January 2023

Bob Simpson, President, Multifamily Impact Council



Housing Stability is a key principle of the Impact Framework that we are building at the Multifamily Impact Council, and it has never been more important than it is today. As a growing number of low- and moderate-income households struggle with rising costs of living and the lingering consequences of the pandemic, our industry is focused on finding ways to keep people housed while meeting their fiduciary obligations to lenders and investors – which include the pension and retirement funds of hardworking families across the country.    


These obligations are not mutually exclusive. Experience has shown that financially stable renters create financially stable properties. Creating more housing stability is in everyone’s best interest, but it can be extremely challenging, especially in today’s economic environment. 


That’s why I was excited to read about how WinnCompanies is helping residents at their properties avoid eviction. The company launched a Housing Stability Program, that was already in the works before the pandemic disrupted our lives. And, to date, no resident who’s participated in Winn’s program has experienced an eviction. 


So, what is Winn’s Housing Stability Program, and how does it work? Trevor Samios, senior vice president of Connected Communities at WinnCompanies, gives us the scoop in this month’s Q&A below. 


We also recap our recent Multifamily Impact Collaborative call with FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson. Director Thompson spoke about the need for impact-driven multifamily housing data, FHFA’s 2023-2024 multifamily affordable housing goals, and more. 


And we end the newsletter with a round-up of recent industry news, much of which features members of the Multifamily Impact Council. You can submit your organization’s news by emailing our communications director, Nick Barron, at nick_barron@multifamilyimpactcouncil.org. We would love to share your announcement with our audience. 


I hope your 2023 is off to a wonderful start and you enjoy this month’s newsletter.  


Thanks for reading, 

Bob Simpson 

President, Multifamily Impact Council

Q&A with Trevor Samios, SVP of Connected Communities, WinnResidential

Trevor Samios

Trevor Samios has worked at the intersection of community development and collective impact for more than a decade. As Senior Vice President of Connected Communities at WinnResidential, he is responsible for the growth and sustainability of WinnResidential’s high-impact resident services platform, with a mission to create Communities of Opportunity across WinnCompanies’ growing portfolio.

Prior to joining WinnCompanies, Trevor was the Director of Community Impact for Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a Boston-based, national non-profit affordable housing policy, development and management organization. While there, he led Community Impact, POAH’s outcomes-based partnership development and services department charged with the design, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive strategy to support the growing needs of POAH’s residential communities. Trevor has led projects including POAH’s 85-community Outcomes Initiative, the implementation of HUD’s first Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Multifamily program and the community development strategies on multiple HUD Choice Neighborhoods grants.

Can you tell us a little bit about WinnCompanies?

WinnCompanies is a national real estate development, property management and human services provider, working in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Our management team, WinnResidental, is composed of a military housing services division that manages privately owned military residential communities and the rest of our work is focused on affordable and mixed-income housing management. We manage on behalf of large and small nonprofit organizations, community development corporations, resident-owned co-ops, and other private owners and organizations. Our clients are committed to addressing the urgency of housing production and the expansion of affordable and mixed-income community development.   

My team is called Connected Communities, and it's the social impact arm of the organization. We are our team of social workers and community organizers that are placed-based in affordable and mixed-income housing communities across the country. Our focus is on setting the table for collective impact for targeted outcomes based on what individual communities identify as key needs, interests, or goals. We assemble and work with a network of community partners to tackle these goals and measure the impact of programs and services along the way.

How did Winn’s Housing Stability Program get started?

It began before the pandemic, in 2019. In the city of Boston, we were part of a council that was assembled by the Mayor to dive into evictions in the city. The goal was to address the key questions of where and how is the city experiencing evictions? How is it impacting homelessness? What are the root causes of it? Where's it coming from? And, ultimately, how do we stem it? 

What we found in that process is that as the largest private affordable housing operator in our home city we, alongside our peers, were also significant contributors to the non-payment eviction crisis in the city of Boston. Our reaction was to immediately get to work on identifying how we could change this within our organization, and our CEO tasked myself and a small group to create a plan that became our housing stability program. With the support and expertise of a recently retired legal services attorney, Jay Rose, our aim in 2019 was reduce to evictions for our entire national portfolio of managed properties by 50% over the next five years.  

And so we created this program that was a deep dive into operational changes, cultural changes, communication changes, and all of the materials and training that would go along with that to affect how 3,500 employees of ours across the country worked and did their jobs- putting housing stability at the center. We built that training. We launched that training. And the day of our first training, we heard whispers of this virus that was emerging out of Wuhan. 

The timing, while challenging, like everything else in the world at the beginning of the pandemic, afforded us the opportunity to begin implementing our that program alongside the eviction moratoria and the rise of emergency rental assistance programs as countless renters lost their jobs, emptied savings, and entered into what would become a years-long struggle for housing stability. Having taken the thoughtful time to dive into our operations, to make the tweaks and changes we needed in our training, in our systems, in our standard operating procedures. This really benefited us both in our ability to rapidly deliver upon that pledge to stem evictions, but also to balance out the very real needs of our organization as well as all of our clients that we're managing on behalf of in terms of balancing the business, the need for rental collections and the need for stability in cash flow required so that these communities could operate and reinvest in the affordable housing stock itself.

How are you able to keep track of all the programs and support systems available to your residents across the many states and locations where you operate?

One of our exercises in creating the Housing Stability Program was mapping the many rental assistance programs available prior to the pandemic, prior to the Treasury actually funding those programs nationally. So, part of our program initially was better understanding those programs, how they worked and then training our teams. Before we launched the program, we learned every rental assistance program in every state where we operated; overviews, translating that into a thoughtful walkthrough for our team, the website portals, the application processes, the information that would be needed to apply on behalf of or in support of a resident, and where each data point or document required would come from, everything from the direct deposit wire information to property bank accounts to upload processes and so on.  

That bench strength allowed us to scale that knowledge quickly when states began to stand up their Treasury-funded ERA programs. In early 2020, when we realized the pandemic was becoming a major catalyst for rent payment challenges, our initial approach was two-fold.  Our Connected Communities team was working to get people back into the job market as quickly as possible through our focus on employment with network of employment partners that we have across the country. At the same time, as states were kicking out their own emergency rental assistance programs, we were doing our best to get involved in the process so that operators could inform efficiencies in the programs and help to ensure their success. 

I think we knew early that as engaged and community-focused operators, that we and our peers could bring a lot of value in the design and implementation the of the ERA programs. So we started reaching out to all of those organizing entities in each state saying, “Hey, we want to help. We think operators are vital in the success of these programs and we think we can bring that insight to construct processes and protocol that can support people struggling with housing stability and efficiently use these federal funds.”

We literally researched every single program, working with groups like the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, NAA and NAHMA to put together a running list of them as they were being added and outline their processes so our team and other operators could engage quickly. We also participated in a lot of advocacy working groups that were looking at how to refine those programs as the pandemic carried on and how to grow participation. Initially, they were all conceived up to be fairly short-lived, to solve a small problem over the course of a few months.  But that problem became years of support as the pandemic raged on.

So as they grew and evolved, we stayed with those groups, helping to shape the programs. I think through that process, we also learned there were a lot of challenges in residents being able to access those programs, from digital equity issues affecting internet access as most of these programs were online, language barriers, trust in who the messenger were for the programs, the sometimes stringent or confusing eligibility requirements. We also learned quickly that residents didn’t have a “Housing Stability File” tucked neatly away at home, so access to the required documentation became a challenge we had to overcome.  

I think what we learned is that for the majority of support applications, we, as the property manager, could assemble most of this ourselves on behalf of the household. We could alleviate a tremendous amount of stress for our residents of having to pursue those funds themselves. By doing so, we could then take the time to thoughtfully walk them through the application we assembled, review it with them, gather their signature, answer questions, and then make that submission.

These programs also required a tremendous amount of back and forth communication to confirm eligibility, so we could it into our hands to manage the communication back to the residents as well so they were informed and engaged about the process and not terrified of losing their home. Because of this, our residents knew when the application was received, when it was pending, when payment was being issued, what of their balance was taken care of. This gave a great deal of piece of mind back to families when they desperately needed it and were undoubtedly navigating and dealing with 1,000 other challenges in their life.

What metrics do you track to measure the program’s impact and success?

As you would imagine, the success of our Housing Stability Program must be data-driven. To understand where and when we have challenges, how to apply course corrections, and how to continuously gauge the program’s effectiveness mandates a multi-pronged, measured approach. To that end, we're tracking many metrics. On the resident level, we're tracking self-conception of housing stability and ability to pay rent and utilities on time- feelings of being financially secure and stable. We pair this level with actual accounts receivable tracking to we know where and when to apply program elements for a specific household, property or portfolio.  We’re monitoring that pulse pretty closely throughout all of our properties with collections/ERAP dashboards. 

On the operating end, we're really looking at the success of the interventions that we've imposed at various points: at the fifth of the month, on the late notice, on the issuance of the notice to quit, on the filing of an eviction. Where are our upstream interventions working? Where are they not? And in what state, in what county, in what town, under what operator and with what partners is it resulting in evictions. 

But we're also always looking at the cost of eviction from the standpoint of bad debt, of vacancy, economic vacancy, of the term cost of materials and maintenance. For us, on average, an eviction for non-payment is about $8,000 a unit. So, in our mind, this investment and this prioritization of eviction prevention is also a very significant cost savings tool over time. 

I think the other thing we're seeing though, is also a rise in political focus, capital and legislation that is working to limit evictions as well- from the recent White House announcement to HUD amplification of eviction challenges to cities and towns working to combat increased homelessness and its impact both on social determinants of health for residents but also the municipal budget. Through the lens of good governance, putting caps on evictions for access to things like city housing funding, like the City of Boston has done, or mandating housing stability plans from owners/operators like many HFAs and funders are implementing.

I think we're seeing the writing on the wall that there is a coordinated and collaborative will to meaningfully prevent evictions. As court cases are mounting, we will see more and more municipalities enact legislation and regulations that work to prevent evictions. We are a part of that movement and believe that in order for these programs to be successful, the voice of the housing industry must be at the table.  

While housing owners and operators are often framed poorly in the fight to prevent evictions, I think what we saw in the pandemic is that these organizations were vital to the success of housing stability measures, helping countless renters find stability in the most uncertain of times, all while informing good public policy implementation along the way. 

What does the future look like for your Housing Stability Program?

I think our industry as a whole, and our company, certainly, has experienced unprecedented turnover in staff. And just like the trades, we're seeing a large number of our team members and folks in the industry that work in affordable housing property management and compliance, move towards retirement. And so, we are actively recruiting and training the next wave of leaders for our company and our field. 

Affordable housing is very distinct from market-rate housing. Our work goes far beyond the management basics of rent collection, leasing and facilities management. It’s extremely complex and the folks who choose to work in this field are deeply knowledgeable and managing multiple subsidy programs and the myriad of compliance needs necessary at a given community to provide a safe and healthy home for an individual or family. So we are plunging ourselves into the support of our amazing team members while at the same time, building the next generation of community development professionals as they enter our field. 

We’re going to continue to advocate for the expansion of rental assistance programs and the design and efficiency that allows operators to take a heavier hand while reducing the burden on the working families who call our communities home. That advocacy occurs on the national, state and local level. There's a lot of villainization out there of real estate and affordable housing so it’s important to shine a light on the fact that the pieces of information and insights that we bring to the table and the importance of data sharing across our industry about what's working and what's not working is important operationally, but also very important in shaping legislation that will work for people. 

Our main focus, though, is on continuing to deepen the relationship that we have with residents in our communities. The pandemic has taught us so much about the thin line between stability in affordable housing and homelessness, so relationships, trust, and communities knowing that we are there for them is vital. When someone is impacted by a financial challenge, we want people to know that there are resources to help, and they can come to us as a trusted source for those resources. If an individual or family is willing to work with us, we will see it through to the end with them to prevent any instability in their housing. We have helped over 100,000 people in just that way since the pandemic began, and we are committed to continuing that pledge.

We’re in the affordable housing business, the community development business, not in the eviction business. The ecosystem of affordable housing can be preserved and grown with thoughtful approaches to housing stability so we plan to continuously refine our approach to this work because we believe it matters.  

Multifamily Impact Collaborative Call with FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson

FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson joined us on Jan. 12 for a Multifamily Impact Collaborative call. Director Thompson spoke and answered questions. Below is a recap of Director Thompson's remarks.

On FHFA's mission

"Our mission here at FHFA is to promote equitable access to affordable and sustainable housing. And we want to make sure that borrowers and renters, especially those in underserved communities, have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing opportunities."

On the importance of data

"As we are making policy decisions, it is really glaring to me that there's just an overwhelming lack of data in the multifamily space. And data certainly helps inform reporting. Making sure that we have proper reporting and providing impact, I think, will be very, very helpful. And it will keep us honest, in terms of our policymaking so that we can see what's working and what's not working."

On the impact of rising interest rates

"Last year, investors everywhere saw almost a doubling of interest rates. And I think, when we look back over time, it's been the most rapid increase interest rates in the shortest amount of time, I think, ever. And that certainly has had an impact on multifamily housing. Right now, we're hearing that occupancy levels are at their highest, which means vacancy rates are at their lowest. But what we've also heard is that rent growth has increased at a rate that hasn't been previously seen either. And it's becoming very burdensome, especially for affordable borrowers, and particularly in underserved communities."

On rent growth

"We are hearing that rent growth is stabilizing a little bit. But I do want to make sure that we're looking at rent growth in the different markets, both by location and by community, so that we can make these policies and adjust them based on where particular borrowers and occupants need the help the most."

On the Enterprises role in multifamily housing

"Given the current economic conditions, now more than ever, we believe that the Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are going to play an increasingly important role in supporting affordable housing because they're really supposed to be there throughout the cycle. And, as evidenced through the Great Recession in 2008-2009, the multifamily business lines at Fannie and Freddie continued to provide liquidity. And so we are here to provide liquidity through the cycle. And certainly, we want to make sure that as other capital providers have left the markets, that both Enterprises continue to provide liquidity to the multifamily market while maintaining the really good credit standards."

On 2023-2024 affordable housing goals and caps

"We finalized the 2023 and 2024 multifamily affordable housing goals. And we also set the multifamily purchase caps for the Enterprises, and we have some mission-driven definitions. And what that means is we are requiring that the Enterprises fulfill their role in terms of supporting affordable housing, and not just single-family, but in multifamily as well.

We set that cap at $75 billion each for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a combined $150 billion to support the multifamily market. We set the caps every year, and we get lots of information and input from market participants. The 2022 cap was set at $78 million. So, the $75 billion that each Enterprise has as their cap today is really reflective of an anticipated contraction in the multifamily originations market. We require that at least 50% of that $75 billion has to be mission-driven, affordable housing."

On an affordable rule change for the Enterprises

"We changed a requirement from an absolute number of units to a percentage share of each of the Enterprises annual multifamily loan acquisitions that are affordable. That's a change from previous rule makings, where we had established a specific percentage benchmark of all of the loans that they purchase, as opposed to a percentage share of each of their loan acquisitions that are affordable.

We made this change because we set the goals once every three years, and forecasting the multifamily market for three to four years in advance is really difficult. The market can change dramatically in that time. We also believe that moving to a percentage share of acquisitions is going to be more responsive to market conditions and the role that the Enterprises are playing at the market at that particular time."

On a new mission-driven category

"This year we created a new mission-driven category that focuses on preserving affordability in workforce housing. We wanted to encourage financing of loans on properties with rent or income restrictions to make sure that they're affordable at levels that meet their specific market needs. We want people to live be able to live and rent closer to where they work."

Industry News and Updates

Have news to share? Send your links to nick_barron@multifamilyimpactcouncil.org and we'll do our best to spread the word in this newsletter and on our LinkedIn page.

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