Morgan Flowers Career Background
What is your biggest career achievement?
- My first day on the job was early April 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, and I logged on from the home I shared with six roommates. I sat in a stiff dining room chair, uncertain of what the next few weeks and months would look like, attempting to understand the complexities of the LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) industry and the role I would have in developing thousands of multifamily housing units. Not only did I enter during a troublesome time in the world, but I joined a project team as the only woman. While I always felt supported in my role, I still had to navigate the complexities of being a woman in the development and construction industries.
Throughout the last two years I've accomplished a great deal at my home office and during my time on active construction sites. I've assisted with land closings totaling 43.7 acres and impacting six projects. Within Development I worked on over 2,100 units through various stages of the development pipeline, of which, five projects now have residents residing on the property. The development costs of these efforts total over $300 million.
These numbers, while impressive, do not illustrate the full scope of my involvement behind the scenes. It takes a substantial amount of coordination, scheduling, creative problem solving, and collaboration to transform dirt into apartment homes. I have spent countless hours talking to architects, civil engineers, environmental experts, geotech specialists, interior designers, construction team members, property managers, maintenance staff, city officials, landowners, property owners, and asset managers before residents can call a property home. It is an honor and a privilege to have a role in this process and to create value out of vacant land.
Throughout the past year, I’ve been working diligently to implement software that allows these projects to come to life. I researched potential project management software options, pitched a tool to the Project team, built out the solutions, and completed the integration process—all within nine months. Numerous departments now use this platform as the central hub for key project information where we can quantify project progress in real time. We are now able to act proactively to identify issues in our schedule, implement quick solutions, and work across departments in a timely fashion. Ultimately, this means we can work efficiently as a team to develop safe, affordable, and well-designed units for our future residents.
What is your ultimate career goal within the rental housing industry?
- I could answer this question with a specific title or position I want to reach, however, that feels like an empty goal. Titles are important but they fall short in highlighting the impact that comes from growth and leadership. My strong convictions and passions propel me to grow both personally and professionally. Shortly after beginning my career, I wrote a personal vision statement which I have used to guide my career moves, joining committees, and determining next steps. A key element of this statement is "I desire to create stronger, more resilient, and inclusive cities, communities, and neighborhoods…Through my efforts and decisions, I want every individual to feel they are valued and loved beyond the confines of what the world says about them…" This vision statement holds tremendous value and has led me to where I am in my career today.
At a high level I would like to continue on the path of development project management to gain firsthand knowledge of the industry and create value by adding to the supply of low-income housing and advocate for policy changes to combat NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) and access to low-income housing opportunities. As I examine upcoming growth opportunities in the low-income housing industry, I will lean on my vision statement to determine the next right step. Affordable housing is in high demand, however, there is limited supply across Virginia and the United States, which gets to the core of my vision statement to create more resilient communities. Eventually my goal is to utilize my deep development experience to impact zoning and policies throughout the state of Virginia to remove the many entitlement barriers that prevent low-income, or workforce, housing from being constructed.
My goal in this industry is to continue to grow in leadership and push the envelope when it comes to designing with residents and communities in mind. I've been an innovator and self-starter since a young age, from my neighborhood lemonade stands to my current involvement in the Social Equity and Opportunity Committee at Lawson.
What's one rental housing trend you have your eye on?
- We are beginning to see a shift from profit to people, and housing as a social determinant of health. Don't get me wrong, residents have always been a critical part of the rental housing industry, however, often the conversation regarding metrics has revolved around number of units rather than number of individuals, families, children, couples, friends, etc. who are positively impacted. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest of 2020, and ongoing discussions in the industry, we are beginning to place people at the center of the real estate industry. A critical element of low-income apartment funding hinges on the low-income housing tax credit, which is administered by Virginia Housing in the state of Virginia. The Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) was recently revised to place an emphasis on resident services, as housing must support more than just our need for shelter.
At Lawson, our Market Heights project will bring this vision of wrap-around services to life. When I first interviewed with Lawson, this project was in the early stages of development, and I remember thinking how transformative it would be to continue to build with this type of housing model. We are partnering with Hope House, a local non-profit, to provide supportive services to our residents with developmental disabilities. Our buildings and units were carefully designed to include accessibility as a main component, including curated clubroom and fitness spaces that serve the needs of all residents. As I look to the future, I hope the industry continues to embrace wrap-around services as part of a solution to the affordable housing crisis.