Investing in Resident Services

Historically, meaningful analysis of the impact of service-enriched housing has presented a tremendous challenge. With limited staff and funding for evaluation, data collection is often inconsistent. Some properties, for instance, collect data on a particular program, but only for the duration of a grant. Funders have different reporting requirements which can make consistent reporting across housing properties impossible. Advocacy for broader and more robust service-enriched housing initiatives is hampered by the limited scope of data and analysis available. 

The Outcomes Initiative aims to change these conditions. Members of the SAHF collaborative agreed to survey residents of their affordable housing properties to gather information in five areas: health & wellness, financial stability, housing stability, education, and community engagement.

Due to these fiscal constraints, no SAHF member is able to provide services at every property in its portfolio across all five areas described above. Given the need, government and philanthropic funding for resident services is severely limited.  As mission-oriented nonprofits, SAHF members redirect some portion of their net revenues and corporate assets to supporting resident services. But these funds, too, are limited.  Even with restricted budgets, SAHF members continue to innovate. For example, smaller properties often share a resident service coordinator.  One of SAHF’s members, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, is piloting the use of remote service coordination via technology for small rural properties.

Prior to this, our organization saw itself as a houser; we didn’t measure our impact beyond unit count and growth. Now we are fully vested in the importance of evaluation to tell the full story of our impact on individuals, families, and communities.
— a SAHF Member

SAHF members have witnessed first-hand the advantages of connecting affordable housing to needed services. Low-income people often face practical obstacles to receiving services located elsewhere in the community, such as a lack of transportation or childcare, limited physical mobility, or concerns about safety. Onsite services are readily accessible, visible, and more easily tailored to resident needs. A familiar and trusted staff member at the property is also better positioned to build long-term relationships with residents. The strength of such relationships can be the key to supporting people to access opportunities and improve their quality of life.

SAHF hopes that this Outcomes Initiative proves to be a significant step forward in making the full potential of service-enriched housing a reality and attracts additional partners and investors to the work of committed affordable housing providers.  The support of the Kresge, Annie E. Casey, and MacArthur Foundations has helped SAHF and its members leverage its resources and attract additional partners to this work.