Everyone deserves a place to call home, and Conifer Realty is dedicated to making that dream come true for thousands in a painfully expensive rental market
In today’s housing market, the gap between what renters can afford and market rental rates has never been greater. Affordable housing has been an industry sector for decades, but in these days of rising mortgage rates and skyrocketing rents, attainable housing has become its own sector. Two decades ago, affordable housing was a real estate product for families, individuals, and seniors earning 60% or less of an area’s median income (AMI), but in recent days has spread out to include a much wider range of earners.
“So many of us in this country are faced with what we now call attainable housing challenges,” Conifer Realty president Sam Leone told BOSS. “You can be earning a really great income and still have a hard time finding a realistic place to live. The world has evolved, and we're here to be part of the solution to that problem.”
Since 1975 Conifer Realty has been developing, building, owning, and managing multifamily homes with the majority of its past efforts having been made in the affordable housing marketplace. “We work with tax credits and with local municipalities and state agencies to provide rental multifamily apartments to those that otherwise would not be able to afford market rate rents,” he explained.
Today, in some markets renters earning $150,000 may not realistically be able to find a place to live or find a home close to where they work or where their children go to school. Whether as a consequence of gentrification or income limitation, many older adults who want to stay in the neighborhoods where they grew up find themselves displaced – and with few decent alternatives.
“That demographic historically has not had any real programmatic support systems,” Leone said, “but that need is becoming more and more acutely visible as single-family home prices continue to rise as mortgage rates rise.”
Conifer Realty is working to change that. The firm has been a stalwart in the Mid-Atlantic, concentrating its efforts in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
The nationally ranked, full-service real estate company has developed over 21,000 affordable housing apartments across more than 300 residential communities in those states. Conifer also consistently maintains a pipeline of over 60 unique projects in various stages of the development process. These days, they are scaling up, expanding their unique approach to creating housing communities from Maine to Florida.
The one-stop-service approach to real estate runs the gamut from development, construction, management, marketing, legal, finance, accounting, tax credit compliance, and ownership services, employing over 600 highly skilled professionals in each of these realms. With a mission to create the best housing communities in the marketplace, the enterprise is committed to building superior products that enhance the quality of life for its residents.
Conifer’s robust but intentional growth strategy has kicked off a rapid expansion that will be on the upswing as it moves to double its size in the next five years. “It might sound pretty ambitious to go from four states to 12 or 13 just like that, but we’re building on a strong, well-planned foundation,” Leone said. Leone has been at Conifer for over 16 years, and was promoted to President, the top-ranking position, just over a year ago. To help support him and his team as they move their business plans forward, Conifer has recently established an Advisory Board, made up of five representatives from various perspectives, to assist Leone and the Executive Team in broadening perspective, providing a safe space for bouncing ideas, and staying abreast of major industry issues. Additionally, Leone credits his own time and investment in leadership training for himself and his staff, including his participation in Vistage Worldwide, a global organization of CEOs and Executives with which he shares ideas and mentorship.
On the build side of the business, Conifer’s 17-year partnership with LeChase Construction, one of the larger general contractors on the East Coast, has become permanent as Conifer-LeChase Construction. Not only did the partnership enable horizontal and vertical integration to make procurement and sourcing more efficient, the alignment of their complimentary cultures made Conifer a complete end-to-end operation, and a true powerhouse in the sector.
Affordable or attainable?
Conifer works within the extremely competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. The credits fund developments that are mostly affordable to people earning 60% or less in the immediate AMI, that is typically people earning about $60,000 or less. “In most places, that's your teachers, your firefighters, young professionals that haven't quite gotten there yet, and it's your senior citizen on limited income,” Leone said. “The next step is workforce and attainable housing, which really goes from that to as much as 130 or 150% of the AMI.”
The firm is deeply sensitive to developing housing opportunities in food deserts. It’s another forward step in their quest to eliminate housing scarcity. For many people living in suburban areas or urban centers that were designed to be walkable but over time changed into more car-centric neighborhoods, the grocery store can be miles out of their way. “Without a grocery store, they have to resort to a convenience store or bodega or pay more money for lower quality foods or get an Uber to go to the grocery store. None of those are very good options. It’s not equitable to that population,” he stressed.
The village of Hempstead, Long Island, is diverse and bustling but lacks a local grocery store option easily accessible to many residents. However, their existing commuter rail infrastructure provides an alternative, one that Conifer is eagerly developing: They recently broke ground for an apartment community across the street from the train platform, which will give residents access to nutritious food and as well as an affordable place to live.
The 228 apartments will serve people with incomes ranging from 30% up to 120% of the median income. The building’s first floor has commercial space, and Conifer worked with village leadership to make the most of it. A local minority owned and managed grocery store will be housed on the first floor.
“We aspire to do that everywhere. It's really important to us,” Leone said. “It goes beyond our mission of housing, but as our tagline says we are ‘home for possibilities.’ We believe it so firmly that we try to go the extra mile everywhere.”
The two most important concerns for Conifer are their people and the impact they make on the communities they serve. “We've been given the privilege to provide housing for those that don't have the luxury of being able to buy or rent a house wherever they feel like,” he concluded. “That's important to us and we take it seriously.”
Conifer Realty is a dynamic, vertically integrated organization that creates and manages high-quality affordable and workforce housing. Conifer is devoted to growth, to innovation and to being purposeful to our community. Every step in the process creates a path to a HOME for Possibilities- a HOME for our residents, and a HOME for our employees.
Conifer maintains offices in Rochester, New York City, and Long Island, New York; Mount Laurel, New Jersey; and Columbia, Maryland, while expanding into new markets across the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest to fulfill the dire need for high-quality, affordable housing. The company has developed over 21,000 affordable housing apartments across more than 300 residential communities.
1000 University Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
Phone Number: 585.324.0500
Homepage Link: https://coniferllc.com/