memoriam
It is with great sadness that we report that AHFA Board member, builder and veteran Tommy Doyal passed away August 6.

Doyal was appointed to the AHFA Board of Directors in December 2002. For 19 years, he was an integral member of our Board, and we all held him in the greatest affection and respect.

During his 30-year career in the residential real estate business, he was a partner in several development, building or real estate companies. He was an active member of the Home Builders Association of Alabama--serving as president of HBAA, president of the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders, chairman of the HBAA Land Developers Council, and a trustee of the Alabama Home Builders Self Insurance Fund.

The Board and staff of AHFA extend sincere sympathies to his wife Karen, their children and grandchildren, and their family and friends.
Many of you have met AHFA’s Stephany Dorberth, our front desk receptionist who, for years, greeted you before recently moving to accounting. We are heartbroken to report that her husband, Craig, has passed away after an extended illness. Please keep them and their two young children in your prayers. 
AHFA Board of Directors to Meet in September
The AHFA Board of Directors will meet Tuesday, September 21 at 11 a.m. in the AHFA offices.
Comments Accepted on AHFA's Homeowner Assistance Fund Program
AHFA conducted a public hearing August 12 concerning the proposed plan for the Mortgage Assistance Alabama Program.

MAA is a foreclosure prevention program designed to assist financially distressed homeowners affected by COVID-19 since January 21, 2020. Funding for this program is provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury under the Homeowner Assistance Fund established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

AHFA will continue to accept written comments regarding the proposed plan through 5 p.m. on September 9.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/36VERjp.
MOTY Success Story: Rene' Hendrix, Emerald Valley Apartments, Evergreen
Rene’ Hendrix, manager of Emerald Valley Apartments in Evergreen, was recently named Alabama Housing Finance Authority’s 2021 Manager of the Year (MOTY). Now in its 24th year, the MOTY award recognizes outstanding management staff at AHFA-funded developments.
 
Rene’ started as the manager at Emerald Valley, a 45-unit development targeted to the elderly, in February 2015. Of her win, she says, “It was an honor just to be nominated for this award, and I am shocked to win. I knew there were many nominees. I have always been the type of person to try to do and be my best, and at times, I think it is never enough. Winning this award makes me want to be even better at my job and a better person in general. I am very thankful and blessed.
 
During her time at Emerald Valley, Rene’ has received several awards, including the Bob Morrow Citizenship Award. This award is a recognition for service to others, including providing new services and community functions to improve the lives of residents and the community.

Service to others kicked into an even higher gear with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rene’ says, “The biggest thing for me when COVID hit and we had to shut down the amenities, which included the Nutrition Center for Meals on Wheels, was to ensure the safety and well-being of my residents. Most importantly, I wanted them to know that we were all in this together and together we would work through any issues that may arise. For those unable to do so, we sanitized for them, provided them with masks, and provided them with as much information we could get regarding COVID-19. It was important to always keep them in the loop – many do not have cable and did not get the news.”

Most of the residents at Emerald Valley are recipients of the Meals on Wheels program. Rene’ says, “During the weekdays, the meal they served during lunch is the only meal some residents may eat that day.” Once the program was put on hold due to COVID-19, Rene’ says, “Making sure they were able to have a hot meal was most important. I enlisted the help of several residents and we cooked or made hot dogs and sandwiches to hand out to those that needed something to eat. Although we could not do this every day, we did it as often as we could.”

Residents are used to Rene’ taking care of them, and part of that includes big holiday celebrations. Celebrations include door decoration contests, socials and Easter egg hunts. Rene’ adds, “Football season is always a fun time for the residents. We have two televisions in the Community Room, and our company provided a popcorn machine so it could be used for movie or game nights. There is something going on every weekend. This was difficult during COVID-19 and it was upsetting to residents that we could not congregate and do our normal fun things, but we made it through.”

Christmas is of course a huge decorating season and social holiday. Rene’ says, “We have around 10 or so Christmas trees that average from 2 feet high to 16 feet, and we use every one of them. Decorations start going up the day after Halloween. It takes about a week, but the property is transformed. I have a handful of residents that join me in this tremendous task. I could not do it alone. Every year we increase the decorations and change them up. The residents love that time of year around here. Our little community of Evergreen knows that if they want Christmas pictures taken, Emerald Valley is the place to come, and they do.”

Rene’ is happy to be working in affordable housing as well. She says, “It keeps people off the streets or living in areas that are unsanitary and unsafe. Many elderly and low-income families cannot afford what your average market rent would be for a decent, clean, safe place to live.” Her nomination package was filled with compliments from her employer and letters from tenants supporting her nomination for Manager of the Year, all highlighting her strong work ethic and commitment to her residents. Rene’ says, “I just love what I do. I am not just a figure sitting behind a desk in the office. I treat my residents like family - because here, we are family.”
Realtor Spotlight: Anita Dawkins-Weatherington, Community 1st Real Estate, Dothan
Antia Dawkins-Weatherington has received a number of accolades for both her career in real estate and her impressive community service work. She is a past Woman of the Year awarded by the Dothan Association of Women’s Club and has recently been featured by the Alabama Association of Realtors and in Business Alabama magazine. Anita has been in the real estate business for more than 13 years, and in 2017, opened Community 1st Real Estate in Dothan. Her brokerage now employs 10 agents.
 
Q: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in real estate during your career?
A: It is now vital to educate people about the homebuying process. I host monthly workshops at my office to help people learn the basics towards becoming homeowners, including teaching financial literacy and bringing in credit counseling.
 
Q: How did you hear about AHFA programs?
A: PrimeLending in Montgomery first introduced me to the Step Up program, and since then, I became the first person to introduce it to lenders and Realtors in the Dothan area. I told them about how the program helped me sell 14 houses in 6 months. I regularly keep up-to-date on the program by visiting the AHFA website and talk about it in interviews and to anyone who might need to hear about it.
 
Q: What do you think is the greatest benefit of Step Up for homebuyers?
A: It’s more than just a program to me. It’s a tool that all buyers need to consider. Instead of spending all their savings on a down payment, it gives homebuyers the opportunity to keep some money in reserve or use it for extra expenses when moving, furnishing their new home, etc. I have video testimonials of buyers who have used the program and are so thankful, especially the ones that have limited resources or had a good credit score but didn’t have all the money for a big down payment. They were paying more to rent than they are now paying on their mortgage.
 
Q: What is the best advice you can give to first-time homebuyers?
A: Learn about the programs out there to see what fits your needs. Not all lenders offer the same products, and you definitely don’t want to change lenders numerous times and have your credit pulled several times. Also, this is the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime. It is worth going to a Homebuyer Workshop to get educated. Becoming a homeowner is not just making a purchase. It’s about making an investment for your family.  
 
Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A: I love helping people understand the homebuying process and finding products that fit their needs. Helping them purchase their new home has become something of a ministry to me.
Comments Accepted on 2022 Allocation Plans
Following a July 28 public hearing, AHFA accepted public comments through August 28 on the draft 2022 HOME Investment Partnerships Program Action Plan, the Housing Credit Qualified Allocation Plan, and the National Housing Trust Fund Allocation Plan.

AHFA received 185 written comments regarding the draft plans from 36 individuals/organizations. The proposed plans and comments are available at http://bit.ly/2i82idW.
Developer Tips for Success: Fred Bennett
We are continuing a new feature called Developer Tips for Success. Fred Bennett, managing partner and chief financial officer with The Bennett Group, LLC, is our second participant. Participation in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and other federal housing programs requires significant individual and team experience/expertise, a tolerance for financial risk, and an ability to obtain major banking and credit relationships. We hope hearing from successful AHFA developers will inspire and educate others who are interested in becoming affordable housing owners/developers or increasing their level of experience.

Q: How long have you worked in the affordable housing industry?
A: I began working to organize migrant farm workers into self-help housing groups as a VISTA volunteer in the Fort Myers area of Florida in 1967. I knew and worked with migrant families there who lived in shacks with no plumbing, and some even slept under the produce trailers with their kids. That’s when I felt a calling to develop affordable housing, and I’ve been working as an affordable housing developer ever since.

Q: What are the key challenges or barriers to participating in this industry?
A: Ours is a niche industry requiring knowledge of Section 42, HOME, HTF, and other federal programs that change from year to year. One must keep up with this in addition to following good real estate development practices in various locations. The costs are high to bring a project-funding application together and the selection process is highly competitive. Developers need enough capital to compete and to keep their team together between jobs. Meeting ever-increasing environmental regulations is expensive and challenging. Since last year, supply shortages and very rapidly escalating costs for materials have been the greatest challenge.

Q: What tips would you give others who might be interested in a career in affordable housing development?
A: I think the best way to start, perhaps the only way, is as an employee working with an affordable housing developer.

Q: Share any tips to becoming a successful owner and/or developer?
A: There are no “Lone Ranger” developers and The Bennett Group is no exception. Internally, we work as a team. The process is complex and also requires a team of third-party professionals who communicate and work well together. A good developer works a lot like the conductor of an orchestra – he or she identifies talented professionals, inspires them with a common mission, and communicates constantly, trying to draw the best from them. This all has to be done within a budget and a timeframe, and it must be done with a supportive “win-win” attitude toward all involved.

Q: What do you see as the greatest benefit of affordable housing?
A: There’s a gladness we share with residents when they first see their new apartments. Many are astonished to see a quality of housing they thought they never could afford. But the greatest benefit is seeing these new neighbors become real neighbors over time, and becoming a healthy community.

Q: Anything else you’d like to include?
A: For a few years, in addition to my development activity, I worked on the acquisitions team for a syndicator and had the opportunity to meet developers in several states, attend their state housing conferences and learn how the various state agencies operated. Alabama has one of the best state housing finance authorities in the nation, some of the best developers, and one of the best looking and best managed affordable housing portfolios in the country. Our trade group, the Alabama Affordable Housing Association is, I believe, the top group in the country.
Welcome New Lender, GoPrime Mortgage
AHFA is pleased to welcome GoPrime Mortgage, Inc., as a participating lender in the Step Up program. GoPrime Mortgage has offices located in Hamilton and Jasper to serve potential home buyers.

For more information, visit https://www.goprime.com/.
Grand Opening Held for Village at Bridge Creek
A grand opening and ribbon-cutting event was held August 19 in Cullman to celebrate the grand opening of Village at Bridge Creek. The newly constructed, 56-unit development was financed in part by $333,940 in HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds, $1 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and $348,332 in National Housing Trust Funds, administered in Alabama by AHFA.

AHFA administers multifamily programs to create affordable rental housing by providing funding and tax incentives that help developers build or rehabilitate properties for Alabama’s low-income families.
AHFA Offices to Close for Labor Day
The AHFA and ServiSolutions offices will be closed Monday, September 6 in observance of the Labor Day holiday.

We will reopen at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 7.
Alabama Housing Finance Authority | Montgomery, Alabama | 334.244.9200 | Email | Website