3 Ways Affordable Housing Managers Can Attract Working Parents

Consider the following tactics to engage children and help working parents in your communities, says Ricardo Alicea of Wendover Housing Partners.

Ricardo Alicea

Summer break has quickly arrived as the school year has come to an end. For some, this break provides relief from the rigors of school—a time for vacation and freedom. For others, this period can cause strain and food insecurity. Over 20 percent of multifamily renter households have children. Working parents in affordable communities often rely on school hours to get their work done, and school meals to feed their children.

In 2020, roughly 23 million children participated in the National School Lunch Program each day, with 77 percent of meals provided for free or at a reduced cost. Similarly, more than 12 million children participated in the School Breakfast Program each day, with 88 percent of meals provided for free or at a reduced cost. Over the summer, this translates to millions of missed meal opportunities. The Summer Food Service Program is designed to keep children well-fed during the summer, but the burden remains largely on parents.

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In affordable communities, property managers are typically responsible for training and mentoring teams, directing the leasing office, handling maintenance requests and more—all tasks geared toward keeping residents happy. To create positive living environments during summer months, property managers should also be considering how to best aid their working families.

Forming partnerships with local food banks can help keep children well-fed during summer months. By partnering with these charitable, non-profit organizations, property managers can help distribute food to those who cannot obtain enough in order to prevent hunger. Food banks can deliver residents breakfast, lunch and dinner, so that they can have access to healthy, balanced meals daily.

Property managers can also set up a food pantry on-site, stocked with non-perishable food items and other essentials. Families can visit the food pantry at any time to get the items they need—no questions asked.

Bringing food trucks to affordable communities can also bring residents together and supply additional fun food options for children. Property managers can bring in kid-approved snacks such as shaved ice and ice cream to help cool off in the summer.

Property managers should also consider the following tactics to engage children and help working parents while fostering a sense of community.

Utilizing Amenities

Affordable communities should still be providing residents with the same high-quality amenities that market-rate communities provide. Throughout the year, community amenities are a great way to keep children occupied and entertained, but this is especially true over the summer months. Property managers should encourage amenity use over summer with organized events and games for children.

Pools and splash pads allow children to cool down during those hot summer months. Swim races and rounds of Marco Polo can bring children together to keep cool—and can grant parents additional time to work.

Playgrounds are often the most utilized amenity by children. Providing children with a jungle gym, slides, swings and monkey bars gives them a place to safely run around, blow off steam and have fun. Organizing team-based sports activities like soccer and flag-football on open fields within the community can also help children get energy out, form friendships and build confidence.

Community gardens also encourage children to get outside during the summer months. Children can plant fruits and vegetables and tend to them from seed to harvest. Local universities often have nutrition and wellness programs that property managers can inquire about. Through the programs, universities can come out to the community to teach residents about gardening their own fruits and vegetables, as well as instruction on harvest time and food preparation. Harvesting and preparing their own food can give children a sense of accomplishment by successfully completing a task from start to finish.

Bringing in Local Community Members

Wellington Park. Image courtesy of Wendover Housing Partners

One of the most rewarding experiences over the summer is helping children form bonds with local community members like police officers. National Night Out—held annually the first Tuesday in August—is a community-building campaign to promote comradery between police and the public. Beginning in 1984 and celebrated in all 50 states, the event aims to enhance the relationship between police and the local community. It also raises awareness for police programs such as drug prevention and neighborhood watch. By bringing local police departments to affordable communities under positive circumstances, property managers can provide children with positive role models and help build relationships. It provides children with a sense of community, not just on the property.

Children are also often awed by firefighters and fire trucks. Bringing firefighters to an affordable community and allowing children to see the equipment up close, sit in the truck, or even play with the lights and sirens, can excite and inspire them.

Arranging Crafts and Back-to-School Activities

Another way to keep children occupied and entertained is through arts and crafts. This typically involves property managers providing and laying out the necessary supplies for children to create their own art pieces. Local libraries can also help with this, coming to affordable communities with the necessary materials and instructions. The COVID-19 pandemic opened doors for virtual instruction as well. Many libraries now offer online links with step-by-step instructions that explain how to create the project at hand. As the summer wears on, making these crafts back-to-school-focused can get children exhilarated for the upcoming year ahead.

The summer months can be long, and it’s important to keep kids engaged during this time. Simple, organized group activities can make a huge difference in their lives. Getting kids outside and together can stimulate them, increase mental health and keep them out of trouble.

Property managers aim to create better lives for their residents, giving them a place they feel proud to call home. By utilizing community amenities, looking into local partnerships, building relationships with local law enforcement and providing fun activities such as crafts and snacks, property managers can ensure that children are cared for while keeping them engaged with their community over summer break.

Ricardo Alicea is the managing director of asset management at Wendover Housing Partners. He is a fundamental part of establishing the organizational vision to assist management staff in adapting to resident’s needs and to the ever-changing multifamily environment. An accomplished professional with more than 25 years of experience, Alicea’s expertise led him to become a skilled strategist who transforms strategic plans into workable solutions that benchmark performance against market and key operational goals. 

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