Bill Zunamon, vice president of development, The NRP Group
Bill Zunamon, vice president of development, The NRP Group

The NRP Group, a vertically integrated multifamily developer based in Cleveland, has plans to expand its business in Florida. While it has only done market-rate developments in the Sunshine State, the developer has plans to grow its affordable and workforce housing portfolio to help meet the area’s demand.

The NRP Group is a leader in creating affordable and market-rate housing across the nation. For 2024, it ranks No. 43 on the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Top 50 Owners list, No. 14 on the Top 25 Developers list, and No. 10 on the Top Builders list.

To increase its affordable and workforce housing efforts in Florida, The NRP Group has hired Bill Zunamon as vice president of development. Zunamon has a proven track record in the state, having served as vice president of development at McDowell Housing Partners. During his time there, he was responsible for securing the financing and overseeing the origination of 15 low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) developments with over 2,000 workforce and affordable housing units in the state.

Multifamily Executive checked in with Zunamon about the state’s housing needs and what’s in the pipeline for The NRP Group.

How did you get your start in affordable housing?

I was originally introduced to affordable housing through the real estate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wisconsin is one of the few universities that offers classes with a specific focus on affordable developments across the country that utilize tax credits as part of their financing.

It wasn’t until much later in my career that I got involved in the affordable industry originally as a consultant focused on land acquisition at McDowell Housing Partners. It was here that I learned how to source projects based on the parameters we looked for in successful sites. In 2020, I joined McDowell full time. During that time, we sourced 15 projects with over 2,000 LIHTC units across Florida that should all be placed in service by the end of 2026.

Since joining The NRP Group in March, I have continued to build upon these valuable experiences as I work to bring the company’s inaugural affordable project to Florida.

What needs are you seeing in Florida for affordable and workforce housing?

The need for affordable and workforce housing in Florida has increased substantially over the last decade. Since 2016, I’ve seen an increase of more than 100% in the rental market—making the area one of the least affordable places to live in the entire country. As I moved into development and was increasingly involved in commission/council meetings throughout Florida, it became clear that this was a statewide crisis.

Over the last four years, the combination of record low interest rates and continued population growth has completely changed the landscape of the Florida housing market from when I began.

In my observation of the Miami workforce, it's evident that individuals advancing in their careers and securing higher salaries are struggling to keep pace with the rate of inflation. As a result, many find themselves forced to relocate from their current rental neighborhoods due to the financial strain. Across the state, teachers, nurses, and other essential workers don’t have an affordable place to live. It is more imperative than ever to get these affordable and workforce housing projects off the ground and developed to meet the ever-growing need.

What is in The NRP Group’s pipeline for affordable and workforce housing in the state?

Since joining The NRP Group about two months ago, we’ve been busy submitting applications for numerous affordable and workhouse housing projects throughout Florida. As we look to the third quarter, Florida will remain a key focus for us, and we are allocating a considerable amount of resources to progress multifamily projects in this region this year. This investment will allow us to continue looking at every opportunity to create these essential developments in the state.

There has also been a growing trend in the area of repurposing previously abandoned sites like malls and industrial buildings into residential developments. We’re actively evaluating the viability of these opportunities as we consider expanding our portfolio in the state.

How is Florida’s Live Local Act benefiting affordable housing production?

For developers like myself who focus largely on 100% affordable housing projects, the Live Local Act couldn't benefit us more. With the passing of SB 102, land that was previously zoned for industrial, commercial, or mixed-use is now fair game for us to utilize for multifamily affordable housing. This allows us to take advantage of this moment to further address the rising housing affordability crisis as it has substantially increased the amount of available land that is now viable for affordable housing developments.

What is the biggest challenge facing affordable housing developers in the state?

The issues we’re facing are multifaceted. We’re seeing market-rate slow down due to high interest rates, construction costs, and the insurance market skyrocketing over the past few years. The effect of the uncertainty in the underwriting process makes it very difficult to accurately predict actual costs, which can swing borrowing power significantly.

Another challenge that’s been around forever is the competition for sites suitable for multifamily housing that both affordable and market-rate developers are chasing. It is even more difficult when you add in the typical timeline for receiving funding that requires negotiating sufficient time for due diligence so that you’re not losing heavy land deposits before your invitation to credit underwriting.

Live Local opens up so much more land that is now eligible for multifamily housing and helps combat the difficult demands of land sellers by increasing the total supply of eligible land. Risk is also heavily decreased on these parcels because the entitlement process is administratively approved for these parcels rather than subject to public hearings as they were in the past.