The winning word on the streets of Sin City last week? Optimism.

Attendees and speakers at the 2010 Multifamily Executive Conference, held Oct. 4-6, 2010, at the Bellagio Hotel & Conference were assertive in voicing their optimism and confidence in the future of multifamily, pointing to a resurgance in the capital markets, rising occupancy and rent levels, and a compelling story in the form of future demographics and demand.

"There's no place in real estate brighter than multifamily today," said Tom Toomey, CEO of Highlands Ranch, Colo.-based UDR, who spoke at the event, which was put on by the editors of Multifamily Executive magazine.

Nearly 750 people trafficked the conference, which saw its highest attendance since the Great Recession began. The event culminated with the naming of the MFE Executive of the Year. The 2010 recipient of the award was Susan M. Ansel, Atlanta-based Gables Residential's chief operating officer, who is the second woman to receive the award. In her acceptance speech, Ansel impressed the audience with her composure and her gratitude to her company and her team. She emphasized the importance of giving back and community service, pointing to a Gables Day volunteer program five years ago in New Orleans, right after Hurricane Katrina, that was "one of the most rewarding days of my life."

Other award winners at the Multifamily Executive Award Gala, held in conjunction with the conference included: Jared Miller, vice president of marketing, at The Bainbridge Cos., who was named MFE's first-ever Rising Star of the Year; as well as the La Belle at Hollywood Tower project, a low-rise developed in Hollywood, Calif., by Alliance Residential that was named Editor's Choice.

Begala, Murphy Make Election Predictions
The conference's opening keynote luncheon included an entertaining and, at times, laugh-out-loud joint presentation by CNN political commentator and staunch Democrat Paul Begala and Republican political strategist and commentator Michael Murphy. The two agreed on only one point: It's going to be a bad mid-term election for the Democrats.

"Democrats are in a position to decide if it's going to be Murder 1 or Manslaughter. It's going to be bad, but just how bad?" he said, predicting that the Republicans will take back the House in November and close the gap in the Senate.

Begala didn't disagree. Part of the problem, he contested, was that Obama set expectations too high. In addition, by seeking to unit the parties and the country, Obama only causes more division. "The truth is, we have pretty deep-rooted and pretty different beliefs and policies," Begala said. "I don't believe in bipartisanship. I believe you win when you work the middle."

Former HUD Secretary Cisneros: Five Factors Will Shape the Industry's Future
Meanwhile, in the conference's closing keynote, former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros offered up five observations on why he believes the future of urban multifamily development is bright.

Cisneros drew heavily on his current experience as chairman of CityView, a Los Angeles-based developer of affordable housing currently raising a multimillion-dollar fund with Lincoln Properties to acquire and redevelop multifamily housing in the Southwest, as well as in the Bay Area, D.C., and the Boston-New York corridor.  

His observations included:

  1. Stick with apartments. They are a great investment. More than 70 percent of pension fund managers rank it as the highest return sector in real estate.

  2. Follow the institutions. For example, right now, many of the private funds he's talking to are looking to target student housing or university-adjacent housing.

  3. Demographics, particularly the Latino population, which will account for 50 percent of the population growth between now and 2030, will dictate different types of homes. Families, particularly those that are younger and larger, will outnumber the more nuclear, older families the industry is used to seeing.

  4. Energy efficiency is vital to acquisitive and development strategies today and must be approached as an necesssary investment.

  5. There is no better time to act than now. "For the past two years, we've heard that whoever would be standing at the end of the downturn would be well-positioned to move forward. That time has come. Builders: It's time to build. Buyers: It's time to buy. Investors: It's time to invest."

Cisneros ended his remarks by adding: "There's work out there to be done, and it's time for those who are able to move to take action. There will be great rewards for those first-movers."
October 3-5, 2011
Aria Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas

Catch up on any session by clicking on a headline below:

General Sessions:
* Appeal to Renters at Large, Not Just Gen Y
* Multifamily CEOs Paint Bright Industry Future
* Susan M. Ansel, Jared Miller, Alliance Residential Win Big at the 2010 Multifamily Executive Awards
* Economists Declare that Multifamily is in the Throes of a Recovery

Leadership & Finance Track:
* Owners Prepare Investment Strategies for the Recovery
* GSEs are Going Strong, Even as New Lenders Appear
* Banks, Life Companies to Become More Active in Apartment Capital Markets
* Distressed Multifamily Deals Go To Proactive Underwriters
* Multifamily Transaction Market is in Full Recovery

Management & Operations Track
* Apartment Firms Focus on Customer Service, Amenities to Retain Residents
* Property Managers Control Costs and Boost NOI Through Ancillary Income, Technology
* Three Marketing Case Studies Offer Valuable Lessons
* Social Media Back in Multifamily Vogue
* Multifamily Hiring Teams to Look for Marketing and Sales Skills

Design & Development Track:
* 25 Green Retrofit Ideas
* FHA Deals, Albeit Tough, Continue to Drive New Construction
* Despite Industry-wide Optimism, Rehab Still Doesn't Pencil Out 
* Multifamily Developers Juggling Market Forces to Acquire Land
* The Apartment of the Future Will Boast Smaller Units, Green Features