Most Affordable Housing Owners Report Missed Payments

A survey by Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future garnered responses from owners representing more than 100,000 affordable units.
Image by Dan Gold via Unsplash
Image by Dan Gold via Unsplash

A large majority of affordable housing property owners in the U.S. have reported missed rent due to COVID-19, according to a survey conducted by Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future for the NHP Foundation.

The survey was conducted over the week of March 1 and included responses from 13 not-for-profit affordable housing property owners that represent 104,112 units located in 49 states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

According to the survey results, 83 percent of property owners reported that COVID-19 has caused missed rent, which averages between $1,000 to $2,499 per unit in some areas surveyed. On the other side, the National Multifamily Housing Council reported that 80.4 percent of market-rate rental units that were professionally managed made a full or partial payment in its March report.

To deal with the financial challenges that COVID-19 has caused, the survey showed that 33 percent of affordable housing owners said they delayed raises and promotions of their staff. In one case, a property owner received a capital infusion from its parent company to help with the cash flow while another has saved money due to skipping high travel expenses.

All the survey respondents reported that COVID-19 has had a “somewhat” to “very” negative impact on their operations, with 83 percent experiencing both a reduction in cash flow and outbreaks of COVID-19 in their buildings. Another 33 percent of owners said they had to deal with delays in real estate transactions and acquisitions. The survey also showed that property owners were worried about their reputations with reports of COVID-19 in their facilities with at-risk populations. Others also reported having to cut back on critical on-site resident services due to safety concerns.

To get a better sense of how property owners are feeling during the pandemic, the survey showed that 50 percent of property owners said they spend “half to most” of their day worrying about renters in their units. According to the survey, these property owners are most concerned with their renters’ ability to pay rent and the potential for a COVID-19 outbreak in their property.

IMPROVING THE OWNER-RENTER RELATIONSHIP

When it comes to maintaining housing, property owners in the survey said the most help comes equally from landlords, religious organizations/NGOs and social services, followed by family and friends.

In contrast, NHP also conducted a survey of 1,000 low-to-middle income renters across the U.S., which showed one major difference to the property owner survey. Sixty percent of renters responded that family and friends ranked highest in providing assistance to maintain housing, while 28 percent ranked landlords and management companies the highest in providing help.

Richard Burns, president & CEO of NHP, said in prepared remarks that the comparison between property owners and residents gives a “very complete picture of life” for affordable housing a year into the pandemic.

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, told Multi-Housing News 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 told MHN. “Residents and coaches together find solutions unique to each particular household and situation.”