July 2022

Bob Simpson, President, Multifamily Impact Council



Residents, the people who live in the buildings we finance, build, and manage, are the foundation of what we do in our industry. Those who call our properties home are why we do what we do, providing one of the most vital necessities, shelter, that all of us need.


True impact begins with the renter. Consequently, Resident Engagement is one cornerstone of our Multifamily Impact Framework. And that is why we are making resident services the focus of this newsletter.


We’ll start with a note by Alexandra Nassau-Brownstone, Vice President, Resident Outcomes & CORES, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), about the need to prioritize residents’ voices. Then we have a fascinating interview with William Combs, Director of Impact for UV Residential. William runs Urban Village’s phenomenal resident services program.


Resident services are a valuable toolfor delivering social impact but implementing those services can be a tricky business. As a result, it is important to ensure that your resident service program (or partner) has a strong framework that assesses the needs of your residents, delivers quality service, and can report on both quantitative and qualitative measurements of success. For organizations who are interested in learning more, SAHF maintains an excellent resource library via their CORES certification program that I would recommend checking out.


I hope you find this resource and Alexandra’s and William’s contributions to be enlightening. If you do, please forward this email to someone you think might enjoy it as well.


And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn. Establishing multifamily impact investing as a credible, widely accepted asset class that attracts more global capital to support affordable housing is a team effort and we are always looking for more friends and partnerships.


Thanks for reading,

Bob Simpson, President

Multifamily Impact Council

Equity and Wellbeing - Prioritizing Resident Voice and Agency

By Alexandra Nassau-Brownstone

Vice President, Resident Outcomes & CORES, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future

Alexandra Nassau-Brownstone serves as Vice President of the Resident Outcomes and CORES initiatives at Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF). In this role, Alexandra works with SAHF member organizations and industry stakeholders to identify opportunities for collaboration, improve the consistency and integrity of community level data, demonstrate the impact of service-enriched rental housing, and build support for this work at the practitioner, policymaker, and investor level. In addition, Alexandra manages the Certified Organization for Resident Engagement & Services (CORES) Certification.

Alexandra Nassau-Brownstone  Vice President, Resident Outcomes & CORES, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future

A stable, healthy home is fundamental to a person’s wellbeing. While quality service-enriched housing supports greater access to opportunity and can lead to improved outcomes, leading practitioners recognize that meaningful resident engagement - that prioritizes resident voice, agency, and collaborative processes - is key to supporting resident stability, health, and economic mobility.

Data from the Urban Institute shows that ‘agency’ is key to economic mobility. One’s sense of choice and self-perceived agency can serve as protective factors when facing adversarial circumstances. Choice is directly tied to power and can potentially serve as an indicator of greater racial equity. However, understanding whether practices are successfully promoting voice and agency is challenging. SAHF created Measuring Resident Agency and Voice in an Affordable Housing Setting. This guide outlines measures and data gathering practices for assessing organizational policies and approaches that better support resident voice and agency. This is just a start. As the field evolves, SAHF looks forward to documenting and learning with our members and others.

ESG and Impact Investing: Regulations Currently Impacting the Multifamily Industry, a conversation with Chrissa Pagitsas

Q&A: William Combs, UVResidential

William Combs is the Director of Impact for UVResidential's Urban Village Program. His longstanding passion has been to find ways to fuse together the business and non-profit sectors to harness the best of both worlds.

He found his perfect match with UV residential in 2018. William started on the financial reporting side but realized his strong operational skill set and began working as a regional manager. He has led multiple takeovers and has continually beat operational goals. William then was promoted to Director of Impact where he focuses on promoting and executing all aspects of the Urban Village Program.

He went to Regis University in Denver Colorado where he obtained a B.S in Accounting with a minor in philosophy and a MS in accounting and finance.

William is happy to answer any questions you may have about resident services or the Urban Village Program. You can email him directly at wcombs@uvresidential.com.

Will Combs, UVResidential

Can you tell us about the origins of the Urban Village Program?

The Urban Village Program started in 2008 during the height of the recession. During that time, falling income led to increased poverty rates, which also directly impacted our residents and our management teams. And so, to combat that, we started a simple project, a community garden.


And what happened shocked everyone. Our residents began building a sense of community around the garden. They started sharing tools and watching each other's plots, which led to other activities such as looking out for each other's kids and pulling together as a community to help those less fortunate.


And then what we found was they weren't just sharing walls. They were sharing lives. And what also coincided with that was that property operations flourished; lower delinquency, greater occupancy, and increased resident and employee satisfaction. So what seemed like a small endeavor, just a community garden, touched so many stakeholders in the community and made a lasting impact.

And how has the program grown since 2008?

We found that the model really scaled. We built four pillars based on that experience.


Our first pillar is building community, creating opportunities for residents to interact through activities. We allow residents to pick and host their events. Our resident leaders champion these events with advertising, purchasing, budgeting, and event hosting.


Some of these events are very unique. We have water aerobics at some of our senior sites, African dance, Sunday morning yoga, and canned food drives. One of our sites in Tennessee the team (unprompted) wanted to do an emergency preparedness kit for the tornadoes that had hit that area. These kits were distributed to not only residents but also the greater community.


Our second pillar is channeling resources. This pillar is to put residents in touch with programs and benefits that are available in their greater community. And to use Urban Villages’ size to procure discounts for our residents. Urban Village has five full-time employees tasked with procuring nonprofit and for-profit resources.


Free healthcare clinics are a big one, as well as youth camps, youth mentorship, and telecommunications. We get special deals for Verizon and AT&T for our residents. There are food-based nonprofits where nutritious food gets delivered to some of our underserved communities directly to residents’ doors. We offer financial literacy courses as well as discounts at local businesses, such as gyms, bakeries, and restaurants, that really help our residents stretch that dollar further.


Pillar three is creating community growth by developing leaders who will go out into the greater area and serve others.


My staff goes into each community and mentors all of our resident leaders. The program itself teaches skills such as budgeting, event planning, conflict resolution, technology, community building, and relationship skills. We tailor our coaching and mentorship based on what the individual's looking for.


For example, residents at one of our senior communities struggled with smartphones. So the team there did training on how to use Zoom and FaceTime, which some residents still use today to contact family members.


Pillar four is enhancing environments. We implement Greenup initiatives and education to raise awareness and engagement in everyday environmental stewardship.


First, we measure carbon output, water usage, and energy usage. Then, we benchmark these results against other communities in the area. And then, based on that, we devise a plan to lessen that environmental impact.


Some projects we implement include xeriscaping, using rain barrel collection systems, LED light swaps, low-flow toilets, energy-efficient heating, cooling, appliances, and moisture sensors.


And we host events with environmental and conservation nonprofits to bring awareness and education to our residents.


An example of that is in Salt Lake City. We partnered with the Natural History Museum of Utah. They brought a mobile museum out with some jars and nets and also taught kids how to catch bugs, learn about invasive species, and get involved in nature.

You mentioned resident leaders. How does someone become a leader in your program?

Resident leaders go through an application process, just like they would for a normal job. We have requirements, like being in good standing with management and being able to commit to ten to 20 hours a week.

They also get a $75 rent concession to incentivize them to join the program.

What are your benchmarks for tracking the program’s progress?

Our overall goal is to reach as many residents as possible and impact the greater community. I define reach as giving them opportunities to participate in the program and benefit from our resources. 

So this year, our specific goals and themes are women empowerment, youth mentorship, and environmental awareness.

For women empowerment, it's giving teenage girls the opportunity to break barriers and set themselves up for leadership positions in their community. We're not experts in this space, so we partner with nonprofits that are and bring them into the community.

The objective with youth mentorship is to put all youth who otherwise wouldn't have a strong role model or support system in touch with individuals that do. This is done by my team and the property management team to identify kids who may need that additional support with schools, nonprofits, and some for-profit organizations that give them opportunities to have that support system and feel like they have someone to turn to.

And with environmental awareness, we want to get the underserved community the ability to enjoy nature and get out in their local ecosystems. We find some of the younger residents in our communities haven’t left their respective metro areas. Our goal is to change that and facilitate a love for nature that they can use for years to come.

To do tis we put them in touch with scholarships or grants and that allow them to explore nature. We have found majority of the residents who have gone through these programs go back into their communities spread the word and help promote awareness.  

How do you justify the financial investments in the program?

I would say the ripple effect it's had starting with residents, the whole organization and, ultimately, the investors.


If your residents are happy, they're able to pay rent on time. If they have resources, they're going to stay longer. Same with employees if they are happier, they're going to stay longer. As a result, you have less resident turnover and more tenured employees, which increases operational efficiency.


Also, if residents enjoy where they live, they tend to take care of the property. Residents want to be a part of their community they just need the avenue to do so. Small investments in these programs increases the properties reputation, renewal rates, lowers delinquency, increases occupancy, and stretches the resident’s dollar while helping improve NOI. It's a symbiotic relationship. Everybody wins when you invest in these types of programs.

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