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Strategic Advisory Helps APAH Close on Complex Deal

(Visual Description: Truist Commercial Real Estate

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(Visual Description: Carmen Romero, CEO, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH))

Carmen Romero: Hi, my name is Carmen Romero. I’m the president and CEO at the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. Affordable housing is definitely not easy, and it takes partnership to actually pull it off, and Steve Smith and Truist understand that.

(Visual Description: Steve Smith, Truist Relationship Manager)

Steve Smith: APAH’s mission is to develop and preserve affordable housing.

Carmen: We are equally committed to what happens after we fill the homes.

So we infuse that with a resident services commitment to both offer housing stability—so once you’re in our housing, we want you to stay housed—but also opportunity. How do you get to that next goal that you have for yourself or your family?

Steve: It’s really amazing how much respect APAH shows to their residents. They treat them as if they are their own kin. They really go out of their way to make sure they have what they need, not just to get by, but to thrive.

Carmen: We also are known for developing in high-opportunity areas where you have fantastic schools, no food deserts, jobs—because that’s how you break cycles of poverty.

(Visual Description: Courtesy: Make a Scene Media)

Carmen: And that’s part of what I feel our mission at APAH is to do.

(Visual Description: APAH’s next step? Ballston Station, Arlington, VA

Courtesy: Lloyd Wolf)

Steve: The Central United Methodist Church in Ballston had a vision to create affordable housing over top of their church building.

(Visual Description: Courtesy: APAH

The church had invested $4 million.

They needed $80 million to break ground.)

Steve: And the financing on affordable housing can be very complex, but we don’t shy away from that. We love it.

Carmen: When you want to do something hard, you want to make sure that folks are collaborating at all levels beyond me to solve the problems.

Steve: And so we’ve introduced them to our debt partners and our team leads for both equity and debt. Our credit risk partner, our banking team, our insurance team. And so we’re looking for ways that APAH has a need and we can fill it.

(Visual Description: Truist provided: $30.4M Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, $36.2M construction loan, Advisory support on funding challenges)

Carmen: Truist cares about us as an organization—really top to bottom—and that is important to me.

APAH, one of our core goals is to be an employer of choice, and part of that means selecting partners that treat our people the way I want them to be treated.

Steve: Truist and APAH, together we can solve problems and we can provide affordable housing no matter how complex.

(Visual Description: Once open, Ballston Station will give 144 families a place to call home.)

Carmen: Since 2017 when we first started working with Truist, APAH went from just serving the smallest jurisdiction to being a regional organization.

Steve: One thing I know about APAH is that they continue to look out at the horizon. They want to conquer the need for affordable housing in this region, and they're just bold enough to do it.

And if they go farther, we’ll go farther with them.

(Visual Description: Imagine tomorrow. Build it today.

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Ongoing advisory helps affordable housing developer close complex deal

Industry expertise

Partnership at all levels helps Virginia nonprofit provide 144 more homes


“Nothing about affordable housing is simple,” says President and CEO Carmen Romero of Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). Central United Methodist Church in Ballston Station was no exception. By the time the church turned to APAH in 2022, they were frustrated. For 20 years, they had been trying—on their own—to build affordable homes above their house of worship as part of their ministry to help community members facing housing insecurity. After spending $4 million in predevelopment costs, they were missing the tax credits and construction financing necessary to make their vision a reality.

Carmen knew APAH had to find a way to help, so she turned to her partners at Truist. Thanks to teamwork, creativity, and coordination, the deal moved forward. As a result, 144 families will call Ballston Station home in 2024. This and other shared successes have built trust, and Truist has helped APAH expand into four new jurisdictions outside of Arlington County, Virginia, including Fairfax County and Loudoun County in Virginia, Montgomery County in Maryland, and Washington, D.C.


  • A church had invested $4 million, but that wasn’t enough to start building.
  • The site was complex (cemetery, Metro station, historic buildings), making permits a challenge.
  • The plans were complex, with 2,500 square feet of amenity and service space, plus 144 housing units.
  • A new influx of jobs was increasing the housing demand from families making less than $65,000 per year.


  • Securing a $30.4 million Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity investment
  • Providing a $36.2 million construction loan
  • Bringing in Truist experts on debt, equity, commercial real estate, risk mitigation, insurance, and more
  • Coordinating with external partners to help APAH overcome funding challenges

Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH)


Arlington, Virginia—founded in 1989


Nonprofit affordable housing developer




$550 million in affordable real estate




Truist client since 2017

Building groundbreaking partnerships: A client’s blueprint for growth

There’s a five-year waiting period for affordable housing in Arlington, Virginia. That’s a timeframe that APAH wants to shorten as much as possible—by doubling the number of affordable homes in the area over the next 25 years.

Since its founding in 1989, APAH has helped residents by preserving and creating stable, secure, and affordable rental housing for more than 2,000 households (that’s 4,800 individuals and families). But for APAH, it’s not just a numbers game. They also want to provide resident-inspired programming that helps residents build better lives.

To achieve this, APAH provides on-site resident services such as career counseling, supplemental grocery distribution, child care, wellness programming, and more.  Also, APAH builds affordable housing in transit- and amenity-rich neighborhoods in the D.C. metro area, where residents can easily access everything they need to pursue their personal and professional goals.

“We are known for developing housing in high opportunity areas where you have fantastic schools, no food deserts, jobs,” says Carmen. “Because that’s how you break cycles of poverty. And that’s part of what I feel is our mission at APAH.”

“We call on Truist because we know they care about us and our community, and they understand what it means to be a real partner.” 

Carmen Romero
President and CEO, APAH

What’s at the heart of their success? Trusted partnerships.

“At APAH, partnership is part of our name and our ethos,” says Carmen. “A partnership isn’t a one and done. You need to work on a partnership over a course of years so you grow in experience and build trust—together.”

The partnership between Carmen Romero and Steve Smith, a commercial real estate advisor at Truist, is a perfect example of the power of partnership—especially when innovative solutions are needed, like with Ballston Station, which is just minutes from APAH’s headquarters.

The Ballston Station challenge

The Central United Methodist Church in Ballston Station has served the Arlington community for more than a century. For the last 20 years, the congregation has been working toward transforming its property to better serve neighbors in need. They had made plans to tear down the original church and rebuild it with affordable housing on the upper floors, along with other amenities at street level. But building above a church (cemetery included) and an underground Metro line provides unique challenges. Amenities—including a day care, a career center, a community kitchen, and a 9-by-6-foot Tiffany stained-glass window in the lobby—also add up to extra costs.

“By the time the church came to APAH, four developers had failed to help this project move forward,” says Carmen. “We couldn’t let them fail a fifth time. So we called on Truist because we know they care about us and our community, and they understand what it means to be a real partner.”

Solution: Bring in trusted partners early.

Typically, Carmen brings in her trusted partners during the planning stage of a new community (not just when looking for financing). Truist is upfront about each deal, she says—and their team will tell her which ones look good and which are “a bridge too far.”

“When you hear your trusted partner saying something may not be a good idea, and you get that feedback early, you can make better decisions,” says Carmen. After she had a commitment from Truist to help bring Ballston Station to completion, she was confident the deal would close and it would be built.

Solution: Build partnerships at all levels.

“The leadership of Truist knows us. Their credit team. Their risk team. Their investment team. Steve has introduced them personally to me, so when he is bringing forward a project from APAH, they can ask me questions directly,” says Carmen.

The wider Truist team has also gotten to know the wider APAH team, which means Carmen can be less involved in day-to-day problem solving. “My team members solve so many problems on the ground with Steve, they don’t even have to come to me!” she says.

“Steve and his team also care about my team as people,” she adds. “He sent me a note about what a fantastic job a member of my team did on her first closing. She really appreciated hearing that from someone who closes a lot of deals.”

Solution: Expand your view of partners.

When facing a unique challenge, consider all the partners who could help you—and help them understand the big picture.

For Ballston Station, Carmen and her team at APAH met with local and state officials about the unique zoning challenges they were facing. That inspired the state’s housing agency, Virginia Housing, to step up in many ways, she says—including by doing a special study (on needs and costs) to help move the deal forward.

APAH also enlisted representatives from George Mason University, whose Arlington campus is just blocks away from Ballston Station, to talk to potential funders about the benefits of affordable housing. Specifically, APAH noted that their residents are part of the workforce and are key to the region’s economy. (Several investors agreed and signed on.)

Truist has also become a regular sponsor of APAH’s annual “Celebrate Home!” event, and Truist Foundation has provided grant funding to support APAH programs. These philanthropic measures help APAH provide robust resident services that aren’t covered by traditional funding sources for affordable homes.

Solution: Build trust over time.

“Our first deal with APAH was eight little historical buildings with different owners,” says Steve. “It had some real hiccups, some cost overruns, and we helped them out. We were flexible where we could be. I think that built a lot of trust, and they were like, ‘Hey, we want to do more with you.’”

Steve says Truist cares about each project, but the big picture matters too. “It’s not just about this one project,” he adds. “Ballston Station has bigger implications. What happens here could inspire other churches all over the region.”

“It’s not just about this one project. Ballston Station has bigger implications. What happens here could inspire other churches all over the region.”

Steve Smith
Truist Relationship Manager

Talking regularly with your partners can reveal emerging challenges so they may be solved before they snowball. It can also help ensure you’re taking the right steps to work toward your blue-sky goals.

At Truist, that’s called Truist Business Lifecycle Advisory, and it begins with candid conversations with clients about where their business has been, what it needs right now, and where they envision it going next. That groundwork enables Truist relationship managers to proactively bring clients solutions and opportunities for every stage of their business’s lifecycle.

Solution: Seek feedback from those you serve.

A common misstep in trying to help others is making assumptions about what they want or need. That’s why APAH surveys its residents to discover what’s working and where there are gaps in services. “We’re going to the picnics at the communities and talking to the people,” says Carmen. “We’re trying to figure out how we can be more resident led or resident centered.”

“A lot of the feedback we’re hearing from the community and from our board of advisors is to continue the push that we’ve been doing,” says Carmen. “Our goal is to ‘make regional real.’ We need to do more than one project in Maryland. We have pipeline projects from 100 units to 250 units to 500 units. We’re on day one of those conversations, and Truist is very much at the table. We’re just looking for the right win-win.”

How your business can get there

Carmen’s advice: Bringing in partners early, especially those that are clearly committed to you for the long haul, allows you to be more proactive. Working with specialized experts means you can receive personalized advice—economic, financial, and industry-related—so you can recognize challenges early and address them with tried-and-true strategies or innovative new ones. Drawing on history while looking to the future is the perfect recipe for growth.

Icons and text descriptions for The Results   The results [icon] Ballston Station will open in 2024 with a new sanctuary space for Central United Methodist Church and 144 affordable apartments. [icon] On-site amenities include a community kitchen, 90-child day care, laundry facilities, and a business center for career assistance. [icon] APAH is expanding into Maryland and the D.C. metro area (five jurisdictions in total) with help from Truist. [icon] As a pilot program for providing increased resident services at a multiuse property, this success will impact the future of affordable housing.

Carmen Romero
President and CEO, APAH

“Every success for us is an important validation that affordable housing can be done and achieved, even in the hardest areas. You just have to find the right partners, like Steve and Truist, who are problem solvers and good communicators and who care about the difficult projects.”

Steve Smith
Truist Relationship Manager

“The work Carmen and APAH do is incredible, and now they have a deep pipeline of communities at various stages. I’m excited to see how Truist can help them do even more of it.”