Kevin Matthews has spent 36 years helping clients navigate the ever-changing landscape of affordable housing.
So when it comes to affordable housing, he has seen it all.
When he started in the mid-80s, Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects had been hired to transition Lexington, Kentucky, from the barracks-style public housing of the era to modern, private developer homes that seamlessly connected to neighboring communities.
He has spent the years since helping more than 20 public housing authorities respond to modern challenges and opportunities. He’s worked alongside clients to navigate federal funding, rules and regulations and navigate public-private partnerships that have fostered a new way to fund affordable housing.
He finds the complexity and evolving challenges to be invigorating.
“I honestly love what I do,” Kevin said. “I love the people I work with. I love it more today than when I started.”
As principal in charge of affordable housing, Kevin serves as the main point of contact for housing authorities. That relationship helps create the smooth communication Sherman Carter Barnhart is known for. It’s also one of the things Kevin loves about the job: the satisfaction of getting to know clients and working with them to reach their goals.
“My job is to listen to everybody, to really listen to what they want,” Kevin said. “The conversation is important.”
That vital dialogue stretches beyond housing authority managers. During a given project, Kevin and his team foster communication among senior staff, maintenance and operations managers and residents.
“There’s no better feeling than to listen to their aspirations, listen to their ideas, and then help them improve on them,” Kevin said.
Clients tell the firm that communication and responsiveness are the main reasons they like working with Sherman Carter Barnhart.
“Sherman Carter Barnhart is quick to respond and marshal the necessary resources to resolve any situation,” said Austin Simms, executive director of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Housing Authority since 1984.
Moses A. Gayles III of the St. Louis Housing Authority agrees. Gayles is the capital projects manager for SLHA, which has been a client of Sherman Carter Barnhart since 1999.
“The SCB Housing Team is available whenever we need them,” Gayles said. “Saying this about an out-of-state design firm is critical and one of the main reasons we continue to hire them.”
During typical projects, Kevin serves as a point of contact, but he also:
Kevin points out that oftentimes clients aren’t sure which direction they need to go with a project. Experience helps in making the decision.
“We often work with clients to figure out whether a development needs to be razed and rebuilt, or just renovated.”
Kevin and associate principal Brandon Ward are optimistic about the potential for affordable housing in the infrastructure bill being debated now (mid-September 2021) in Congress. If passed, the legislation could mean an influx of money for badly needed housing developments.
“It opens up possibilities that haven’t really existed before,” Kevin said. “We want to be on the forefront of that and help clients understand how to move forward with various options.”
The work is all-encompassing, and all-involving, and Kevin can’t imagine spending his days doing anything else.
Even at a young age, he wanted to work on building designs. Now he spends his days immersed in every aspect of design and development, from renovation to demolition to re-envisioning the way neighbors interact. He has worked alongside a variety of consultants ranging from planners to financial managers.
That problem-solving makes the job fun, and the knowledge that the work is helping people makes it rewarding.
“I’m never going to settle on my last project being the benchmark for what we’re going to do next.”
Brandon Ward, an associate principal at Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, focuses exclusively on affordable housing and has been part of the firm’s team since 2005.
Louisville’s Business First magazine recently highlighted the completion of two phases of the Beecher Terrace development — a public-private partnership between Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects