Audra Hamernik is President and CEO of Nevada HAND. Nevada HAND is the state’s leading affordable housing provider, providing approximately 4,700 affordable homes to over 8,000 families and seniors.
After serving as executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), she joined the nonprofit in 2019 to help allocate the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and promote housing opportunities statewide. Oversaw other major financings for expansion.
Industry veterans share their industry journeys and what they’re working on next.
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
In 1994, I was hired as an intern in the Department of Planning in DuPage County, Illinois. These were days when I had to wear skirts, hoses, and closed-toe shoes. was patient with I had just graduated with a master’s degree and had a grand idea of what planners do at work. Almost 30 years later, our daughter, a freshman in college, received her package of care from Deborah Fagan. So what have I learned about the job? It’s all about how we treat each other. I love being part of our nation’s affordable housing industry. We are a group of housing professionals who care about good planning, financing and development. We support many low-income households and communities. We care about each other too. I frequently ask many of you for questions and clarifications. No one has ever been kind enough to help me think about a problem.
What was your first housing-related job and what did it teach you?
My first residential job was in Wheaton, Illinois, where I was a senior planner in the development department of DuPage County. This job has taught me the importance of a thorough understanding of a wide range of federal, state and local regulations, including building codes, environmental laws, land use regulations, and impact fees. My love of regulation has given me the technical and procedural knowledge to approach problems with a degree of creativity.
What was the key moment in your career?
Earlier this year, I testified before the U.S. Congressional Ways and Means Committee. It was an honor to have the opportunity to advocate for advancements in affordable housing solutions.
How was the transition from running a state mortgage institution to leading a non-profit housing developer?
Frankly, the change was a lot of fun. When I was executive director of his IHDA, I was responsible for managing affordable housing and community development programs. Now leading a non-profit, I have the opportunity to read and understand eligible allocation plans from a developer’s perspective. Nevada HAND has its own construction company and property management company. Through our work, we are proud to provide high quality, affordable housing and onsite resident services to over 8,000 low income households and seniors.
Share interesting facts or statistics about housing in Las Vegas or Nevada.
Here are three interesting facts and statistics about Las Vegas and Nevada. (1) The federal government controls more than 80% of her land in Nevada, more than any other state. (2) Nevada, which was her fifth fastest growing state in the last decade, has the most needed affordable housing in the nation. (3) The famous Las Vegas Strip is not within Las Vegas city limits. The Strip is actually under the jurisdiction of Clark County.
Please tell us about the development you are working on.
Nevada HAND has over 700 high quality, affordable homes under construction. One of these developments, Decatur Commons, is his 480-unit development in Las Vegas, with 240 units becoming garden-style apartments for individuals and families with children. Family-friendly amenities include a clubhouse building and outdoor pool, computer lab, library, community room with kitchen, playground, dog run, basketball court, and grass field. The remaining 240 units house low-income seniors. This community is a mixed-use development that also has approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space. Facilities for seniors include a pool, fitness facility, computer lab, library, and community room with kitchen.
What moves has Nevada Hand made to manage rising construction costs?
Rising construction costs are a challenge facing developers across the country. For market-priced apartment developers, this often leads to them charging higher rents. We are focused on finding gap finance. It is difficult to mitigate the risks associated with rising construction costs and, unfortunately, there is a compelling need to increase the supply of affordable housing in the country.
Name one policy change you would like to see.
There is a huge and growing demand for affordable housing. Her more than 10 million low-income households across the country spend more than half of their monthly income on rent, reducing other critical costs such as childcare, medical care, groceries and transportation. LIHTC is our nation’s leading tool for creating and maintaining affordable rental housing. Virtually no new affordable rental homes can be built without a mortgage. Because this is financially infeasible. Mortgages are limited by the amount of credit available, and Congress should expand and strengthen mortgages to provide more affordable housing nationwide.
What do you think is the next big trend or evolution in affordable housing?
A trend I would love to see in the affordable housing industry is a message about what makes affordable housing possible. Housing trends come and go, but in the United States, the most important factor in building affordable housing is financing.
Tacos or burritos?
What’s next for Audra Hamanik?
I am 100% focused on the basic work I do at Nevada HAND. As Nevada’s largest affordable housing developer, the word “community” is at the heart of why we’ve worked tirelessly for the past 30 years. We continue to be inspired by where we are in the next decade. We grow our impact by growing our portfolio and building it responsibly and as quickly as possible.