In the fall of 2015, Mutual Housing California leadership had a decision to make. The Sacramento-based developer and advocate of sustainable, affordable housing had grown beyond the capacity of its existing CPA firm. Lindquist, von Husen & Joyce, LLP (LvHJ) stood out for several reasons, according to Julie Goldfine, CPA, Mutual Housing California Chief Financial and Operating Officer.
First of all, LvHJ was recommended by one of Mutual Housing California’s investor partners. With six firms under consideration, Goldfine says, “the decision came down to be less about price, but more about services and our overall comfort level.”
Goldfine recalls that LvHJ’s involvement in NeighborWorks America, one of her organization’s major -funders, as well as Strength Matters,® was another deciding factor. Goldfine is a member of the Strength Matters CFO working group that has been instrumental in developing national audit protocols and standards specific to affordable housing. LvHJ has worked with both NeighborWorks and Strength Matters for several years, writing handbooks, policies and whitepapers. LvHJ also participates in CFO working group meetings to support organizations like Goldfine’s.
“They have produced great technical papers that are extremely helpful for individuals such as myself in affordable housing, whether on taxation of partnerships or technical accounting issues and how they relate to financial statement reporting issues,” Goldfine says. “They really know our business.”
Immediate Return on Investment
Within the first year, LvHJ worked with Mutual Housing California’s financial team to go from partially consolidated to fully consolidated financial statements for its 30-plus entities. LvHJ’s guidance brought the organization overall “up to the next level” for compliance and transparency, according to Goldfine.
“Half of our companies were under the old rules, and Lindquist worked with them to report under the new rules. It was a big step for our organization to really up our game,” Goldfine says.
Another area that is extremely valuable has been LvHJ’s guidance on working with the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which has funded some of Mutual Housing California’s projects. LvHJ’s oversight of specific reporting requirements for HCD has resulted in faster turnaround on fee reimbursements, Goldfine says.
At the executive level, LvHJ has made introductions to key policy and agency leaders, providing opportunities for Mutual Housing California to attend state-sponsored events and participate in discourse regarding affordable housing issues.
Three Audit Cycles and Counting
Moving into every new audit cycle, Goldfine is happy to say that she and her team can reach out to LvHJ throughout the year for quick answers on compliance or tax issues without worrying about additional fees. LvHJ has also conducted training on cross-departmental communication to help the 70-member team that is located in multiple offices better communicate on key issues with new projects.
“This is also included in their service. We gained some valuable templates to track key points in a development deal so that the executive team, development, the asset manager, accounting, and property management stay on the same page,” she says.
As a green organization, Mutual Housing California can utilize LvHJ’s electronic portal and document management system. Goldfine has also valued the firm’s variety of templates for affordable housing work papers and reporting.
“If we get into something that’s new for us such as developer fee eliminations, they have an electronic template for that,” she says. “Then they walk us through the process. The value-add for efficiency and knowledge building has been huge for us.”
To explain the experience with LvHJ, Goldfine put it this way: “When we first changed over, I remember telling someone that it was like having a warm blanket placed on you. They have truly helped us navigate this complex world that we operate in.”