Yowell Aaron J

Aaron J. Yowell

Aaron Yowell represents private, public and nonprofit real estate developers, owners and investors, with a particular focus on projects with affordable housing components and unconventional financing structures, including housing development fund companies, tax incentive programs such as Article XI and Affordable New York (a/k/a 421-a benefits) and inclusionary housing. He guides all aspects of project development, new construction, rehabilitation, and operation, including acquisitions, dispositions, regulatory matters, public and private financings, joint ventures and investments.

What do you focus on?

Aligning interests

Constructing projects with affordable housing and repositioning and preserving existing housing requires marshaling diverse sets of government agencies and debt and equity partners. I guide developers and investors through these complexities, moving all parties toward a common goal. For example, I recently helped a joint venture between two private, for-profit developers acquire and finance the rehabilitation of a large New York City property built on a long-term ground lease from a governmental agency. The project was financed with the taxable bond proceeds and conventional private equity. Getting to closing required harmonizing the interests of the bond issuer and a private equity investor new to affordable housing with the interest of our client.

Project management and legal tech

Up-to-the-minute deal awareness is essential to my work and I rely on strong project management to keep all the members of our team, including our clients, in the loop. Affordable housing transactions, which often involve upwards of five or six different sources of debt financing, tax credit equity, and state and local tax exemptions, present a unique opportunity to create value through efficiency. I am constantly piloting new ways we can reduce friction for our clients, creating more and better opportunities to leverage existing assets and unlock new lines of business. Our innovation initiatives, including the Code the Deal transactional law hackathon, which I spearheaded on behalf of the firm, are a big part of this.

Analysis and sustainability

I am a chair of the Affordable Housing Committee of the Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy, which conducts cutting-edge research on urban development and affordable housing. In addition to affordable housing, sustainability and green building are very important to me. I was a founding board member of GreenHomeNYC, a nonprofit offering offers resources for small- and medium-sized buildings in New York City.

What do you see on the horizon?

Each of the New York City and State governments continue to try to outdo each other in housing production, increasingly insisting upon a substantial mix of incomes. At the same time, with the volume of public debt constrained, opportunities abound for less conventional structure and more creative players. The New York City Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program and its interplay with Affordable New York (a/k/a 421-a) is just one area where possibilities for both traditional affordable housing developers, market-rate developers and players new to the affordable market are expanding in both size and scope.


  • “Building Environmentally Sustainable Communities: A Framework for Inclusion” (What Works Collaborative 2010) (with Vicki Been, Mary Cunningham, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Adam Gordon, Margorie Turner and Ken Zimmerman)
  • “That’s Where We Print the Money: Trading Increased Density for Public Amenities,” 15 NYU Envtl. LJ 493 (2007) reprinted in Zoning and Planning Handbook (Patricia E. Salkin ed., 2008)
  • “Tracking Building Energy Usage,” The Cooperator (June 2008)
  • “Inclusionary Zoning for New York City: Predictions and Recommendations for Hudson Yards, Greenpoint-Williamsburg and Beyond,” 14 NYU Wagner Rev. 1 (2007)

Select Presentations

  • “How to Credit Enhance Your Transaction,” New York State Affordable Housing Conference, May 2017
  • “State Funding Update,” NYSAFAH Upstate, September 2016 (with Marian  Zucker, HFA; David Walsh, JPMorgan Chase; Sue McCann, TCB and Victor Sostar, First Sterling)
  • “Affordable Housing’s Getting Creative,” Bisnow, September 2016 (with Spencer Orkus, L+M Development, Eli Weiss, Joy Construction and Shwetha Subramanian, Forest City Ratner)
  • “Developing Inclusionary Housing without 421a: Alternative Tax-Exemption Tools,” Nixon Peabody LLP, July 2016 (with Vicki Been, HPD Commissioner and Chuck Brass, Forsyth Street Advisors)
  • “Beyond Tax Credits: Alternative Financing for Affordable Housing,” Nixon Peabody LLP, March 2016
  • “Labor and Employment Issues in Affordable Housing,” Nixon Peabody LLP, November 2015
  • “Low Income Housing Tax Credit Property Dispositions,” IPED, October 2015
  • “Developing for ELI (Extremely Low Income) Tenants,” New York State Supportive Housing Conference, May 2015
  • “Supportive Housing—Challenges and Opportunities,” IPED, March 2015
  • “Negotiating Equity Documents,” Nixon Peabody LLP, November 2014
  • “Better Buildings, Greener Pockets: HUD’s New Funding,” Institute for Responsible Housing Preservation, January 2014
  • “Real Financing, Real Quick (Financing for People with Short Attention Spans),” Building Energy New York City, October 2013  (moderator)
  • “Negotiating Confidentiality Agreements, Northwood Acquisitions,” January 2011
  • “The Good Green Meme: Models of Citizen Engagement from the Streets of New York City,” GreenBuild 2009, Phoenix, AZ (with Gita Nandan, thread collective and Miquela Craytor, Sustainable South Bronx)

Forming opportunity funds: Expecting startups by year-end

TaxCredit Advisor | July 01, 2018

Chief Innovation Officer Aaron Yowell, also a New York City Affordable Housing and Real Estate partner, is quoted in this article discussing the pace of progress on forming opportunity funds. Click here to read the full article: “Forming opportunity funds: Expecting startups by year-end

Law360 names attorneys who moved up the firm ranks in Q1

Law360 | May 07, 2018

In this roundup of promotions to partner and firm management positions, 14 attorneys from Nixon Peabody are highlighted. The 11 attorneys promoted to partner are Ellie Altshuler, Mark Beaudoin, Erik Birkeneder, Hannah Bornstein, Chris Browning, Barry Carrigan, Keri McWilliams, Matt Mullen, Steven Richard, Charles Tamuleviz and Alison Torbitt. In addition, Kenneth C. Lind was promoted to leader of the firms’ public finance practice group, Justin Thompson was promoted to office managing partner in LA, and Aaron Yowell was promoted to chief innovation officer.

Blank Rome, Nixon Peabody steer $53M loan for Bronx apartments

Law360 | November 28, 2017

New York City affordable housing partner Aaron Yowell counseled Park Management Inc. in its $53 million acquisition of a seven-floor apartment building in the Bronx serving lower-income renters.

421-a's Gone, So Affordable Housing's Getting Creative

Bisnow | September 12, 2016

New York City affordable housing partner Aaron Yowell is quoted in this article that looks at the increasing need for affordable housing in New York City and how it’s becoming harder to get this done—especially in light of the loss of the 421-a tax exemption program.

Two Nixon Peabody Affordable Housing Attorneys Join Partnership

HousingOnline Weekly | February 03, 2016

This article from the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association highlights Affordable Housing partners Meghan Altidor and Aaron Yowell for their election to the partnership.


Aaron J. Yowell

Chief Innovation Officer

New York

Phone: 212-940-3161

Fax: 866-741-0715

New York University School of Law, J.D., Order of the Coif; Environmental Law Journal

Wesleyan University, B.A.

New York

Aaron Yowell is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association and serves as board president of GreenHomeNYC, Inc. He is a non-resident fellow for the New York University Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy and is a graduate of the New York Center for Environmental Law and Leadership Institute.

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