Congressman Learns About Apartments by Working in Them
On a 97-degree morning, a new employee at the Taylors Farm Apartments in Dallas was picking up and taking trash to the dumpster, fixing appliances and responding to residents’ maintenance requests.
To some of the residents, he looked just like Congressman Marc A. Veasey, a Democrat whose 33rd district covers the apartment community.
Spoiler alert: He actually was Congressman Marc A Veasey, spending the morning working alongside staff to better understand the working and housing challenges his constituents face.
For Taylors Farm and the Apartment Association of Tarrant County (AATC) representatives, Veasey’s visit was an apartment housing industry advocate’s dream come true – the opportunity not only to tell but also show their member of Congress how the industry works to help him make smarter decisions on issues impacting apartment owners and managers.
“He was adamant he wanted to get out and work,” says Mike Clark, a principal with Alpha-Barnes Real Estate Services which manages Taylors Farm, a 160-unit mixed income tax credit community. “He genuinely wants to know what his constituents do.”
So how did ATTC pull off getting their local Congressman to work at an apartment community? (And wouldn’t we all love to do that?)
Enter Perry Pillow, AATC’s Director of Government Affairs. “I’ve known Marc a long time, even before he was in the Texas legislature,” Pillow explains. “We have an excellent relationship. That’s why I encourage people to establish relationships with elected officials early. You can’t walk into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue now, but what if you had built a relationship with President Obama when he was an Illinois state senator?”
When Pillow met with Veasey during NAA’s Lobby Day last March, it was Veasey who suggested the work day as part of his “Marc Means Business” program to work with constituents and learn their businesses.
Veasey’s visit was an opportunity to explain how affordable housing works in the market place – a laborious undertaking that some find daunting. “He was open and receptive to talking about the income restrictions and the maximum rents. That was worth the whole morning,” Clark says.
A side benefit was the chance for Taylors Farm staff to interact with a member of Congress. “They realized that this is a real person who sweats like we do,” Pillow says.
Veasey was impressed with what he learned. “It’s a lot of hard work but it makes me have a different perspective on affordable housing,” he says. “I was an apartment kid growing up … we lived in a bunch of different apartments all throughout but mainly in West Fort Worth. It is eye-opening to me. Had there not been affordable housing, I don’t know what we would have done. It’s an opportunity to raise a family in a safe, clean environment.
“Today we have to continue to keep the fight going for affordable housing. A lot of people here in Dallas/Fort Worth need a nice, safe, clean place to live,” he says. “It’s important that we in Washington understand that the things we do can really have an impact on local businesses. We need to think about our decisions so we can keep the economy strong.”
By NAA Public Affairs Director Carole Roper