How to Help Affordable Housing Developers Win Incentives

Affordable housing, at its core, is about the building and strengthening of human capital, says Flynann Janisse of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp.
Flynann Janisse Image courtesy of Rainbow Housing

Many parts of our country are suffering from a crisis due to lack of affordable housing. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not limited to particularly dense and costly metro areas, such as New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. From coast-to-coast, government leaders and policymakers are facing increased pressure to provide more affordable housing for residents.

There are several ways to go about producing a greater supply of affordable housing stock. Public-private partnerships, government subsidies, tax credits, and zoning changes are some of the available tools and incentives. These are all used to encourage developers to incorporate affordable units into mixed-use and traditional multifamily projects, and to build multifamily complexes comprised entirely of affordable units. Another way developers may win incentives is to partner with an organization that provides residents with supportive housing services.

Affordable at its CORE

Recently, Rainbow became the first third-party provider to receive the Certified Organization for Resident Engagement and Services (CORES) Certification. Multifamily affordable housing developers may partner with a CORES-certified organization to help qualify for Fannie Mae™ Healthy Housing Rewards – Enhanced Resident Services financing incentives.

CORES certification is a highly coveted designation used to recognize organizations that have developed the infrastructure necessary to support and operationalize a robust system of resident services coordination at multifamily properties throughout their portfolio. Borrowers that incorporate a service-enriched housing model for tenants—such as health and wellness services, work and financial capability support, and child education and academic support—may be eligible for below-market-rate pricing, if they meet certain criteria.

Property owners may opt to obtain the CORES certification on their own; however, doing so requires the owner to retain direct responsibility for the management, delivery, and implementation of resident services coordination at their properties, in addition to the day-to-day and financial-related responsibilities attached to property management. Using a third-party partner to provide services is often a better solution for residents and owners alike. A single entity responsible for services only may maintain a sharp focus on providing exceptional assistance.

The CORES certification reflects a commitment to the mission and vision of affordable housing developers, which is to positively impact social and economic change by providing low-income residents with adequate housing at affordable rates. The CORES program is administered by Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), a nonprofit collaborative of 13 exemplary multi-state nonprofit affordable housing providers which own and operate more than 140,000 affordable rental homes. SAHF’s mission is to advance the creation and preservation of healthy, sustainable affordable rental homes that foster equity, opportunity, and wellness for people of limited economic resources.

There are numerous studies that show the addition of supplemental services to affordable housing communities may increase the quality of life for tenants. Communities that incorporate service-enriched housing often end up instilling a sense of pride and belonging in residents. For property owners, this translates into benefits like a well-maintained property and on-time rental payments.

A requirement of CORES for third-party contractors is to have a formalized contract with each property owner where it has been hired to provide services. The emphasis placed on building strong relationships with owners whose properties are serviced, and individual contracts fulfilled, highlights the degree to which CORES prioritizes the building of human capital through fostering connections with property owners seeking to provide residents with supportive services. Affordable housing, at its core, is about the building and strengthening of human capital. Working with a CORES-certified organization will only further develop this mission.

Flynann Janisse is executive director of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp.