Brian Carnahan has been working with the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program – an indirect federal subsidy to finance the development of affordable rental housing for low-income households – for more than a decade and considers NAHB's Housing Credit Certified Professional (HCCP) designation a valuable part of his professional development.
Carnahan, the director of program compliance with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, said the designation helps him stay abreast of changes to an affordable housing program that is governed by complicated legislative and regulatory requirements.
"There are other affordable housing organizations and designations, but HCCP has the backing of NAHB, a nationally respected association," he said. "That only adds credibility, both for me and my organization. When others in the LIHTC industry mention HCCP, people know exactly what it means."
Carnahan has worked for the independent Ohio agency – which was named the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 housing choice voucher program contract administrator for the state – for 13 years.
Carnahan's company helps low- to moderate-income Ohioans purchase homes and provides opportunities through financing quality and affordable rental housing. OHFA offers developers financial incentives to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. OHFA administers different funding programs, including the LIHTC program, which for-profit and nonprofit developers can use to develop new or rehabilitate existing affordable rental housing. It helps property managers maintain safe, affordable housing environments through its compliance programs. OHFA monitors more than 1,000 multifamily properties throughout the state and provides financing for competitive fixed-rate mortgages by issuing tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds and partners with real estate professionals and mortgage lenders. Since its creation, OHFA has made affordable mortgage loans to more than 143,000 Ohioans and facilitated the creation of more than 100,000 affordable rental housing units.
Carnahan is responsible for monitoring the compliance of tax-credit, HOME and Section 8 communities.
As Carnahan advanced toward director of the agency, he investigated ways to broaden his industry knowledge — particularly relating to compliance and allocation — and earned his HCCP in 2003. Six years later, he joined the HCCP Board of Governors and served as its chair.
"I already had a strong foundation in affordable housing, and I wanted to find an organization that could help me grow professionally," Carnahan said.
HCCP designees are highly qualified, with a minimum of two years in the LIHTC industry. HCCP candidates also must pass the HCCP exam, a rigorous test that covers development, management and compliance issues as well as Section 42 tax credit policy.
"It's a difficult test. You can't study for the HCCP exam the day before and expect to pass," Carnahan said. "You need a background in affordable housing and you need to have at least a basic understanding of the issues."
After passing the exam, HCCP candidates must complete a professional profile summarizing their work history and documents showing that they have achieved a minimum of 10 hours of housing tax credit education.
To maintain the integrity of the HCCP program, candidates also must sign the HCCP Code of Ethics, which is the highest standard of conduct for the industry.
Carnahan said becoming an HCCP is the first step. HCCP designation holders can bolster their industry knowledge by reading The Credential, NAHB's quarterly electronic newsletter that includes updates, tips and news on affordable housing and the multifamily industry.
As part of their benefits, HCCP designees also receive a listing in the online HCCP Directory, access to HCCP's LinkedIn network and leading industry experts and discounts on topical webinars.
"The Credential is a terrific resource and the webinars keep me current on relevant issues," Carnahan said. "By being involved in the HCCP Board of Governors and networking with other HCCPs, I also hear strategies for success that I can use in my day-to-day business."
The recognition that comes from earning an HCCP designation can give an affordable housing professional a competitive edge, according to Carnahan.
"Being an HCCP signals that you have a high level of knowledge and that you are committed to excellence," Carnahan said. "That means something to me and it carries weight in the LIHTC industry."