Toni Jackson Talks About Careers In Commercial Real Estate and Affordable Housing Development

Photograph: Antionette 'Toni' Jackson.The Business and Transactional Law Center at Washburn University School of Law hosted Antoinette M. "Toni" Jackson on March 5, 2018 for a lunch and learn presentation on "Careers In Affordable Housing And Community Development Law."

This program, developed by the American Bar Association Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, is intended to serve as an introduction for law students to various careers in the area of affordable housing and community development. Toni Jackson, a partner at the firm of Jones Walker LLP in Houston, Texas, spoke to law students about her 27 years of practice and her experience in both the private and public sector focusing primarily in commercial real estate and affordable housing development.

Jackson represents both for-profit and non-profit developers and public housing agencies. She has worked extensively with the City of Houston; Housing Authority of the City of Texarkana, Texas; Galveston Housing Authority; Shreveport Housing Authority; City of Chicago; City of New Orleans; and other governmental entities in an effort to increase home ownership and rental housing for low to moderate income families. Jackson told law students she initially became interested in this area of the law when a non-profit organization came to her with an opportunity to purchase an apartment complex. She was familiar with low-income tax credits and was able to use her expertise in structuring transactions and using creative financing options (including such credits) to help this non-profit acquire the apartment complex. Jackson became interested in the ever-challenging and constantly changing area of commercial real estate and affordable housing development, and has grown to love this practice area.

Jackson described to students the importance of affordable housing to communities as well as the varied career and work opportunities in this area for lawyers. Lawyers with affordable housing and commercial housing expertise work with developers and lenders on projects as well as with investors that purchase tax credits to reduce their tax burdens. On the government side, opportunities for employment exist with the Internal Revenue Service, the Treasury Department, and every state tax credit administrative agency. In addition, there are opportunities involving landlord and tenant advocacy.

Jackson also explained the struggle that developers face when deciding where to locate affordable housing developments. There are reasons to locate these developments in lower-income communities, where there is the greatest need and demand for low-income housing. This location strategy, however, creates potential fair housing disparate impact concerns and may limit resident neighborhood opportunities. Locating affordable housing in higher income neighborhoods may create more income diversity in such neighborhoods and give residential access to better neighborhood amenities, but may not meet the needs or mesh with the desires of residents who may prefer to remain in neighborhoods with their family and friends rather than leave behind what they know and love.

Jackson discussed some recent trends in housing development, including supportive housing and mixed-use development. Housing patterns are changing and the population becomes more re-urbanized, and this creates interesting challenges and opportunities for developers and residents alike. As the population ages, demand for senior developments, consisting of independent living, nursing homes, and Alzheimer facilities, has grown, particularly in the context of affordable housing. Previously, there were few affordable housing options supportive for senior services, but such options are increasing. Jackson concluded her presentation by describing her passion for the practice of law in this area. Real estate development, and affordable housing in particular, is an area of law that is constantly changing and interesting, in which every deal is unique. Development work is not only intellectually stimulating, but also personally satisfying because of the contribution made to fulfilling an important community and individual need.

Washburn University School of Law thanks Toni Jackson for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with law students about her real-world experiences and for educating students on the various careers in the area of affordable housing and community development.