When Stephen Rosenberg started Greystone & Co. with a telephone sitting atop a desk made from an unpainted wood door and two rusty file cabinets, it was easy to maintain his focus on keeping humility within his corporate structure. “We had plenty of humility back then,” he recalled. “We had very little else.”
Today, Rosenberg’s company, that same Greystone & Co., employs nearly 8,000 individuals and holds substantial presence in multiple industries, including multifamily, healthcare, and commercial real estate. The company (and Rosenberg) retain that laser focus on humility, however, with the result that one of the nation’s largest HUD lenders is also the tactician behind some of the most groundbreaking funding structures today designed to create and sustain affordable housing.
Think Realty Magazine sat down with Rosenberg to dive into the unique blend of logic and philanthropy that has yielded such success for him, his company, and his employees on both a personal and professional level.
Think Realty Magazine: Tell us a little more about the progression from that telephone and unpainted door to the Greystone of today.
Stephen Rosenberg: In the earliest days of the company, it was just me and one or two other people sitting in the back office of a music store trying to convince people to do business with us. When we started, all we did were workouts on HUD-insured loans for multifamily properties in default. We started with those for two reasons. First, we could help people and really achieve meaningful results in those situations, and second, quite frankly, no one else had a reason to call us back!
Fortunately we were then, as now, by nature a philanthropic organization, and our goal was to not just write checks from our profits but also create revenue streams that we would be able to use for charity for years to come. For example, we later created Harmony Housing, a not-for-profit funded with equity that purchases affordable multifamily properties around the country. The profits Harmony Housing generates allow it not only to provide for others and enhance lives, but also generate equity to keep the organization growing, investing in other properties, and generating additional cash flow.
TRM: And that just really scratches the surface of what Greystone does, correct?
SR: Correct. We are a fully diversified corporation with 34 offices, nearly 8,000 employees, and ownership or management of nearly $30 billion in assets. We have developed more than $2 billion in properties nationwide, own and manage more than 7,600 multifamily units, and manage nearly 3,800 beds across 30 healthcare facilities. In fact, we are one of the largest providers of funding and financing to nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.
I’m also very proud of our work with developers and other not-for-profits that own multifamily real estate by providing capital, contractors, and construction to help them rehab their units, make them affordable, make housing in the area accessible. Housing affordability is a crisis in the United States, and we feel it is one of our responsibilities to help resolve it when possible. We also believe it is our responsibility to take a real, true interest in people’s lives, to give our investors and our employees the best opportunities possible, and to actively, with dedication, give back.
Getting to Know Greystone
Greystone operates in three major areas of real estate:
- Lending: Origination and servicing of mortgage loans for multifamily, healthcare, and other commercial real estate.
- Investment: Development of more than $2 billion in properties nationwide, including owning and managing more than 7,600 multifamily units and 3,800 beds across 30 healthcare facilities.
- Advisory: Covers affordable housing preservation and development, investment sales of multifamily, affordable, and senior housing, and real estate capital markets.
Greystone’s philanthropic endeavors span dozens of categories, including addressing issues of hunger, homelessness, childhood poverty, medical and humanitarian needs, and local community action. In 2017, the company raised more than $45 million for numerous charitable organizations and families via its annual Day of Service and local year-round initiatives. Highlights from the 2017 Greystone Cares Annual Report include:
- Greystone-supported Murray & Sydell Rosenberg Foundation helps individuals with basic humanitarian needs, medical necessities (in 2016 the foundation funded lifesaving medical services outside of insurance coverage for cancer patients), and educational pursuits to enhance and sustain self-sufficiency.
- Greystone Disaster Relief efforts in 2017 included offering temporary housing to displaced families in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, financial support for wildfire victims, and the donation of $35,000 worth of care packages.
- Greystone Hunger Initiatives involved financial support and community activism around the country, including delivering hundreds of meals to homebound seniors, sending more than 27,000 meals to poverty-stricken communities in Nicaragua, providing more than 1,800 hot meals to homeless Atlanta, Georgia, residents, and creating access to clean drinking water in Ugandan villages through support of Engineers Without Borders.
- Greystone Homelessness relief efforts involve ongoing dedication and coordinated effort toward providing quality, affordable housing through the Bridges to Harmony program, which often waives application fees and as much as 75 percent of rents in order to place homeless and displaced veterans, single mothers, recently “aged-out” foster children, and other individuals with no rental or employment history.