Every month, ULS’ newsletter features one of our wonderful staff members. Today, we celebrate the hard work of Andrew Martin, ULS’ Tenant Purchase Program Manager. Throughout his 12 years at ULS, Andrew has worked to support tenant groups who are determined to own the buildings that they live in. He helps tenants organize to purchase their landlord’s property, as well as manage and renovate their building as property owners. Get to know Andrew below!
Andrew was born in northern Indiana and pursued his undergraduate degree in public affairs at Indiana University. This is where he first developed an interest in and commitment to affordable housing development. In his second year, Andrew’s friend invited him to participate in a Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) spring break trip, where they contributed to the construction of affordable housing for low-income families. Through this opportunity, Andrew worked directly on construction sites with a group of about 20 students. Andrew also worked alongside future homeowners, who contributed “sweat equity,” a key component of the Habitat model, to the construction of their homes. While at Indiana University, Andrew participated in three of these trips, traveling to Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. After his graduation, he continued working with Habitat as a full-time employee in Sacramento, California.
In this new position, among other things, Andrew managed Habitat construction volunteers and worked on construction project management, scheduling contractors, material delivery, and recruiting volunteers for various building initiatives. Notably, during his time at Habitat, Andrew spent one week working alongside President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter on the 1995 Jimmy Carter work project in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood. After two years at Habitat, Andrew continued to pursue his interest in housing development and worked with a rental housing developer and a city redevelopment agency. Here, he contributed to the redevelopment of an old commercial corridor in Sacramento that had been declining for years. After six years in California, Andrew moved to North Carolina to pursue a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina.
After completing his graduate studies in 2002, Andrew moved to Baltimore, MD, and, finally, to DC. In DC, he worked with Jubilee Enterprise and CPDC to provide asset management and development consulting services to DC tenants who exercised their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) rights. Then, he worked as a Disposition Specialist in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) asset management department at Enterprise Community Partners (f/k/a Enterprise Community Investment), an affordable housing lender, investor, developer, and community partner. In 2011, after seeing an advertisement for the position of Tenant Purchase Program Manager, Andrew applied to and began working at ULS. This position incorporated many of Andrew’s interests and previous work, as it involved tenant organizing, self-help, affordable housing redevelopment, and asset management.
During his first years at ULS, Andrew’s work mainly involved educating tenant groups about their TOPA rights when their landlords decided to sell their buildings. Exercising one’s TOPA rights is a lengthy and complicated process. To buy their buildings, tenants need to form and incorporate tenant associations, send letters of interest to landlords and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), choose between converting their purchased rental buildings to cooperatives or condominiums, obtain financing, and negotiate and finalize sales contracts. Further, some tenant groups choose to assign their TOPA rights to third-party buyers/developers who can finance the purchase and renovation and continue to operate the buildings as rental properties, which is a process in and of itself.
Over the years, the District’s budget for directly financing tenant purchase projects has decreased, the housing market has become more and more competitive, and the cost of planning, permitting, and building has increased significantly. This means that it’s taking increasingly longer for tenants to exercise their TOPA rights and purchase and renovate their buildings. In addition, the small number of real estate consultants that specialize in helping create and sustain tenant cooperatives has shrunk. To address these issues and provide tenant groups with more support, in 2014, Andrew began working in partnership with Martha Davis, a long-time DC-based development consultant.
Since 2014, Andrew has also dedicated more time to providing asset management services to existing tenant cooperatives who already own their buildings. Just like purchasing a building, owning and managing a large, multi-family property is no easy feat. Tenant cooperatives must elect a board of directors and officers to oversee operations, conduct long-term planning, and supervise the building’s management company. Additionally, building management duties include organizing building inspections, creating annual operating budgets, planning building renovations, filing reports to lenders and investors, trouble-shooting financial problems/concerns, and more. Most co-op board members have day jobs and other commitments and need support to complete these tasks during business hours.
ULS has been able to support tenant groups perform these tasks in collaboration with Martha Davis. In 2016, Andrew also partnered with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program under the Housing Cooperative Preservation Initiative to provide tenant cooperatives with coordinated asset management and legal services. This management proved to be especially necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. As some residents lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in wages, ULS helped the cooperatives and individual residents apply for government rental assistance programs.
Andrew’s work has been fundamental to empowering tenants and broadening ULS’ reach in DC’s communities. We thank him for his contributions to ULS and look forward to all the wonderful work he will continue to do for ULS. In his free time, Andrew enjoys spending time with family and friends and watching his two teenage children participate in sports, drama, and music. He also loves traveling with his family and taking advantage of all that DC has to offer, including professional sports (mainly soccer), music performances, plays, and museums.
Image description: Andrew, a white man with short, brown hair, glasses, and a grey button-up shirt, smiles at the camera against a neutral, gray background.
Published: October 2, 2023