Resident Outreach

4 min read

Basic necessities, resource packages and other adjustments

While the Covid-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented stresses and challenges on all levels and aspects of society, affordable housing owners and operators are quickly having to find new ways to manage their properties, interact with residents and meet their variety of special needs. The NRP Group of Cleveland, OH is one company that has come up with some innovative approaches, not only trying to keep residents safe and well, but also to bring some joy to their lives during this trying time.

“Our primary concern out of the gate was our at-risk component,” says Erick Waller, an NRP principal and president of NRP Management LLC. “That was primarily seniors; seniors were Focus Number One, that they had all the resources available to them. We also have a large affordable component in our portfolio, as well as market rate, so we’ve been trying to hit a little bit of everything.” Founded in 1994, NRP has developed over 40,000 residential units in 16 states and currently manages 134 properties in 11 states.

“We put together a task force,” Waller continues. “We created resource guides with links to all of the city food banks, health services and other useful information. We gave our senior residents packages containing basic necessities like toilet paper and rubber gloves. The biggest number of requests we’re seeing is to help with [getting vital] information and after that, supplies like masks, gloves and sanitizers. Our managers are also coordinating services for our seniors, such as food deliveries. If necessary, they will also call food banks or other social services. In San Antonio, TX, managers coordinated regular meal deliveries.

“Property by property, our managers have a pretty good relationship with residents; they wear several different hats. In addition to managing the properties, they act like therapists, life coaches and family. For instance, Donna in rural Ohio coordinates grocery deliveries to almost every senior resident. We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of calls from residents and emails from their families we’ve received.”

With social distancing imposed or recommended, many of the normal social services and community functions have been cancelled, and business centers at the various locations have had to be closed down. Robust protocols have been established, such as suspending package acceptance services, so that packages are delivered directly to the residents’ doors; only emergency work orders, such as dangerous situations or leaks, are being addressed and a call center is aggregating and keeping track of requests. Staffing is kept at skeleton levels to limit personal interaction. “We’re still paying our employees for a 40-hour week, but we’re having them work three days,” Waller explains. “And we’ve closed the offices on Sunday so they can be with their families. We have had employees, unfortunately, who have gotten sick, which is very challenging. When that happens, we backfill from the corporate level and/or try to manage remotely.” To the extent possible, NRP has switched to electronic and digital communication among both staff and residents.

Waller says, “Our CEO David Heller has instituted regular company-wide, around-the-horn updates in which we cover what we’re doing for residents.”

“The residents themselves have been very creative,” says Shanice Settle, NRP’s senior communications manager. “In Indiana, the residents themselves wanted to see each other, so they established outside check-in times to get together at a distance.” Residents at various NRP properties have coordinated to all watch the same movie at the same time, organized livestream yoga instruction and “patio parties.”

“During happy hour,” Waller explains, “the manager drives around in a golf cart, playing dance music, and everyone dances on their patios. The staff can have conversations with each resident to see how they’re doing and help them with whatever they need.”

“It creates a sense of joy and community,” Settle says. “Our market-rate properties don’t need as much from us, but we have teams trying to get creative and have at least two events a month for them.”

Waller adds, “It’s pretty compelling and impressive to me that everyone in our industry has been sharing information about what we all need to get through this.”

David Leon, a partner at the Nelson Mullins law firm in Orlando, FL, who specializes in affordable housing and tax credits, agrees. “The entire community has pulled together, openly and voluntarily. We all have to survive as an industry, and it’s all about our tenants. This is a really good message to get across.”