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When working with multifamily affordable housing organizations, it’s always a good idea to follow a few general tips and guidelines to help you prepare. Here are some key points that contractors interested in expanding their business into this new sector might find useful. 

1. Connect with the right department.

Since SOMAH is designed to install solar on existing buildings, contractors should connect with individuals at affordable housing organizations who work in asset or portfolio management. These departments focus on operating existing building stock. Development departments, on the other hand, deal with new construction projects – which are not eligible for SOMAH until they receive a  certificate of occupancy.

2. Capture property owners’ interest with multiple communication touch points.

When conducting outreach to affordable housing providers, we recommend using a variety of communication methods including email, mailers, phone calls, etc. If you don’t get a response, follow up with further communications. It may be worthwhile to reach out to several individuals at the same organization in relevant departments.

3. Engage affordable housing associations to tap into their network of property owners.

The affordable housing industry relies heavily upon the support of professional associations for policy updates, resource sharing and networking. Becoming a member gives contractors visibility among local and regional associations and provides access to events such as monthly meetings and annual conferences.

California Affordable Housing Associations

4. Focus on the numbers and provide transparency around commitment.

Affordable housing developers are often confined to limited budgets. To better engage property owners, it is important to outline:

     1) How solar may help them save in the long run (ROI). 

     2) What expenses they will be responsible for paying.

     3) How SOMAH incentives make installations affordable.

It may be helpful to provide a high-level cost breakdown that can be shared with senior leadership to advocate for SOMAH.

Making the case for solar can be a slow process, as organizations typically need to plan months in advance in order to fit projects into their next year's budget. Additionally, make sure the property owner or manager realizes that while they have certain responsibilities for their SOMAH project, you will help shepherd them through it.

5. Be prepared to compete.

Some affordable housing developers, such as public housing authorities (PHAs), may have a procurement process in which they are required to seek out bids via a request for proposal (RFP) process. Make sure to highlight your company’s solar experience, cost effectiveness, etc.

6. Understand solar financing options.

Solar contractors must be knowledgeable about financing options for multifamily affordable housing property owners, such as grants, loans, and tax credits. These financing options can help make the project economically feasible for the property owner and help you close more deals.

Final Thoughts

Solar contractors who work with multifamily affordable housing property owners must be knowledgeable, communicative and persistent. By following these tips, contractors can ensure the success of their solar projects and build positive relationships with property owners.

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