In the hustle and bustle of the daily operational demands of affordable housing, we must savor the moments that empower who we are and what we do at our core. While we often view ourselves as providers of housing, services and amenities, it is crucial that we remember our residents are the catalyst to change in our communities in the larger sense. However, the relationships we build with residents help us to create quality living environments that enhance life experiences and play a part in their journey. Our investment in this process also enriches us as individuals and adds to our expertise as property owners and managers. This holiday season, take a moment to reflect on three ways our operational functions play into the human connections we build with our residents.
- Communication: As with many relationships, consistent and clear communication is vital. Today’s residents are shown to have a strong preference for electronic communication through mobile platforms. Utilization of mobile platforms for communication provides residents residents with a feeling of trust, security, and timeliness. However, this may not be consistent across all tenant types. Older residents may prefer phone calls or in-person meetings. Simply providing a mobile communication platform, texting, or simply having multiple ways to get in contact, will give residents a feeling of security and win their favor.
- Trust: In understanding our residents’ trust in us to provide safe, habitable housing, we are giving the gift of shelter. With our commitment to helping residents, both new and returning, to build a strong community, we further the depth of our relationships and longevity. With the provision of affordable housing, there are learning curves, gaps in understanding, and bridges to be built in establishing communal living environments which offer acceptance to the most vulnerable populations. We are educators of young individuals and families who enter the rental housing market for the first time or as a stepping stone to rebuild their lives.
- Amenities: As owners and managers, an amenities package is something gifted to residents. However, it is important to remember that by providing these, the gift is often returned in the form of resident retention. An amenities package can mean different things for different properties. Certain residents may value a café or lounge over a gym. Regardless, the provision of such items ensures that the tenant can reside in quality affordable housing. Provision and adequate maintenance of amenities will further strengthen the relationship and result in higher rates of retention.
As owners and property managers, it is crucial that we remain keenly aware of operational needs. While operations will remain a cornerstone of our business functions, they are not what sustains our industry, or the value residents have in communities. During the holidays, it is especially important to remember we are in the business of human capital. We must invest in the people, not solely the process.
Flynann Janisse is executive director of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp., a nonprofit organization that provides service-enriched housing programs for residents of rental housing communities throughout the country.