By: Max Crampton-Thomas
4 min read November 2019 — To be a successful developer in today’s real estate climate, a company must not only be professional but also in tune with regional and global trends as well as stewards for fulfilling a community’s needs. Affiliated Development focuses on building mixed-use multifamily developments in underserved areas of the market. Invest: spoke with CEO and Co-Founder Jeff Burns who provided his insights on the company’s approach to Opportunity Zones and their potential in Broward County, as well as highlighting the regions that have the most demand for multifamily development.
What are the most interesting highlights for Affiliated Development over the last year?
We have been working on projects in Broward County and we have also made some fairly aggressive moves into Palm Beach County. In Broward, we just topped out the construction of our 142-unit mixed-use apartment building in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, named The Six13. We are going to start leasing efforts for The Six13 in spring 2020, and delivering apartments on June 1. We are also in the beginning stages of additional projects in three other Broward cities, including another in Fort Lauderdale. In Palm Beach County, we got underway on a 230-unit apartment project on Dixie Highway in Lake Worth Beach called The Mid. We are also moving on other opportunities in Lake Worth Beach. In May, we closed on the purchase of a 20-parcel assemblage in Downtown West Palm Beach, a couple of blocks from the Virgin Trains station to construct a 289-unit mixed-income workforce housing project called The Grand. My partner and I are very proud of what our Affiliated team has accomplished this year. We are workaholics and have had a busy year, but are focused on keeping the momentum going into 2020.
How have you leveraged the new Opportunity Zones in the state and what is their potential in Broward?
In April (prior to the IRS posting its regulations) we closed our The Six13 project with Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) funding. We are one of the first companies to implement QOZ financing for a project of this kind in the state of Florida. These zones are definitely getting a lot of thrust, but there are more people talking about it than implementing it. The QOZs are definitely going to have an impact, but it is becoming more challenging to find sites that make sense due to unrealistic landowners and sellers. There might be a reality check setting in with landowners who found themselves in a QOZ and have priced their land ridiculously high. It could have the adverse effect of preventing projects from happening in some areas because of false expectations.
Our philosophy is to remain disciplined. If we strip away the QOZ benefit, is this still a deal we’d do? If the answer is yes, we’ll take an aggressive position. Some people are doing deals that they would not otherwise pencil-out (without the QOZ rules). The program was intended to incentivize investment into these areas, not make a bad deal good.
Which areas of the region have the most demand for multifamily developments?
Fortunately for us, all of South Florida is booming. More and more people are moving here from the Northeast and other high-tax states because our business climate is favorable and our quality of life is second to none. Certain markets have experienced a tremendous amount of urban growth during this latest cycle, such as the Flagler Village submarket in Downtown Fort Lauderdale. We are getting a lot of people who are moving to Fort Lauderdale from Miami to avoid the chaos, but who still want the benefits of a big city lifestyle.
We made a major investment in Lake Worth Beach, which is a perfect example of a place in close proximity to the largest employment center in Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach), which is about 10 to 15 minutes up the road. Lake Worth Beach historically has not seen much development or investment, but it is starting to happen because not everybody wants to live in a major downtown metropolis (and pay the rents these markets demand). In some places, it is getting a little bit too crowded and some people are moving into tertiary markets that are near where they work but that maintain their character and are less hectic.
How important is it to be able to offer affordable and workforce housing to the region?
It’s critical. Our region is one of the most cost-burdened places in the entire country when comparing the cost of living to income. It’s necessary to offer a high quality of life for our current residents, many of whom support our area’s largest industry, tourism. It’s necessary for economic development and to attract and maintain major employers and high-quality talent.
Many companies are moving here from the Northeast, looking to locate their offices into these urban areas. I think the days of large office parks in the suburbs are becoming fewer and fewer because companies understand that to attract top-tier employee talent they need to offer an atmosphere that caters to the young workforce who graduate from school and prefer urban living. Younger professionals don’t want cars; they want to be close to where the activities are. I believe that to be able to attract a high-quality workforce, urban living is key. But in areas like Fort Lauderdale, every landowner knows what they are sitting on, and it is very challenging to find any reasonably priced land where you can build anything that is not going to be very expensive.
We focus very heavily on being close to employment centers. In Palm Beach and Broward County, the average workforce renter commutes 30 minutes in each direction each day for work. People get in their cars and do that because they can’t afford to live near their workplaces. Meanwhile, as some of these cities keep growing, people are starting to complain about traffic. If these cities can offer housing that the workforce can afford, we’ll see a lot more people walking around, utilizing public transportation and a lot less traffic congestion. I also see great opportunities in cities like Lake Worth Beach and Boynton Beach (Palm Beach County), Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Hallandale (in Broward) that are a few minutes away and are becoming really nice options.
What are the prospects for the real estate business in the area looking into 2020?
We are obviously at the top of the cycle. I think most developers realize that. Thus, we will be measured in our approach and watch market indicators very closely. As 2020 is an election year, we will no doubt see some volatility. Affiliated is going to continue to stick to our core competency, which includes attainably priced luxury rental housing. There is so much need for that here that we could build thousands of units over the next couple of years and only scratch the surface.
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