12 Steps for Affordable Housing Accounting Promotions

Determined young female professional

Affordable housing accounting is more than just crunching numbers – it’s about providing homes, stability and opportunity to communities in need. This unique career path allows you to harmonize professional success with creating powerful social impact through programs like the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC).

As you gain years of experience, you’ll develop a heightened sense of responsibility, gain relevant industry expertise and adhere to professional standards to ensure these vital initiatives reach their full potential.

Keeping the Human Impact in Focus

Don’t lose sight of the human impact behind the numbers as you climb the corporate ladder. Here’s a heart-wrenching fact for you: In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage worker in California has to work 109 hours per week. This means low-wage workers will need to find and keep jobs working for numerous businesses. (Or, they have multiple side hustles!)

Of course your promotion is about you, but don’t get tunnel vision…visit new construction affordable housing sites, interacting with residents whose lives are transformed thanks to your advisory team’s strategic guidance on maximizing incentives like LIHTCs and historic rehabilitation tax credits. These experiences nurturing empathy and compassion can reignite your passion during inevitable career challenges.

Finding Your “Why” in Affordable Housing

Some are drawn to affordable housing accounting after struggling with housing insecurity themselves or witnessing a loved one’s difficulties. Others feel compelled to volunteer and help revitalize communities through urban development and cultural preservation initiatives. Regardless of your “why”, get clear on this driving force. It will sustain you through school and early job hunting, keeping you grounded when you face financial challenges or tough milestones.

Now that we’ve talked about the emotional aspect of your chosen field, here are LvHJ’s 12 steps to promotions to help you achieve upward mobility in affordable housing accounting — because getting a promotion does require strategic planning!

  1. Map Out Your Firm’s Promotion Criteria
    Carefully review your firm’s criteria for each successive role – senior, manager, director, etc. Understand billable hours, utilization, business development and leadership expectations.
  2. Discuss Timing with Leadership
    Initiate conversations about timing for progressing to the next level. Agree on realistic goal timeframes and get feedback on development areas.
  3. Identify Specialization Opportunities
    For senior roles, determine if affordable housing specialization is valued. If so, gain skills in low-income housing tax credit advisory services, compliance services and/or audit standards experience. (At the same time, you may learn about closely held businesses, governmental entities or succession and exit strategy advisory along the way! LvHJ clients are varied and vast in their industries and requirements. Don’t shy away from additional learning opportunities as they arise!)
  4. Attain Regulatory Mastery
    Develop expertise in affordable housing regulations at all levels of government. This wide-ranging tax and audit or accounting knowledge is critical for subject matter experts.
  5. Gain Valuable Experience with Tax Credit Programs
    Prioritize firsthand experience working with LIHTCs, renewable energy tax credits, historic rehabilitation credits, and other key tax incentives. Become familiar with state housing finance agencies, local governmental organizations and community development corporations.
  6. Volunteer for Not-for-Profit Engagements
    Many affordable housing projects involve not-for-profit organizations. Actively seek roles auditing and advising these entities, whether they are social welfare, educational, youth or arts organizations.
  7. Request Training and Mentorship
    Identify senior mentors in your firm’s affordable housing practice. Request training, coaching and shadowing to accelerate your skill development technically and for leadership.
  8. Showcase Top-Notch Deliverables
    Produce impeccable work demonstrating top-notch accounting, tax and audit solutions, and commitment to the AICPA code of professional conduct.
  9. Build a Strategic Advisory Mindset
    Cultivate an advisory-focused approach, providing proactive and strategic guidance beyond compliance.
  10. Target Management-Level Professional Skills
    For manager+ roles, hone skills like team leadership and mentoring, business development, collaboration and delegation, firm visibility and exemplifying the firm’s values.
  11. Discuss Partnership Potential
    If partnership is your goal, initiate dialogue to understand criteria like what your book of business and revenue contribution should look like and ensure you’re meeting the standards for corporate citizenship.
  12. Leverage Industry Leadership
    Speaking engagements and published articles amplify your personal brand, benefiting business development and promotion cases. If your manager is seeing your posts on LinkedIn and your community involvement, it’s easier to recommend a promotion!

Implementing these 12 steps highlights your readiness for advanced responsibilities and leadership. You can already see that a convergence of backgrounds is the right way to achieve success in your career while also having work-life balance along the way. You don’t have to go it alone. Ask fellow staff members how they found their dream job. Some of our clients are local here to San Francisco, while others ask us for financial reporting, housing credit advice and comprehensive support nationally and internationally! The world is ready for your career advancement.

See our article on mapping out your accounting career plan for more tips!

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re just starting your affordable housing accounting journey or are a seasoned professional, staying connected to your “why” is paramount. Behind the tax returns and financial statements, your work positively impacts families in need of a safe, affordable home. By focusing on this human element, you’ll achieve both professional success and personal fulfillment in a uniquely purpose-driven career.

National Low Income Housing Coalition

Next: Add Inspiration to Your Accounting Career

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