Q&A with the new LOCUS Chair, Alecia Hill

A white graphic with Alecia's headdshot and the LOCUS logo shares a quote from her that reads "As a Black female with a diverse interdisciplinary background and roots in both the arts and real estate, I'm deeply committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects. Representation matters not only among professionals but also in the communities we serve."

Earlier this month, Alecia Hill was elected to become the next Chair of LOCUS, stepping into the role that Jair Lynch held for eight years. Alecia is a Vice President at FCP and is responsible for expanding the firm’s impact investing initiatives and affordable housing preservation multifamily platform. In this Q&A, I had the opportunity to chat with Alecia, to hear her thoughts on LOCUS now and what she hopes it will look like under her leadership, including her perspective on affordable housing, transit-oriented development, and inclusive growth, and fostering diversity and equity within the real estate industry and beyond.

1. Can you share with us your journey and what initially drew you to the world of real estate development? What type of work do you do with FCP?

My journey is unique and has been intentional. I was in the arts prior to working in real estate and was a dancer for a number of years. Through that experience, I began to understand the impact of capital on civic and cultural engagement and access to opportunity in those spaces. When I went back to graduate school to focus on impact investing, I saw real estate as an area where I could add value and have a hand in deploying capital into underserved communities. At FCP, we’re a multifamily owner-operator primarily focused on naturally occurring affordable housing and workforce housing. In my role, I am focused on the launch of a dedicated business and strategy to support long-term preservation of affordable housing, in addition to working on the firm’s broader ESG initiatives.

2. With that in mind, what motivated you to join LOCUS?

I first learned about LOCUS during my time at Enterprise Community Partners, where I focused on Opportunity Zones. LOCUS and Smart Growth America showed tremendous and timely leadership on Opportunity Zones and also in transit-oriented and inclusive development, which aligned with my interests and values. LOCUS presented an opportunity to engage with peers and leaders across sectors and have real-time policy insights, motivating to deepen my connection with SGA and become active in LOCUS to leverage it as a resource for FCP.

3. You’ve been a member of LOCUS for several years. What have you enjoyed most about participating?

What I’ve enjoyed most is engaging with the LOCUS staff team and the steering committee members. A highlight for me was seeing discussions on policy initiatives like TIFIA and RRIF transition into real-world applications within the marketplace. Participating in annual meetings and having concentrated strategic discussions with the steering committee, particularly around initiatives like the Tax Credit Improvement Act and Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit, showcased the real impact LOCUS has in shaping policy and industry practices.

4. Who do you think benefits the most from participating in LOCUS? Or what audiences do you hope that the information that LOCUS gathers benefits?

Private sector developers benefit significantly, but LOCUS’s reach extends beyond transit-oriented development. Focusing on smart growth, inclusive development, and pushing the industry to think about equity in different ways is relevant for any real estate operator or sponsor navigating public policy while executing on the ground. Additionally, public agencies, quasi-governmental agencies, universities, and nonprofits across the real estate landscape can find value in LOCUS’s advocacy and network.

5. Coming from a background in affordable housing and community development finance, how do you envision leveraging your expertise to further LOCUS’s mission of advocating for sustainable, equitable, and walkable development?

My background in affordable housing and impact investing aligns well with LOCUS’s focus on cross-sector solutions and inclusive development. Affordable housing requires blended finance and cross-sector collaboration, which is central to LOCUS’s mission. My experience with Opportunity Zones highlighted the importance of innovative policy solutions to attract private capital to underserved communities. Leveraging my expertise, I aim to contribute to LOCUS’s efforts by staying abreast of current policies and advocating for initiatives that align with our goals.

6. Speaking of Opportunity Zones—do you think OZ’s are still a tool for advancing LOCUS’s goals?

The spirit of Opportunity Zones, aiming to attract private capital to underserved communities, is crucial. However, as this initiative nears the end of its lifecycle, it’s important for LOCUS to focus on initiatives with the best chance of success in achieving our goals efficiently. The focus should shift towards initiatives like preservation and creating more attainable housing for the Missing Middle (i.e. Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit), to address the increasing unprecedented affordable housing need across all income levels. LOCUS’s efforts should align with policies that deliver more diverse housing options near transit, jobs, and resources.

7. In your opinion, what are some of the key challenges and opportunities facing housing and development today?

The last 12 to 18 months have shown unprecedented volatility in capital markets, impacting the feasibility of housing development. We are facing a shortage of several million affordable and available housing units in the US, particularly for households earning below 80% of AMI. This shortage is exacerbated by zoning and regulatory constraints. However, investing in affordable housing is gaining mainstream recognition, presenting opportunities for institutional investors. Access to opportunity aligns with addressing wealth inequality, making efficient housing near jobs and transit a priority. Additionally, supporting senior housing for aging in place is essential.

8. Considering these challenges and opportunities, how do you think LOCUS can identify and advance initiatives that support affordable housing and transit-oriented development?

LOCUS can play a pivotal role in mainstreaming capital flows into affordable housing by advocating for policies that address housing needs efficiently. Initiatives like the Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit and Preservation align with LOCUS’s goals of providing diverse housing options near transit and jobs. Additionally, supporting senior housing and aging-in-place initiatives contributes to healthy living and inclusive community development. LOCUS’s advocacy and thought leadership can drive impactful change in the affordable housing and transit-oriented development sectors.

9. Last week was the LOCUS Steering Committee meeting. How did that go? What were some of the highlights you’d like to share?

I am so excited to see that the LOCUS Steering Committee has become increasingly diverse, in terms of discipline, sector, geography. We had fruitful discussions with congressional offices and emphasized the impact of zoning and innovation in the retail and housing sectors. The meeting was energizing, focusing on long-term strategic goals amidst the backdrop of an election year.

10. Jair Lynch proceeded you as LOCUS president—what advice did he give you as you step into leadership?

Jair’s leadership has been fantastic. His leadership actually encouraged my involvement with LOCUS. In terms of what I should consider as I step into his shoes, Jair emphasized the importance of identifying where LOCUS can lead and where it’s best to partner with broader coalitions. He also noted that I should think about how I—and LOCUS members— can be a key resource to the SGA team and how best to leverage the committee’s networks for mutual benefit.

11. Looking ahead, what do you hope will be the legacy of your presidency at LOCUS, and what message would you like to convey to the members, partners, and broader community as you embark on this new chapter of leadership?

I hope to see LOCUS’s membership grow and become a seed of thought leadership in the real estate industry. To see meaningful progress in affordable housing preservation and the LOCUS coalition’s reach continues to support Smart Growth America’s broader technical assistance initiatives would be significant achievements.

12. Anything else you’d like to add?

As a Black female with a diverse interdisciplinary background and roots in both the arts and real estate, I’m deeply committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects. Representation matters not only among professionals but also in the communities we serve. I’m particularly focused on creating more opportunities for real estate professionals from underrepresented backgrounds and advocating for diversity in policy and investment circles. In particular, coming from the arts, I understand the challenges of access and representation, where timing and opportunity are often tied to capital access and geography. Growing up in the Midwest, access to culture and opportunity varied greatly depending on where you lived and your immediate community. This experience has instilled in me a deep commitment to promoting equitable access and opportunity in communities and the broader real estate industry. And despite progress, I know we’re not there yet. So, in my new role as LOCUS Chair, I am excited to continue to champion my peers and champion the efforts that we’re all taking on together to make the real estate industry more diverse and to make sure that the industry can work better for all people across the country.