Victoria Ramirez got her first exposure to housing issues during a college internship at the housing authority of Los Angeles, where she helped transition Sec. 8 renters into homeownership. The industry had the UCLA student hooked.
“I saw the struggles people had making the leap from renting to owning,” says Ramirez, senior project manager at Irvine, Calif.–based Jamboree Housing Corp., one of the country’s largest affordable developers, delivering 290 units in 2010. “It seemed like a lot of Sec. 8 voucher holders were low-income and not ready to make that jump, but there weren’t enough rental opportunities for them. So that really piqued my interest in providing rental housing.”
The housing authority offered Ramirez a job, but she thought there were a lot of limits to working in a huge bureaucracy. So she decided to try development, instead. “I came across Jamboree and was intrigued by their work,” she says.
Though Ramirez lacked direct experience in producing affordable housing, Jamboree provided her training opportunities when she joined the company in 2005. In 2007, she became a full project manager handling three or four affordable, rental projects, and, in 2010, she advanced to her current position, in which she runs the day-to-day operations of Jamboree’s nine-member development staff.
Ramirez manages everything from predevelopment to construction oversight. Her duties encompass managing more than half of Jamboree’s development team, and a construction team, on projects totaling $50 million. She’s also helping fulfill Jamboree’s goal of developing 10 percent of its homes for people with special needs.
Though Ramirez has become an in-house expert on funding sources, including the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee—which administers two low-income tax credit programs—financing is easily her biggest challenge.
“There are so many layers,” Ramirez says. “It’s normal to deal with five or six lenders.”
When she started, pricing for tax credits was going through the roof. Then, the bottom fell out. Now, things are returning to normal.
“It’s been challenging but exciting,” Ramirez says. “When the market falls apart, you need to find additional layers.”
Ramirez is exploring the role of overseeing the entire development team. As that happens, she’ll continue working in the community, following the early guidance of ??Jamboree’s president, Laura Archuleta. Today, Ramirez leads Anaheim’s planning commission, a post to which she was appointed in 2008. “Our president wants me to become a community leader in addition to representing Jamboree,” she says.
It appears she’s well on her way.