Meet the NMA team: Sammie Szabo

Sammie SzaboUp next in our “Meet the Team” interview series is senior associate trainer Sammie Szabo, who joined NMA five years ago after retiring from a four-decade career in the affordable housing industry. With longstanding expertise in complex topics such as project-based vouchers and mixed finance, Ms. Szabo was instrumental in the design of two new seminars focusing on those subjects, Blended Occupancy Management and Developing and Managing Project-Based Vouchers.

Tell us about your work experience.

Before joining Nan McKay and Associates, I worked for a PHA in Southern California for 36 years. That was before the Section 8 program was created, and we administered a public housing program with a total staff of seven people — two in the administrative office (me and the executive director), three in maintenance, and two in the resident services department.

Our waiting list for the public housing program was huge in comparison to the number of units owned by my PHA, and we were very excited when Congress approved the Section 8 program. I wrote our first application for the Section 8 certificate program, and we were approved! Subsequently I wrote and submitted a number of additional applications each and every time funds were available for the certificate program, as well as for the CIAP (pre-capital fund for public housing) and the resident services program.

I became the executive director of the PHA in 1980, and I believe that at age 26 I was the youngest ED. During my tenure with the PHA I expanded the Section 8 program, converted from certificates to vouchers, substantially remodeled the public housing development that had been constructed in 1940, expanded the resident services program, established a vibrant after-school program serving not only children in the public housing program but also in the surrounding community, acquired and rehabbed dilapidated apartments in order to expand affordable housing, and developed affordable housing for seniors using multiple funding sources, including low-income housing tax credits, redevelopment funds, and a loan from the California Housing Finance Agency.

How did you get your start in the industry?

I moved back to California and was looking for a job that interested me, and wasn’t just a paycheck. I was offered two jobs on the same day, one at a local college, the other with the housing authority. The people and the work at the housing authority interested me, I hadn’t had any experience in the public sector, and after growing up the community, I found the fact that there were programs to help persons of low income in a rather wealthy community fascinating.

I accepted the job with the housing authority, and I was hooked. The job was never boring, and the opportunities to learn, grow, and expand the programs and services that help families move up and out were challenging. I loved it! I always said I would leave the public sector when I got bored, or found the job no longer challenged me. It never happened. Frustrating at times? Absolutely! Boring? Never.

What’s one topic you’re most passionate about in the affordable housing industry?

Providing families, and especially children, with an opportunity to improve their lives and futures. Housing is the keystone to a better future.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

Helping the people who help the people. Sounds corny, but it’s what we do. At NMA we take pride in providing our students and clients with the tools they need to do their job well. I am thrilled when I complete a consulting assignment or training and know that because of the work we do, our clients are better prepared to serve their agencies and their clients and manage these precious federal resources.

Describe your typical work day?

There isn’t a typical work day. Some days are all about travel — getting from home base to the training or consulting site, dealing with airports, security, hotels, car rentals, and all that is associated with the joys of travel. Some days I get up very, very early, often in a  different time zone, locate training rooms and materials, unpack, set up a training room, and prepare myself to be ready and energized when the students arrive. Thank God for coffee!

Other days it’s all about meeting with agency staff, getting to know their agency and their needs in order to meet their consulting goals, and respectfully providing the services they need. Yes, living in hotels and eating meals alone is part of the job, but the services we provide are well worth the travel, long days, early mornings, and sore feet.

Tell us about a successful project that you had a part in.

I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of many successful projects: working with my team and the local police department to turn a crime-ridden public housing development into a clean, safe, family-friendly environment; developing much-needed senior housing for extremely low-income seniors as well as “gap group” seniors, those above the income limit levels for government subsidies but too poor to afford quality housing with services; and helping agencies create policies and procedures that allow them to better manage their agencies.

The one that touches my heart the most… the development of an after-school program for children in public housing. When I started at the housing authority, I was appalled by the dropout rate of the youth growing up in public housing. By the time I left my agency, 99 percent of our young people graduated from high school, and the majority went on to graduate from college. We made a real difference, long-term, in the lives of those children and their families.

When she isn’t traveling, training, or consulting, Sammie Szabo loves to read, and can devour a book or two a day. She also enjoys riding the dunes on her quad and appreciating the beauty of the desert, but her favorite pastime is spending time with her family.

Camp tax reform includes proposed changes to LIHTC program

Yesterday afternoon, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) released his proposal to reform the federal tax code. While his discussion draft would preserve the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, it also proposes significant changes to the program. You can read a summary of the proposal here.

Several industry organizations have already weighed in with their thoughts regarding the proposal. As Ethan Handelman writes in his NHC blog post, “Housing stakeholders will need time to analyze the 979-page bill, but a few points are clear immediately”:

Working with the LIHTC program: Tip #3

Sheryl PutnamTip #3: Know the definition of “project” in the LIHTC program.

The IRS considers each building in an LIHTC development its own project unless the owner indicates that the building is part of a multi-building project. This important election is made by the owner on line 8b of the IRS Form 8609.

If the project consists of multiple buildings, then “yes” will be checked on line 8b of the IRS Form 8609. If “yes” is selected, the owner must attach a statement to the form identifying each building in the multi-building project by Building Identification Number (BIN). If “no” is selected, then each building is its own project.

This election by the owner affects the project’s minimum set-aside and the ability of tenants to move between buildings without re-qualifying for initial LIHTC eligibility.

Bottom line: Know what your IRS Forms 8609 say!

To review, the three tips I’ve discussed are:

Managing the LIHTC program is a complex task. Be sure your agency has a clear plan for success.

As professional development manager, Sheryl Putnam took the lead role in designing NMA’s newest certification seminar, Fundamentals of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Management. Prior to joining Nan McKay and Associates in 2011, Ms. Putnam managed the compliance department for a state housing finance agency, providing compliance oversight activities for the LIHTC, PBRA, and HOME programs. She recently wrote a series for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

Take advantage of NMA’s annual year-end sale and save 20% on upcoming sessions of the new LIHTC class in Orlando, FL; Columbia, SC; and New Orleans, LA. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with the LIHTC program: Tip #2

Sheryl PutnamTip #2: Know what funding/subsidy sources your development has.

There are many different permissible combinations of funding/subsidy sources that can be used in developing affordable rental housing. The low-income housing tax credit program is one of the few programs that can be combined with just about anything.

When you have low-income housing tax credits layered with other funding/subsidy, such as public housing, project-based rental assistance, or HOME, compliance can be tricky. Make sure you keep copies of pertinent regulatory agreements, HAP contracts, income limits, rent limits, and written agreements in one place so that your staff can understand the development’s unique blend of programs.

Next: Working with the LIHTC program: Tip #3

As professional development manager, Sheryl Putnam took the lead role in designing NMA’s newest certification seminar, Fundamentals of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Management. Prior to joining Nan McKay and Associates in 2011, Ms. Putnam managed the compliance department for a state housing finance agency, providing compliance oversight activities for the LIHTC, PBRA, and HOME programs. She recently wrote a series for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

Take advantage of NMA’s annual year-end sale and save 20% on upcoming sessions of the new LIHTC class in Orlando, FL; Columbia, SC; and New Orleans, LA. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with the LIHTC program: Tip #1

Sheryl PutnamMany PHAs today have low-income housing tax credits. Penalties for noncompliance in the LIHTC program can be significant, and seasoned PHA staff skilled at administering HUD’s housing choice voucher or public housing programs need to understand the complexities of the LIHTC program and shouldn’t assume that the initial or ongoing program requirements are the same as other HUD programs.

Tip #1: Understand what your state monitoring agency’s compliance manual says.

The LIHTC program was created by Congress under the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and established in the Internal Revenue Service’s Internal Revenue Code, Section 42. The program provides financial incentives for the investment of private equity capital in the development of affordable rental housing. Each state agency designated as a “housing credit agency” receives an allocation of low-income housing tax credits based on that state’s population.

Each state agency must provide the procedures that will be followed when notifying the IRS of noncompliance events of which it becomes aware. In addition to complying with all federal requirements under the LIHTC program, PHAs that have properties with low-income housing tax credits must also understand what their state monitoring agency requires, as outlined in the state’s compliance procedures manual.

It’s important to recognize that state agency compliance procedures vary widely across the country. For example, some state monitoring agencies require written third-party verification of applicant/tenant household assets in any amount, while other state monitoring agencies allow applicant/tenant households to provide a signed, sworn statement that the household’s combined assets do not exceed $5,000, eliminating the need for written third-party verification of household assets.

Next: Working with the LIHTC program: Tip #2

As professional development manager, Sheryl Putnam took the lead role in designing NMA’s newest certification seminar, Fundamentals of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Management. Prior to joining Nan McKay and Associates in 2011, Ms. Putnam managed the compliance department for a state housing finance agency, providing compliance oversight activities for the LIHTC, PBRA, and HOME programs. She recently wrote a series for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

Take advantage of NMA’s annual year-end sale and save 20% on upcoming sessions of the new LIHTC class in Orlando, FL; Columbia, SC; and New Orleans, LA. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

The 2013 NMA Customer Satisfaction Survey

This is it! Your last chance to take the annual NMA Customer Satisfaction Survey. It’s very short, and only takes a minute or two to complete.

Please take a moment to share your feedback and let us know how we can better serve your needs in the future.

Take the survey now!

In other news, our annual year-end sale is currently underway. Save 20% on almost all of our products and open-enrollment classes, including model policies, NMA Master Books, and upcoming sessions of our popular new LIHTC class in Orlando, FL; Columbia, SC; Charlotte, NC; and New Orleans, LA.

Visit our online seminar calendar to see more upcoming classes. All sessions January thorough March without an asterisk are 20% off before January 1, 2014! Contact sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Friday news roundup 10/18/13

Bipartisan Policy Center (via NLIHC): On the 27th anniversary of the LIHTC, what lessons have we learned?

Colorlines: In the government shutdown, HUD definitely suffered the hardest blow

GoSection8: A collaboration between Oracle’s Siebel team and GoSection8.com delivers maximized efficiency to the nation’s largest housing authority

MetroTrends: Twelve ways government spending supports vulnerable people

New York Times: Give the National Housing Trust Fund its due

NHC: Housing’s role in bringing people together

NLIHC: Short animated video reveals the solution to ending homelessness

Off the Charts: The budget agreement marks an important victory

Rooflines: New study finds that LIHTC may have exacerbated segregation

ThinkProgress: The shutdown also had a disproportionate effect on women

Washington Post: Poor children are now the majority in American public schools in South, West

Wired: How segregated is your city?

New LIHTC class, customer satisfaction survey, and other NMA news

John McKayThank you to everyone who joined us at our inaugural housing conference. It’s hard to say what the highlight was, but some memorable moments were the cocktail cruise on San Diego Bay, the inspiring and moving acceptance speeches made by the recipients of this year’s NMA Housing Awards, and seeing industry faces both familiar and new engaged in spirited discussion. Here are a few thoughts from the housing professionals who attended:

“It was the best housing conference I have been to. I don’t say that lightly, as I have been in housing for 17 years and have been to a few of them. I definitely left better equipped than when I arrived! Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!” —Steve Sapp, Executive Director, Marion Housing Authority

“The NMA Housing Conference was so worth the wait. Great speakers, three tracks of vital housing industry information to choose from, and a needed reminder of why we do what we do. I am looking forward to the next one.” —Vivian Garcia, Housing Administrator, City of South Gate

“The NMA Housing Conference was great! I went home and told everyone at the Illinois Association of Housing Authorities Annual Meeting what a fine conference it was. You had very good presenters, the accommodations were spectacular, and the price was right!” —Housing Authority of the City of Marion

NMA's Terry Provance, Nan McKay, and Sammie Szabo presenting a legislative forecast for 2014

NMA’s Terry Provance, Nan McKay, and Sammie Szabo presenting a legislative forecast for 2014

NMA's Ray Adair and Ron Urlaub leading the conference's financial strategy track

NMA’s Ray Adair and Ron Urlaub leading the conference’s financial strategy track

To view more photos from the conference, go here if you’re using Firefox or Chrome. If you’re using Internet Explorer, go here to view the photos on our Facebook page.

I’d also like to extend a warm thank-you to our sponsors, GoSection8 and Yardi, who helped make the conference a truly special event.

Of course, all we can talk about right now is the government shutdown, but I’ll mention a few other items:

John McKay has been with NMA since 1998, and has served as chief executive officer of the company since 2007. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he was vice president of operations, spearheading the creation of the new consulting and technology services departments. This initiative introduced the first fully functional NMA Performance Portal to the affordable housing market.

Mr. McKay brings his knowledge of housing regulations and industry best practices into his role as project executive on many of NMA’s contracts with large housing authority clients and HUD. He has assessed, analyzed, and provided feedback to some of the country’s most well-run private and public organizations.

New NMA conference sessions and one-on-one consulting

One week left to register for the 2013 NMA Housing Conference and GoSection8 User Conference! New track sessions and signups for one-on-one consulting have just been announced. To read the full list of sessions, go here.

Executive Leadership for Performance Excellence

Don’t Waste Strategy Time on Goal Setting!
Presenter, Eric Kaufmann, President, Sagatica LLC

Most strategy sessions are merely operational — a missed leadership opportunity. Eric Kaufmann guides leadership teams across the country and coaches corporate CEOs. He will present the way to prepare a strategic action plan that becomes a useful resource to accomplish your agency’s goals within limited funding. You will discover the six deadly mistakes of strategy planning. Ask the right questions, set the right measurements, and get to work!

Regulatory Knowledge for Smart Management

Why Your Agency Should Be Taking a Second Look at RAD
Presenter, Carrol Vaughan

The RAD demonstration program is a unique opportunity for housing authorities to convert their at-risk public housing to long-term Section 8 rental assistance contracts. In this session, we’ll cover the latest information on the program and discuss why your housing authority should take a serious look at whether RAD would work for your agency. We’ll also hear from staff at a large housing authority on why their agency is considering submitting an application, and review the thought process involved in making the decision to apply.

Fair Housing/Civil Rights Reviews: Are You Prepared?
Presenter, Annie Stevenson

Using HUD’s civil rights review checklist, we’ll discuss fair housing requirements for the public housing and HCV programs. Topics will include limited English proficiency (LEP), reasonable accommodations, alternative communication methods, and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to prepare for civil rights monitoring.

Free One-on-One NMA Consulting

Reserve your free session with an NMA industry expert! These consulting sessions are limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. In fact, some are already full, so we encourage you to sign up now.

Nan McKayNan McKay, President and Founder
Expertise: HCV program management






John McKayJohn McKay, CEO
Expertise: Performance management, applying Baldrige principles to affordable housing






Carrol VaughanCarrol Vaughan, VP of Professional Services
Expertise: Procurement, organizational development






Dorian JenkinsDorian Jenkins, VP of Program Management
Expertise: HCV program, public housing leasing, tenant relations, rent collection, REAC prep, cost controls





Cydney JonesCydney Jones, Director of Program Management
Expertise: General HCV topics and issues






Sheryl PutnamSheryl Putnam, Professional Development Manager
Expertise: LIHTC compliance, HOME, PBRA






Samantha PratterSamantha Pratter, Writing Supervisor
Expertise: HCV and public housing eligibility, occupancy, and rent calculation






Annie StevensonAnnie Stevenson, Senior Trainer
Expertise: Fair housing, hearings, EIV, general HCV and public housing topics






Terry ProvanceTerry Provance, Senior Trainer
Expertise: Fair housing, PHAS, public housing property management, general asset management issues





Sammie SzaboSammie Szabo, Associate Trainer
Expertise: General HCV and public housing, PBV, blended occupancy






Jay OrtenzoJay Ortenzo, Property Services Manager
Expertise: HCV inspections and standards, public housing maintenance management






Teri RobertsonTeri Robertson, Senior Consultant
Expertise: SEMAP, quality control, HCV program utilization






Betty TurnerBetty Turner, Senior Associate Trainer
Expertise: Transition to asset management, supervision, working with commissioners






Please note that you must be a registered conference attendee or new registrant in order to take advantage of free consulting sessions. Non-registrants without an accompanying registration are not eligible. Register online or email sales@nanmckay.com for more information. Winners of the 2013 NMA Housing Awards will be announced at the conference — don’t miss it!

Changes on the way for RAD

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will host a meeting next month at HUD headquarters to discuss “new flexibilities” in the rules for the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 11, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be divided into two parts.

  • The first part will include a welcome by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, an overview of the changes, and a discussion of new provisions on financing, portfolio and multiphase conversions, and Moving to Work (MTW) conversions.
  • The second part will consist of topic-specific question-and-answer sessions and office hours with the RAD team.

The first part of the meeting will be broadcast online, but only those who attend in person will be able to participate in the second part. HUD is inviting PHAs, development partners, lenders, low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investors, consultants, RAD participants and applicants, and other partners to attend the meeting. A formal agenda and registration instructions will be published soon.

To stay updated, follow the #RAD tag to keep up with all related blog posts or subscribe to the PIH Alert and Housing Resource Newsletter.

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