By Angela Swinson Lee, Special to The Informer
When Marquida Howard goes to her job as a Senior Director of Community Management she gives 120 percent because she knows her role is important. Working for Faria Management, the property management company of luxury affordable housing developed under Dumas Collective, has changed the trajectory of her career.
For one, she gets to help people like 64-year-old Terri Hill, a resident at the Todd A. Lee Senior Residences. The day they met, Hill had an appointment to apply for affordable senior housing but ended up at the incorrect location. Rather than send her away, Howard assisted her.
“Ms. Hill told me how she was staying with her daughter. She told me how she wanted to start over and have her own space again,” Howard said. “It made me want to see the smile on her face when her application came back approved.”
Howard and Hill are featured in the JPMorgan Chase “Make Happen” marketing campaign that has been running throughout D.C. on bus shelters and in the Uber app.
Faria Management, where Howard works, is not a typical management firm. It is a part of the Dumas Collective umbrella, a company that includes an asset, construction, and property management division, and Dantes Partners the development division. The difference, Howard says, is that all of the entities work together.
Based on this structure, Howard has valuable insight into the development side of Dumas Collective. Dantes Partners led by Buwa Binitie, is the development company responsible for the Todd A. Lee Senior Residences. Working under an umbrella company like this means Howard is also receiving lessons in financial literacy that she uses to educate her staff. At Faria, the managers are encouraged to be the CEO of their communities, having a deep understating of things like construction budgeting and operating financials lead to a natural alignment of goals for a better resident experience.
“Buwa treats us as partners. He asks us for our opinion,” Howard said adding that such treatment from the owner of the company makes the team members feel valued.
Although she has more than a decade of property management experience, it wasn’t Howard’s first career choice. She had actually gone to culinary school and landed an internship, which ended abruptly. Howard was devastated and shared her story with a stranger, who told her about the D.C. Project Empowerment Program. Instead of heading home with a broken heart, Howard went to learn about the program. She landed an interview the next day. She wasn’t dressed appropriately, so she shopped at a nearby discounted clothing store, known as Gallo, for proper attire. She was accepted into the program, and the rest is history.
During her first two days on the job, she assisted with a move-in for public housing in the southeast. “The lady hugged me so tight and was so excited. I couldn’t stop smiling. She had one kid and really no income, but she had a place to call her own at that point,” Howard said. “That’s what made me feel like affordable housing was for me, just to see the smile on someone’s face.”
As for Hill, that resident that Howard assisted, that company has been a lifesaver. “I finally have an affordable place that I could call my own and continue to live in the city that raised me,” Hill said.
Brett Macleod, Executive Director, JPMorgan Chase Community Development Banking, said it is humbling and gratifying to help provide D.C. senior residents luxury affordable housing. “The work I do is all about the residents. I play a small part in the overall deal, but the reason I enjoy the work I do is because it has a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” Macleod said.
“There is an insatiable demand for more affordable housing in the high-cost D.C. metro area. It is hugely important for everyone to afford to live near their family and near their work.”
Macleod added that Binitie is extremely smart and passionate about affordable housing. “Buwa has always developed new and innovative financing structures to deliver affordable housing more efficiently than others in the market. He is forward-thinking and always examining what he could have done better to constantly improve his own business model. Most important, Buwa has been fiercely loyal to people who have treated him well, which I admire deeply.”
Dumas Collective currently has closed and financed more than 8,000 units of affordable and workforce housing across Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and New York City.