Affordable housing is no longer just shelter
A growing number of cities are working with affordable housing developers to offer a variety of social services on site. The practice started a few decades ago with cities providing support for seniors and disabled residents in affordable housing developments. Now, those services are extending to children and working adults, and include afterschool educational programs and financial planning assistance.
Offering special services in affordable housing projects can help make the projects “stable members of the community,” says Linda Couch, senior vice president for policy for the Washington-based National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The more a community can count on lower turnover and [residents’] incomes improving from within, then that building will better serve the community,” Couch says.
Irvine, Calif.-based non-profit Jamboree Housing Corp. has built several affordable housing projects in that state that offer various services, including consumer credit counseling for adults and afterschool computer training for young students, through a contract with another non-profit, says Jamboree Housing President Laura Archuleta. “We coordinate with local schools to ensure that, if a child is having trouble and they live in one of our properties, we can assist them in staying in school,” Archuleta says.
The afterschool programs are the most important service at the Jamboree Housing projects in Anaheim, Calif., says Lisa Stipkovich, the city’s executive director for community development. “A lot of these kids don’t necessarily have access to computers, or at least the latest technology,” she says.
City officials can take steps to encourage similar projects in their communities, Couch says. “Local officials can [help] developers identify partnerships — who are the right non-profits, what are the right local agencies — that can help them come in and provide existing services,” she says.