Richard F. Burns, President & CEO, NHPF says “Comparing what our industry peers say about coping with Covid-19 against what residents say gives a very complete picture of life in affordable housing one year into the pandemic and we see some lessons learned that can benefit both groups.”
NEW YORK (PRWEB) March 22, 2021
Fully one half (50%) of not-for-profit owners of multi-family and senior affordable housing across the country, report they spend “half to most” of their day worrying about the renters in their units. These owners, responding anonymously to a survey on rental housing vulnerability, are most worried about renters’ ability to pay rent, followed by worries of an outbreak of Covid-19 at their property.
This data is comparable to a recent companion study by The NHP Foundation conducted of 1,000 low to middle income renters across the country which found that more than half of parents of school-age children in rental housing spend at least “a few hours up to most” of their day worrying about their housing situation as a result of the pandemic.
This survey of affordable housing owners representing 104,112 units in 49 states, The District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico was conducted by SAHF (Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future) the week of March 1, 2021.
While all respondents report that the impact of the pandemic has been “somewhat” to “very” negative on organization operations, the ways in which they experienced this negativity varies, with 83% experiencing both a reduction in cash flow and outbreaks of Covid-19 in their buildings and another 33% coping with delays in real estate transactions and acquisitions.
The survey also uncovered concern about reputation management as property owners coped with reports of Covid at facilities with at-risk populations. Others expressed concern at the need to cut back critical on-site resident services out of safety concerns during the pandemic.
When asked how organizations were coping with financial challenges, a third (33%) reported delaying raises and promotions of staff. One survey respondent reported receiving a capital infusion from its parent company to assist with cash flow while another has saved money on previously high travel expenses.
Other findings include:
- 83% of owners report the main way that Covid has affected renters in their properties is missed rent, which averages between $1,000-$2,499 per unit in arrears.
- 100% of owners queried find that the number one renter concern during the pandemic has been the inability to see family and friends. This is followed by 66% who find that residents adapting to new social norms (masking and distancing) is the most challenging. Another 50% claim the residents at their properties have most difficulty coping with less than adequate internet services.
- 43% of renters from the analogous NHPF survey asked the same question agreed with property owners, citing their number one concern as the inability to see friends/family, with nearly a third (31%) citing “difficulty adjusting to social norms” (masks, social distancing), and 26% finding the adjustment to remote learning for their children difficult.
When asked about resources for helping to maintain stable housing, property owners believed the most help comes from equally from landlords, religious organizations/NGOs and social services, followed by family and friends. This finding stands in stark contrast to the renter survey, where assistance from family and friends ranked highest (60%), with 28% ranking assistance from landlord and management companies highest.
To address this discrepancy between property owners and renters in how they maintain housing, Ken White, executive director & COO of Operation Pathways, NHPF’s resident services subsidiary says that a resident-centered and strengths-based coaching model would help resolve issues. “In cases involving rent assistance, coaches help residents identify and consider options within their extended families, churches, workplaces, and other affiliations, in addition to special charitable funds and government assistance that coaches suggest,” White added, “Residents and coaches together find solutions unique to each particular household and situation.”
Finally, according to Richard F. Burns, President & CEO, The NHP Foundation, “Comparing what our industry peers say about coping with Covid-19 against what residents say gives a very complete picture of life in affordable housing one year into the pandemic and we see some lessons learned that can benefit both groups.”
Preliminary Lessons Learned
1. Federal programs must be improved: As with many bureaucratic solutions, relief such as the CARES Act must be more easily attainable, move at a quicker pace and be less administratively burdensome. In a nutshell, deploy broadly available emergency rental assistance faster.
2. Resident Services are vital: With most properties shifting their resident services to focus on providing meals, PPE, etc. rather than in-person programming, the pandemic validated more than ever the importance of on-site service provision. The study also points to another benefit of resident services: 83% of respondents report evidence that participation in such services programs helps prevent skips and evictions. Finally, a study of educators conducted by The NHP Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners in 2020 further concluded that “housing and service providers should work collaboratively with schools to develop formal service provider partnerships so schools can more easily connect students and their families with the assistance they need.”
3. Landlords and management companies need to rethink how they provide resources to help renters stay housed. Property owners view themselves as a key provider of resources for renters, however few renters rank owners as highly as they do family and friends. What does this discrepancy tell us? Owners may want to probe deeper on this issue. We have all learned that residents in affordable housing are resilient, looking to find any way they could to pay rent during these difficult times. Property owners and managers need to continue to foster good relations with residents which will put everyone in a better place for the next health or financial crisis.
4. The industry can survive with less travel. This is a big takeaway for a couple of large providers in the survey, Anecdotal conversations within the industry have reported the same finding. While nothing will ever totally replace in-person contact, it has become clear that constructive, productive work can be accomplished working remotely. NHPF successfully pivoted to an all virtual format for its 4th annual Symposium “Growing Up & Out of Poverty: Why Housing Matters” which successfully drew 91 corporate sponsors and over 400 attendees during a year when Covid-19 prevented most live events.
5. Short and long-term business strategies must be adapted. Additional comments from respondents as well as other industry conversations point to this: In the short-term developers, must factor in additional care for residents, fluctuating collection rates, and resulting cash flow concerns. In the long-term, the industry must take more care on the construction side to make every dollar work harder. And most importantly during this health crisis, the utmost care and all available measures must be taken to move all residents to temporary relocated housing during a renovation. This may make a project take longer to complete, but the knowledge gained in performing temporary relocations following the pandemic will prove invaluable.
About The NHP Foundation
Headquartered in New York City with offices in Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL, The NHP Foundation (NHPF) was launched on January 30, 1989, as a publicly supported 501(c)(3) not-for-profit real estate corporation. NHPF is dedicated to preserving and creating sustainable, service-enriched multifamily housing, and single-family homes that are both affordable to low and moderate income families and seniors, and beneficial to their communities. NHPF’s Construction Management Group provides in-house resources dedicated to infrastructure review, infrastructure development and costs management. Through Family-Centered Coaching, NHPF’s subsidiary Operation Pathways engages with, and assists, families experiencing poverty and other hardship, to problem-solve together. Through partnerships with major financial institutions, the public sector, faith-based initiatives, and other not-for-profit organizations, NHPF has 57 properties, including nearly 10,000 units, in 16 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, please visit http://www.nhpfoundation.org.