Category Archive: Transportation

  1. New Study on CA Rail System Casts Spotlight on Transit-Oriented Development

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    Passenger train in downtown San DiegoSince the early 20th century, California has forged its identity as a car-based culture, especially in the southern regions of the state. However, concerns about the impact of climate change, commute times, and the costs associated with owning a vehicle have triggered interest in alternatives to the combustion engine as the prime mover of the California economy. These options include enhancing access to one of the largest rail systems in the nation.

    Rail and the California Economy, a recent report published by the University of California, Berkeley, examines the dynamic role passenger and freight rail play in shaping cities and influencing where jobs are located. California has almost 4,000 miles of track owned by Union Pacific and BNSF, with an additional 800 miles operated by short-line regional railroads. This network circulates through our main metropolitan areas (Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno) and connects coastal communities with those further inland, moving over 38 million passengers to their destinations each year.

    The clustering of people, firms, housing, goods, and services – called “agglomeration” or transit-oriented development – within transportation corridors adds an exciting dimension to housing development. After years of debating the environmentally-friendly concept of “smart growth,” regional planning and transportation agencies now view the underutilized land surrounding transit hubs or stations as fertile sites for increased density and vibrant employment centers.

    One benefit of clustering arises from a public financing tool called “value capture,” which occurs when a transit agency leverages a station’s created value by actively seeking to develop land it owns around that station for housing, retail, and other commercial uses. San Francisco’s new Transbay Terminal is one such project. The Transbay Transit Center Project transforms downtown San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional transportation system by creating a “Grand Central Station of the West,” and has anchored a resurgence of the transit-friendly neighborhood. The approximately $6 billion project replaces the former Transbay Terminal at First and Mission Streets in San Francisco with a modern regional transit hub connecting eight Bay Area counties and the State of California through 11 transit systems: AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, Greyhound, SF Muni, SamTrans, WestCAT, Amtrak, and future high speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim.

    The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, in collaboration with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, is developing the Transbay project through competitive bid by private developers. Financing consists of a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) direct loan of $171 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The TIFIA loan is secured by a senior lien on project revenues, which include dedicated tax increment revenues from land sold and developed in the state-owned parcels surrounding the transit center (98% of revenues), and a commitment of passenger facilities charges from the transit center’s initial primary tenant, AC Transit (2% of revenues). This is the first TIFIA loan secured by value capture revenues from real estate taxes on surrounding transit-oriented development.

    The study also features Redwood City as an excellent example of how transit-oriented development can generate the benefits of an agglomeration economy. By implementing a comprehensive, high-density development plan anchored by its Caltrain station, Redwood City has experienced explosive growth in the neighborhood surrounding the train station.

    As a target for value capture, the land surrounding urban rail is a primary focus of new development. However, to overcome the constraints of investing in TOD areas without existing markets, financial incentives are typically required. Joint land use and leveraged funding among transit agencies, cities, and foundations are laying the groundwork for a high level of economic stimulus and return on investment in underutilized neighborhoods.

    For more information about AHSC grants and technical assistance opportunities, please contact Autumn Bernstein, Principal, at autumn@elpadvisors.com.

    LeSar-Autumn-5x7Autumn Bernstein, Principal, Estolano LeSar Perez (ELP) Advisors, is an expert in urban planning, transportation, housing, and environmental policy. She has 15 years of experience as a policy advocate, strategic advisor, non-profit executive, and facilitator in communities across California. Autumn is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in El Cerrito.

  2. New AHSC Grant Guidelines Approved, ELP Advisors Again Provides Technical Assistance

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    AHSC Sustainable CommunitiesCalifornia is gearing up for Round 3 of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grant program, and ELP Advisors will once again play a key role in providing technical assistance to select applicants.

    On July 17th, the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) approved new guidelines for the next round of AHSC grantmaking. Earlier this month, the council announced that LDC’s affiliate, Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, has once again been chosen to provide technical assistance to qualifying AHSC applicants. We are excited to continue our successful partnership with SGC and to team with Enterprise in providing comprehensive assistance to applicants across California.

    The new AHSC guidelines make some important changes since the last round, many in response to feedback from applicants. We are hopeful that these changes will make the application process less cumbersome, more effective and allow a wider range of communities to be competitive for funding. Here’s a rundown of the major changes:

    Bye bye, concept app: Repeat AHSC applicants will be happy to learn that concept applications are no longer required. They have been replaced with a checklist and an optional consultation with SGC staff. This change should greatly streamline the application process and give applicants a good idea of their competitiveness prior to investing time and money into a detailed application. A host of other, smaller changes are also aimed at streamlining and simplifying the process.

    New housing and anti-displacement requirements: The guidelines strengthen and, in some cases, add new requirements aimed at ensuring AHSC funds flow to communities that are complying with state housing law and protecting vulnerable communities from displacement.

    Changes to include more rural projects: Thanks to changes to the net density requirements, projects across a wider spectrum of rural communities will now be eligible for AHSC.

    Indian Tribes now eligible: Federally-recognized Indian Tribes are now eligible to apply for AHSC grants.

    New threshold criteria: Several scoring elements that were optional last year have become mandatory, known in AHSC lingo as “threshold” requirements. These include certain housing affordability and urban greening elements.

    You can review the new guidelines here.

    With the guidelines adopted and the technical assistance team in place, Round 3 of AHSC grantmaking will get underway this fall. The notice of funding availability (NOFA) will be released in October, applications will be due in January, and awards will be announced in May.

    Even before the NOFA is released, the council will begin the process of selecting applicants to receive free technical assistance from ELP Advisors and Enterprise. No details yet, but we expect there to be an announcement in August. We’ll keep you posted.

    For more information about AHSC grants and technical assistance opportunities, please contact Autumn Bernstein, Principal, at autumn@elpadvisors.com.

    LeSar-Autumn-5x7Autumn Bernstein, Principal, Estolano LeSar Perez (ELP) Advisors, is an expert in urban planning, transportation, housing, and environmental policy. She has 15 years of experience as a policy advocate, strategic advisor, non-profit executive and facilitator in communities across California. Autumn is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in El Cerrito.

  3. Legislature Passes Cap and Trade, Delays Vote on Affordable Housing Measures

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    After months of intense negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators reached an agreement to extend cap and trade until 2030. On Monday, the Legislature voted to approve two bills that will assure the continuation of the market-based climate program. Legislative leaders also announced that they are postponing a vote on several affordable housing bills until August.

    Cap and Trade

    Gov and State Lawmakers Unveil New Plan to Extend Cap and TradeYesterday’s vote on Assembly Bill 398 (Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella) will require the California Air Resources Board to establish a firm upper limit for the price of allowances or permits to emit one metric ton of greenhouse gases. The current cap-and-trade system set a floor for prices but did not have a fixed ceiling to prevent prices from rising.

    Assembly Bill 617 (Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens; Eduardo Garcia, and Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles) requires stricter air pollution monitoring around industrial facilities and tougher penalties for violating pollution regulations. This benefits communities located near these facilities.

    “Today’s vote on AB 398 to extend Cap and Trade marks an important milestone in the fight against climate change,” said Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who previously led efforts to direct cap and trade funding toward transit-oriented affordable housing projects while serving as Speaker of the Assembly. “Without this extension, California would have been in serious danger of failing to meet our ambitious, world-leading climate goals.”

    Passage of these bills represents a second milestone in assuring the future of cap and trade. In June, California’s Supreme Court upheld an appeals court’s approval of the program. Opponents had challenged the program as essentially amounting to an unauthorized tax.

    Affordable Housing

    Senate Bill 2 Leaps Forward in the State AssemblyAmid Monday’s debate on cap and trade, the Governor, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a joint statement reaffirming their shared commitment to address California’s housing needs when the Legislature resumes in August.

    “Astronomical housing costs are straining family budgets and stress employees who can’t afford to live where they work. That’s unacceptable, and it’s why the affordable housing crisis has been one of our top priorities. The package of legislation we are all working on will help ensure Californians won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to have a roof over their head.”

    The package of bills under consideration includes the Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB 2), which was authored by Sen. Atkins and 12 co-signers and gained momentum on July 12th following an approval vote in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee and a motion that allowed the bill to bypass the Appropriations Committee and move directly to the Assembly Floor.

    The Building Homes and Jobs Act establishes a permanent funding source that will increase California’s supply of affordable homes, create jobs, and spur economic growth. Ongoing revenues would be obtained through fees on real estate document filings, excluding residential and commercial property sales. Fees would not exceed $225 per transaction.

    Modeled on the Building Homes and Jobs Act bill (AB 1335 — Atkins), SB 2 would address the urgent need for affordable housing funding lost through the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies in January 2012. The bill would generate an estimated $200 million annually following implementation in 2018.

    According to the bill’s sponsors, the California Housing Consortium and Housing California, SB 2 will create approximately 29,000 jobs for every $500 million raised, primarily in the construction sector. The bill would also leverage an additional $2.78 billion in federal, local, and private sector investment.

    Other bills that will be under consideration by the Legislature include:

    Senate Bill 3, the Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 (Beall, D-San Jose), which would authorize a ballot measure asking voters statewide to approve $3 billion in bond financing for rental housing and existing housing programs in the November 2018 election.

    Senate Bill 35 (Wiener, D-San Francisco), which would eliminate multiple local planning reviews for individual projects that meet certain zoning and affordability standards. Under provisions negotiated with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, projects of more than 10 units that qualify for expedited approval would pay union-level wages to construction workers, and developers of some larger projects would have to agree to union-standard work rules or apprenticeship programs.

    Assembly Bill 45, the California School Employee Housing Assistance Grant Program (Thurmond, D-Richmond), which would require the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) to administer a $25 million predevelopment grant and loan fund for the creation of affordable housing for school district employees.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  4. Register Now for the 2017 California Economic Summit

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    CES logoRegister for the 2017 California Economic Summit taking place in San Diego on November 2-3, and save $100 on registration through August 31 using LeSar Development Consultants’ special code: LESAR17.

    Join the state’s largest existing coalition of public- and private-sector leaders, coming together for the sixth annual Summit to advance three ambitious goals:

    • Create a unifying triple-bottom-line vision for increasing economic security and upward mobility
    • Expand the strength and diversity of the Summit network to increase its influence on state and local policy decisions
    • Mature the Summit as a formal civic partner with government to advance triple-bottom-line policies

    The Summit highlights progress on The 2017 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, which offers detailed action plans to improve the workforce pipeline, increase the supply of housing near jobs and transit, and expand regional water management of the state’s vital water supplies.

    register_now

    Jennifer LeSar, CEO of LeSar Development Consultants and Chair of the Summit Host Committee, was among the local leaders who collaborated to bring the Summit to the San Diego region.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  5. The Battle to Extend Cap-and-Trade Intensifies

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    Smokestack PlantCalifornia’s Supreme Court has upheld an appeals court’s approval of the greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. Opponents such as the California Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and Morning Star Packing Company had challenged the program as essentially amounting to an unauthorized tax.

    However, the issue of whether cap-and-trade has the authority to continue operating past 2020 continues to pose a challenging debate.

    According to the LA Times, after signing the new state budget in June, Gov. Jerry Brown has intensified efforts to reach a deal with lawmakers on a blueprint for California’s future climate change policies. Advisers believe an agreement to extend the cap-and-trade program can be reached in July.

    In a shift from recent quarterly auction results, nearly all of the permits offered by the state in its latest cap-and-trade auction were purchased, generating an estimated $500 million in revenue. Auction proceeds fund environmental, infrastructure and affordable housing programs.

    Three bills were introduced this year to extend the program after its 2020 expiration date. SB 775 (Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont), would establish a stable structure for the carbon pricing program, eliminate allowance banking, and include a border tax on the import of specific high-GHG intensive products. Under SB 775, revenue from cap-and-trade would raise several billion dollars annually and climb steadily over time, with California consumers receiving a “climate dividend rebate” from quarterly auction revenues. The California Climate Equity Coalition is advocating for “a means-tested dividend that focuses on low-income households most burdened by energy costs as the primary beneficiaries. Dividends to individuals should be balanced by continuing robust public investments that will help Californians transition to a clean energy economy, including clean transportation, affordable housing near transit, transit operations and passes, urban forestry, energy efficiency and solar.”

    The price of a metric ton of carbon dioxide has a rising price floor, currently set at $13.57 per metric ton. SB 775 establishes a floor and ceiling “price collar,” with bidding starting at $20 and $30 per metric ton in 2021, rising to $20 and $40 in 2022, and then increasing each subsequent year by $5 and $10. The ceiling would exceed the price of carbon in most European nations, and would be higher than the $37 tax in Canada starting in 2022. By 2030 the ceiling could eventually surpass Sweden’s carbon tax of around $150 per metric ton, the most expensive in the world. Passage of the new measure will require two-thirds majority approval in both houses of California’s legislature.

    Assembly Bill 378 (Christina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens), which proposed extending cap-and-trade to 2030 and requiring facility-specific air pollutant emissions standards after 2020, failed in the Assembly on June 1st. Another bill, AB 151 (Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, and Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove), that would have made cap-and-trade permanent never came up for a vote.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  6. Committee to House the Bay Area Prepares for September Launch

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    CASA logoCASA—the Committee to House the Bay Area—has brought together a new multi-sector group of 42 leaders from throughout the Bay Area to develop a strategy to respond to the region’s housing crisis and improve access to housing for all income levels. Although CASA will officially launch in September, the Technical Committee began its work in June with the engagement of cross-disciplinary experts.

    CASAOver the next 16 months, CASA will work to build consensus around solutions to increase housing production at all levels of affordability, preserve existing affordable housing stock, and protect vulnerable populations from experiencing housing instability and threats of displacement. The resulting strategy is expected to include innovative financing strategies, state and local legislation, and recommendations to address the current regulatory environment. The strategy will accompany Plan Bay Area 2040, which serves as the region’s land use and transportation roadmap.

    CASA will be co-chaired by SV@Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia, San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell, and Chairman and CEO of TMG Partners Michael Covarrubias. Key advisors to CASA include Jennifer LeSar of LeSar Development Consultants, Cecilia Estolano of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, Carol Galante of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, and Karen Chapple of the Urban Displacement Project.

    Members of CASA’s Steering and Technical Committees include diverse leaders from the private, philanthropic, governmental, and nonprofit sectors throughout the Bay Area, including the Mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, and representatives from  other cities and counties, Google and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, Bank of America, labor groups, and market rate and affordable housing developers.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  7. Free Webinar on Using GreenTRIP Connect to Win Cap and Trade Funding for Transit Oriented Developments

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    Through its Toolbox Tuesdays program, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has announced an upcoming webinar on June 6, 2017, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on “Using GreenTrip Connect.” GreenTRIP Connect is a free statewide tool that forecasts greenhouse gas and traffic reductions, parking savings and other features on a parcel by parcel basis depending on proposed project specifications. This webinar will demonstrate how GreenTRIP Connect can directly support projects and city policies to maximize competitiveness to the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) portion Cap and Trade program.

    In addition to a demonstration of the program, the webinar will also provide an overview of how GreenTRIP Connect was used to support a proposed redevelopment of the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station into a mixed use, multi-generation transit-oriented village. Finally, there will be a presentation on how parking data will soon be included in the GreenTRIP Parking Database and the basis for a parking model in Connect for Los Angeles. The speaker will discuss how these tools can support extensive efforts on revamping CEQA transportation thresholds for affordable housing and to develop a new Transportation Demand Management (TDM) ordinance. To sign-up for the event, register at: https://scag.wufoo.com/forms/kfkc2t21oqqnd2/

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  8. California’s Latest Cap and Trade Auction Fails to Meet Goals

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    Emissions picAs described by the Sacramento Bee, February’s quarterly auction of carbon dioxide emission allowances was “another washout for the state,” with just 16.5 percent of the 74.8 million metric tons sold. The weak results of the auction follows the sub-par performance of the last three quarterly auctions in 2016. The California Air Resources Board offered 43.7 million tons of state-owned emission allowances, but sold just 602,340 tons of advance 2020 allowances, generating only $8.2 million rather than the nearly $600 million that would have been received from a full sale.

    The disappointing results are likely to have an impact on Governor Brown’s 2017-2018 budget plan to spend $2.2 billion on numerous climate-related programs and projects, including the funding needed for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, now in its third year. It also is triggering calls for reform, as the Governor is pushing to reauthorize the cap and trade program beyond 2020, when it expires.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  9. New SRO Legislation in San Francisco Preserves Residential Hotel Rooms

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    Buildings On January 25th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee approved legislation designed to discourage residential hotel owners from renting out rooms to tourists and to prevent the conversion of affordable housing into boutique hotels and short-term rental units. The legislation stops the practice of renting out Single Room Occupancy (SRO) rooms by the week, requiring instead a 32-day minimum stay in most cases.

    The legislation also increases penalties for violations and in lieu conversion fees and strengthens the reporting requirements and enforcement powers for the Department of Building Inspection, which enforces the city’s SRO ordinance. The measure addresses the extreme reduction in the number of SROs, often the affordable housing of last resort for vulnerable residents who cannot keep up with the high rent costs in the Bay Area. The supply of SRO units has dropped from 33,000 units in the 1970s to around 19,000 today despite a 35-year old law limiting conversions to other uses.

    On January 31st, the Board of Supervisors anonymously approved the legislation. However, a second vote will be needed for final approval.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  10. Keeping California Moving – Key Transportation Infrastructure Proposals for 2017

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    The ever-growing multi-billion dollar backlog in unfunded transportation projects may finally be resolved in part through twin bills – SB 1 (Beall) and AB 1 (Frazier). If successful, these bills would impose a gas tax and increases in vehicle registration fees to fund a Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation account to address deferred maintenance on the state highway system and the local street and road system.

    We can expect to see other alternative approaches to funding transportation infrastructure, including highway usage or mileage fees, as the debate continues throughout the year. A third senate bill (SB 4 – Mendoza), subject to voter approval at the June 5, 2018 statewide primary election, would enact the Goods Movement and Clean Trucks Bond Act to authorize $600 million of state general obligation bonds as follows: $200 million to the California Transportation Commission for projects and programs eligible for funding from the Trade Corridors Improvement Fund; $200 million to the State Air Resources Board for projects and programs consistent with the Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program; and $200 million to the State Air Resources Board for projects and programs to expand the use of zero- and near-zero emission trucks in areas of the state with chronically high smog levels.

    A proposed $1 trillion federal infrastructure plan to be pushed forward under the Trump Administration which is based on public-private investments and tax credits, is another driver that will bring major transportation infrastructure financing to the front in 2017.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.