How to Create a Safer Multifamily Community

Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp. Executive Director Flynann Janisse spoke with Multi-Housing News about how service-enriched housing programs create a safer and more secure community.

Phoenix—Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp. (Rainbow), based in Phoenix, is a nonprofit organization that provides service-enriched housing programs for residents of rental housing communities throughout the country. Rainbow seeks to create and preserve quality, affordable housing for families and individuals of diverse ethnic, social and economic backgrounds.

Executive Director Flynann Janisse spoke with Multi-Housing News about how service-enriched housing programs create a safer and more secure community.

MHN: There has been an increased awareness in recent years regarding the effectiveness of service-enriched housing programs and more are being implemented. Why is that?

Janisse: The benefits of a stable tenant base are being shared at industry conferences, leadership forums and multifamily venues. Word is spreading that the key to a stabilized asset is to invest in residents as a catalyst for change to the social dynamics of a community. Simply put, make a social investment in the one and only key component that drives income and reduces expenses by creating a value-based living environment.

MHN: What is the future for these programs in 2015?

Janisse: The future of these programs lies in garnering a greater understanding by industry investors, owners and managers that they are necessary and powerful. The associated cost for the provision and delivery of resident services pays for itself in a reduction of expenses and increased rent collections due to a more stable tenant population. With this knowledge and understanding, more will find ways, and create ways, to pay for the value in the program delivery. Social investment effectively delivered within a community living setting is the key to improved financial performance and stabilized assets through tenant engagement and social advancement.

MHN: As the market picks up, will service-enriched housing programs continue to increase? Will multifamily owners, developers and investors be more interested in these programs to make multifamily developments more successful?

Janisse: Regardless of the shifts in the market more are realizing the need to provide programs and services in affordable housing. HUD, city and state agencies have long included the value of services to communities hence the valued point system in QAPs. No one can turn a blind eye to the needs of those who qualify to live in low-income affordable housing, yet many have done so for years. Owners and investors who desire to implement appropriate programs and services within their communities will be supporting the core element in why affordable housing projects were developed as well as meeting the needs of those qualified to live there. Owners, developers and investors understand the mission to provide quality affordable housing and the interest in improved financial performance can be realized through an investment in the tenant base.

MHN: A great deal of these programs serve to lower the crime rate in the communities served. How does this impact resident turnover?

Janisse: People want to live in safe communities, and those who can will move from communities with a criminal element. Candidly, our most valued residents will move from their homes if they do not feel safe. Those who do not have the means to move will go silent in fear of retaliation, closing their doors and blinds to hide from the environment outside of it. Communities with notable crime draw more crime by nature and they are undesirable to prospective tenants. Changing a community from within by building value in the environment transitions the mindset of those living in the community and those who trespass on it. Taking a firm stance on zero tolerance along with educating the resident population on how to deal with crime and how to separate themselves from it empowers the tenant base and changes the dynamic of the community and surrounding area.