Marin County CEO Jordan Moss finds ‘essential housing’ for those being left behind
As CEO of Larkspur-based Catalyst Housing Group, the only job Jordan Moss would trade for would be as a player for the Golden State Warriors. Moss played a year of professional ball in Europe after being on UC Davis’ team.
“That competitive nature is definitely an important attribute to bring to business,” said Moss, who founded Catalyst in 2015.
Today, the 43-year-old finds himself jumping through regulatory hoops to create housing for the middle class. Moss says he is frustrated that wage growth has not kept pace with the price of housing, leading to teachers and other professionals who often have trouble finding a place to live.
“People are finding themselves further and further behind. It’s made our work that much more important,” Moss said. “It’s important to find optional housing for the folks being left behind.”
Catalyst acquires multifamily housing units and converts them into rentals for people who meet certain income requirements. Prices are more in line with average income levels than average rental prices, thus making them affordable to people who don’t qualify for traditional low-income housing.
In 2019, Catalyst launched what it calls “essential housing,“ partnering with California Community Housing Agency, which acts as a joint powers authority to issue government bonds to acquire the properties.
Catalyst, as a certified B Corporation, makes its money from the acquisition and asset management of these “essential housing” communities.
Some critics of the business practice say jurisdictions are hurt because state regulations do not allow them to collect property taxes on projects built under this scenario.
To this, Moss said all deals have been vetted in the open, for the public to comment on.
“(Each) transaction has been locally approved, in a public setting, by the governing body of the underlying jurisdiction,” he said.
Catalyst bought its last property in September 2021, a nearly 200-unit Summit in Sausalito in Marin County. The market rate units are now all restricted low- and moderate-income housing. No one was forced to leave, he says. The lower rates are phased in when those paying market rate move out.
The following is a Q&A between the Business Journal and Moss that has been edited for clarity and space.
Catalyst’s mission is to provide housing for the “missing middle,” those earning 60% to 120% of the local median household income. How do you do this?
We are believers that properly functioning communities require adequate and affordable housing for our essential workforce.
Working toward this goal, we pioneered an investment model to ensure that our nurses, teachers and first responders, among others, are provided pathways to live, work and thrive directly within the communities they serve.
Since Catalyst completed the industry’s first ever “essential housing” transaction in 2019, multiple governmental entities have leveraged our financial innovations to produce more than 14,000 units of rent-restricted housing throughout California.
What do you say to the critics of your business model?
Cities and counties throughout California are experiencing a crushing housing crisis and are desperately seeking rent-restricted housing for their critical middle-income workforce. Our Essential Housing model is the only scalable solution to this problem, which is why it has been so widely adopted.
More granularly, it is important to understand that property tax exemptions have always been necessary to subsidize affordable housing production.
Do you envision a company like yours will always be needed in California?
My dream for Catalyst is that we scale our innovation and impact to such a significant level that our efforts are no longer needed. That said, the myriad complexities related to developing housing at scale throughout California means that our innovative preservation solutions will be needed for the foreseeable future.
While Catalyst is based in Marin County, it has properties throughout California. Is there any place you would not want to do business?
Catalyst is interested in bringing innovative, impact-driven solutions to any community suffering from an under supply of quality housing. Unfortunately, this dynamic can be found in nearly every major city throughout the country.
What are the benefits and drawbacks to being located in the North Bay and doing business here?
The North Bay is world class in terms of providing direct access to amazing, creative people doing world changing things. Obvious drawbacks include the cost of living and the general lack of diversity.