Richard Gerwitz, Enterprise Southern California Leadership Council
May 29, 2018 - In Richard Gerwitz’s role as co-head of Citi Community Capital he directs the activities of the group’s affordable rental housing lending, mortgage and investment banking team, as well as its involvement with low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs), new market tax credits (NMTCs) and other Community Reinvestment Act lending and investment activities. He is a frequent speaker at industry events, is a past chairman of the Santa Monica Housing Commission, and is a member of the advisory boards of the California Housing Consortium, Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), the New York Housing Conference (NYHC), the Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC), and of course Enterprise’s Southern California Leadership Council—comprised of 18 leaders in the community development space that provide their range of expertise to advance Enterprise’s mission to create well-designed homes that are affordable and connected to resources such as schools, jobs, health care and transit.
What sparked your interest in affordable housing?
From an early age Richard has always been interested in how cities work. He recalls that reading Robert Caro’s The Power Broker sparked his interest in continuing his education in urban planning, and after getting his Masters he eventually entered the affordable housing industry as part of his work as a municipal bond investment banker.
He reflects on his rewarding career of working on multiple sides of affordable housing finance, “Like pretty much anyone who works in our industry, it can be very challenging and very rewarding. There is ultimately nothing quite as satisfying as seeing someone live in a project in which you’ve played a role. That really has fueled my passion.”
What are some of the important messages about affordable housing?
Even though we are inundated with stories of the rise of homelessness and people being forced out of their homes, affordable housing still does not yet seem to be something that ranks high on the list of issues that raise public concern.
“We need to simplify and broaden our message,” Richard suggests, educating people that we are looking to house the homeless, yes, but also your sons and daughters, first responders, and others who can’t afford to live in the communities in which they work or where they grew up.
Have there been moments in your work where you’ve had to take risks?
“Right now our focus is on the cost of building affordable housing, where it’s reaching crisis levels in some areas in California, in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.” Richard sees the potential use of more modular construction as one of the possible solutions to bringing the price of development down.
Richard points out that one of the greatest financial risks is during the construction period. There is a reluctance to lend to a new construction project that is employing new techniques, but he has taken some big steps to work with developers of affordable housing or even making investments in certain modular factories.
“The greatest risk is not doing anything, not trying new things.”
Certainly, there are all sorts of demands and requests for your time. Why do you choose to serve on Enterprise’s Southern California Leadership Council?
“I think one of Citi Community Capital’s strengths is the collaborative way we do business, sharing knowledge and learning from each other.”
“It’s also important to discuss ideas with people outside the group you work with on a daily basis. The Leadership Council has a great variety of folks at the table. There is no way I’m going to get the type of information I get at those meetings if I were to just to focus all my efforts solely within my own organization.”
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
Richard believes people would be interested to know that he was a New York City cab driver during and immediately after his college years. His experience as cab driver comes in good use as he navigates the congestion in Los Angeles.
Richard spends his free time these days playing tennis, traveling, and making frequent trips back to NYC to spend time with family and friends.