Mountco Construction & Development Corp.

MountcoMountco takes pride in building affordable housing projects that revitalize New York communities.

By Tim O’Connor

A good affordable housing project can transform a community. It can bring in young professionals such as teachers and municipal workers who earn less than 80 percent of the local average mean income (AMI), while helping elderly residents afford to remain in their town.

Affordable housing projects can even revitalize a community. Fifteen years ago, Mountco Construction & Development Corp. was one of the few affordable housing developers in Mount Vernon, N.Y., a suburb of New York City near the Bronx. Mountco’s work in the area brought new people to the city, which in turned lured more shops and local businesses, sparking an economic renewal.

“It turns around a community over time,” Mountco founder and President Joel Mounty says. “When you build affordable you’re really creating something for families and individuals.”

There is an economic value to the projects themselves. Mountco uses local laborers and subcontractors for every building, ensuring that dollars spent on the project stay in the community. Further, the company participates in planning meetings and coordinates the projects with government officials to maximize the impact. “We constantly have a planning presence in these communities and organizations we’re involved with,” Mounty adds.

Honoring Relationships

Since its founding 1988, Mountco has been an important player in New York’s affordable housing market. The company primarily works on rehabs and new construction projects in the metropolitan New York City area and the lower Hudson Valley, and has built about 3,700 multifamily units. For about two-thirds of those units, Mountco was the developer and continues to act as the managing member. The company also functions as the general contractor for other projects, using its development experience to hire subcontractors to complete the work.

Affordable housing projects are usually spearheaded by local nonprofits. Mountco has had success partnering with groups such as Breaking Ground, New York City’s largest provider of supportive housing for the homeless, and faith-based organizations such as Interfaith Dwellings Corp. and Grace Baptist Church. Mountco box

For Breaking Ground, Mountco served as the general contractor on three projects before becoming a partner in the group’s newest building, an $80-million, 248-unit structure called Park House in the Bronx. The 12-story building is about 75 percent done and is expected to open next June.

The relationships between builder and client tend to be complementary, Mounty says, because stakeholders share Mountco’s values of success and honorability. The company typically does not bid on projects, instead securing work through  established connections.

In turn, the company knows it is working with organizations that measure success not by profits but in their ability to build housing. No one benefits when a project is held up or lawsuits are filed to contest the work. “With a not-for-profit partner in construction, I always get my last payment,” Mounty says.

Not-for-profit organizations tend to have a tighter grip on their funds than private developers as they strive to maximize the value of every dollar spent. As a result, non-profits tend to value working with companies they have a history with and know to be reliable. Mountco does its part in eliminating change-orders and other behaviors that drive up costs.

The company’s in-house licensed architect, Carl Meinhardt, works with the project’s designers and subcontractors to plan out every detail before building begins to reduce the likelihood of unanticipated costs. “If we’re building a building under contract we want to make sure the ways it is designed are right,” Mounty explains. “The best way you keep a friend as a contractor is to avoid change-orders and to avoid lawsuits.”

The collaboration that occurs on behalf of the client’s interests is why Mountco is so highly regarded among nonprofit groups. “We’re honorable people. People have known me for a long time in the community,” Mounty says, adding that he takes pride in his company’s ability to deliver what was promised. “I’m the sole owner of the business so if you hire Mountco you get me.”

Infinite Demand

The positive reaction from the community and residents is one of the reasons Mounty has stuck with affordable housing projects for the past 28 years. Because Mountco manages many of its buildings, Mounty has the opportunity to interact with residents after they’ve moved in, and experiences their excitement in going from substandard housing to a high-quality unit designed for their needs and livelihood.

New affordable housing projects are often outfitted with community rooms, computer labs and supportive services such as on-site nurses for elderly tenants. Residents are proud of what they have and work hard to maintain their apartments. Mounty says it’s common to see people cleaning the hallways in front of their doors just to keep it looking nice.

Residents take such care in their homes because they know they are among the lucky few. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the United States has a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental units for households earning 30 percent or less of the local AMI.

Mounty has seen first hand the impact that shortage has on the market. The recently opened Grace Terrace, a project for Grace Baptist Church, saw 800 applications for 67 units. Park House could see an even greater draw: Mounty guessed the building could have as many as 50,000 applications for its 248 units. “The demand for affordable housing is infinite,” he says. “It’s really a feel-good application.”

The high demand for affordable housing means there is still an abundance of work in the New York City and lower Hudson Valley region so there is little pressure for Mountco to expand out of its framework. However, Mounty says the company would consider working with organizations that match its values. “We’d be happy to branch out with the right local partners, both not-for-profit and for-profit,” he says.

 

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