Creating the Blueprint for Change: An In-Depth Conversation About the Multifamily Impact Council with CEO, Bob Simpson
Navigating the intersection of real estate and societal impact, the Multifamily Impact Council (MIC) stands as a beacon of innovation and transformation. In this candid conversation with Bob Simpson, CEO, President, and the driving force behind MIC, we offer a view into his professional journey, the establishment of MIC, and the development of the Multifamily Impact Framework™. Through this Q&A, we highlight the goals and objectives of MIC, its potential influence on future real estate practices, and its collaboration with partners such as Jair Lynch. Dive in with us to understand the nuances of impact-driven real estate, and learn more about how MIC is hoping to be the tide that raises all ships in our industry.
About bob simpson
Q1: Tell us about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Bob Simpson. I am the President and CEO of the Multifamily Impact Council. I am also the founder of Simpson Impact Strategies, an advisory firm that specializes in supporting organizations who are focused on creating more impact across the rental housing sector. More importantly, I am a dad and husband. My wife and I have been together for 26 years and our son will be heading off to college this fall. When I have free time, you can usually find me on my bike, reading, or enjoying live music somewhere.
Q2: Tell us about your professional background.
I started my career in the public policy arena and spent nearly seven years working for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. After that, I went to Fannie Mae and spent 20 years there. Most of my time there was in the Multifamily division – where I was fortunate to lead several different business lines including Seniors Housing, Structured Finance, as well as the team responsible for our largest borrower relationships. Most of my time, however, was spent as our Head of Affordable and Green financing – where I had the good fortune to lead our affordable debt and equity teams, as well as helping to build our green financing business from the ground up.
So, I’ve been blessed with a career that has allowed me to wear many hats, learn a lot about the different assets classes in our industry, and make some great friends across the policy and business worlds.
About Multifamily impact council
Q3: What is the Multifamily Impact Council (MIC)?
The MIC is a non-profit, membership organization whose mission is to help increase the flow of impact-motivated capital into the affordable and sustainable rental housing sector in the United States. We have a narrow focus on three key areas:
- We maintain an evidence-based Impact Framework that supports stable returns for investors and better lives for renters. We will partner with anyone who shares our belief that healthy, financially stable renters create healthy, financially stable properties.
- We use our Framework to establish credible, common standards for impact investing in the rental housing industry. Our Framework’s seven impact principles establish minimum impact requirements, promote transparency, and help adopters establish tangible impact goals that are aligned with broader ESG standards and certifications; and
- We make it easier for impact investing professionals in our industry to connect, access research and share best practices that educate, train, and support the growth of impact investing across the industry.
Q4: What led to MIC’s creation?
Our journey began with several conversations in 2020 with investors and impact focused owners/operators who, during the pandemic, recognized the value that impact driven initiatives and practices were having on both the lives of their renters and the financial stability of their properties. During these conversations, we came to the common conclusion that while our individual efforts were great, a common industry Framework was needed to establish benchmarks and reporting guidelines that would build credibility, increase capital flows, and help more organizations develop impact investment strategies that improved the lives of their renters and reduced risk and operating expenses at their properties. We also spent several months in 2021 researching past efforts to establish impact frameworks and determining if any actions were underway to establish an industry framework we could support. And, quite frankly, we could not find anyone else who was doing it. So, we decided to build one. And here we are!
Q5: MIC has recently published a framework. What is that framework?
The Multifamily Impact Framework™ was designed to function as the operating system for multifamily impact investing in the United States. It is centered around seven key principles. To meet our definition of impact, properties must meet the minimum impact threshold for all seven of these principles. The Framework also includes reporting guidelines to help organizations establish tangible goals and success metrics that can be shared with their stakeholders.
Q6: Tell us how you developed the framework.
Well, it was very important to us that we developed the Framework to support organizations across the entire industry – whether they were members of the MIC or not. So, to make that happen, we went through a robust, 12-month process to define each impact principle, set minimum impact requirements, and align best practices and metrics with industry trade groups, research institutions, and ESG benchmarking and certification organizations.
Our approach included the following steps: 1) Conducting in-depth interviews to obtain subject matter expertise from all MIC Members; 2) Collecting and analyzing data from all MIC members through distributed surveys; 3) Seeking public input via a survey that was shared via LinkedIn and our newsletter to more than 2,500 followers and subscribers; 4) Holding deep-dive meetings with MIC members to discuss each principle and incorporate feedback; and 5) Collaborating with our Advisory Board, comprised of multifamily housing leaders, industry trade groups and ESG experts, to ensure our work aligned with the broader ESG and industry ecosystem. While this approach was pretty exhaustive, it was absolutely critical to building a credible framework that could be adopted by investors, property owners, service providers and ESG advisory/reporting organizations.
Q7: You have a list of Founding Members on the MIC website. How were those members chosen and what unique perspectives do they bring?
Honestly, there was not a lot of science behind it. We were just trying to quickly build an organization from scratch, so we reached out to the organizations that were involved in our original conversations. That initial group represented a pretty broad cross section of property owners, investors, lenders and service providers who were already active and providing leadership in the impact investing space. Since that time, we have continued to expand our membership base and recently revised our membership fee structure to ensure that we can be more inclusive of smaller and mid-size organizations going forward.
Q8: Jair Lynch is a Sustaining Member of MIC and a proud contributor. What would you like other developers and property owners to know about MIC?
Well, the first thing that people should know is that we exist for the good of the industry. So, it is critical that the Framework we build and maintain is not just for the use of our members but available to everyone.
The second thing is that we believe that increasing the flow of private impact capital is not possible without a common, credible, and consistent approach to defining and measuring impact. And that is what we do. We maintain the Framework, share information and best practices, and help organizations use the Framework to build and measure their impact strategies.
Finally, our approach is based on transparency and collaboration. There are plenty of property owners and developers who are looking to develop or refine their impact strategies. There are plenty of lenders and investors who are looking to grow their impact portfolios, and there are plenty of organizations who are looking to add value by providing ESG benchmarking, certifications or impact reporting and measurement tools. All these groups go about their business differently. The one thing we want them to have in common is our Impact Framework – because having a common framework is what will help the industry attract impact capital at scale.
Q9: How can other developers, property owners, and similar firms get involved with MIC?
We currently have 50 members of the MIC and are always looking to expand our membership and increase adoption of the Framework!
Becoming a member of the MIC is a great opportunity to add your voice and expertise to our efforts and we benefit from your perspective as well. If organizations are interested in learning more, they should contact us directly. For organizations who are interested in formally adopting the Framework and incorporating it into their business strategy, they should contact us directly as well. You don’t have to be a member of the MIC to become an adopter of the Impact Framework.
To learn more about us and download our impact framework, visit us at www.multifamilyimpactcouncil.org.
Q10: Looking ahead, are there any future developments or iterations of the framework planned? What’s next for MIC?
In early fall, we plan to release version 1.1 of the Impact Framework. This version will include reporting metrics and implementation guidance – as well as links to research, best practices and other tools that can be found in our resource library. Going forward, we anticipate updating the Framework on an annual basis. From there, we will be focusing our efforts to increase adoption of the framework across the industry. This will include providing educational and training curriculum to help organizations adopt the Framework and build the impact skillsets of their team members. We will also continue our existing efforts to work with industry associations, ESG benchmarking and reporting groups, and impact advisory firms to develop partnerships that will enable us to share our Framework and help grow the industry. And finally, as we look ahead to 2024, we will be exploring new opportunities to leverage our Framework and support research projects and other initiatives to improve how we track, measure and value impact investing in the rental housing sector going forward.
We extend our sincere gratitude to Bob Simpson for sharing his invaluable insights. To stay updated on more insightful content, subscribe to our e-newsletter in the footer below. For those eager to explore the depths of MIC further, please visit their website and connect with them directly.