As the founder and CEO of Community Investment Strategies — a firm she started more than 25 years ago — Christiana Foglio knows the ins and outs of how the economy drives housing, especially for seniors and low-income residents.
So, she’s watching the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having in New Jersey carefully.
“The COVID crisis has put extreme pressure not just on tenants but on landlords as well,” she said. “The hardest hit sector is small landlords.”
Foglio said more help is needed.
“The state has offered landlord relief for projects less than 50 units,” she said. “Unfortunately, many landlords have not subscribed to the program, due to need to qualify the income of renters in the low- and moderate-income sector.
“Market-rate developers are seeing rather stable rental income through August. September, however, has shown some weakness as the additional unemployment benefits expired. We are expecting Congressional action, which should help.”
Foglio will bring these insights and more Thursday morning at 9 a.m. the annual Middlesex County Business Summit.
The event will feature a one-on-one discussion with Jonathan Holloway, the new president at Rutgers University.
That discussion will be followed by all-star panel — featuring Foglio and others — on how doing business in Middlesex County and the state has changed:
- Bill Rodgers, chief economist at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, on the impact this will have on employment;
- Debbie Hart, CEO of BioNJ, on the impact this will have on bio/life science companies/future in the state;
- Christiana Foglio, CEO of Community Investment Strategies Inc., on the impact this will have on the residential market, with a special nod toward senior housing, rental and low-income housing;
- Luis De La Hoz, chairman of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and senior vice president at Valley Bank, on the impact this will have on the underserved and underbanked population;
- Jose Lozano, CEO of Choose New Jersey, on the impact this will have on domestic and global recruitment of companies.
The event is hosted by Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ron Rios and Deputy Director Kenneth Armwood, who is the chair of the county’s business innovation, education and opportunity committee.
Foglio has more than 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors. And she’s all about impact investing — finding creative ways to merge public funding and private capital to invest in making communities better. Her motto is to not only do well but do good.
That’s needed today more than ever.
“Economic recovery strategies for Middlesex County and other counties will be impacted by the underwriting of new residential development,” she said. “We envision rental housing to be one of the first sectors to recover.
“The other big driver of residential development has been the fair share settlements with communities. This is driving inclusionary developments as well as 100% affordable projects.”
Where counties put their housing will be key, Foglio said.
“Strategically, communities in Middlesex, should consider utilizing affordable housing as an economic development,” she said. “Locating mixed income housing close to central business districts in order to drive disposable income closer to retail and service core.
“Moreover, senior affordable housing is shown to make more local business purchases then other residential development.”
This is just one of the things municipalities need to examine, Foglio said.
“Communities which never had to address economic development must now develop strategies to revitalize commercial corridors,” she said. “The virtual work impact to office demand and uses must also be addressed in the long-term strategy for recovery. Repositioning of office complexes to allow mixed-use may be a viable opportunity to revitalize stagnant office market.
“I believe the COVID impact to the office market will be delayed as a result of lease terms expiring. Over the next two years, we need to prepare for market contraction. Having a good strategy through zoning and land use now, will help communities respond rapidly to these changes.”