WinnCompanies’ Housing Stability Program earned national attention on Thursday as both CEO Gilbert Winn and WinnResidential Vice President Trevor Samios participated in the White House Eviction Prevention Summit to discuss the strategy that has helped more than 45,000 tenants keep their homes despite financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the invitation of the Biden Administration’s Executive Office of Policy, Gilbert Winn outlined the company’s stability program as the only representative of multifamily property owners and managers during an hour-long virtual panel discussion on best practices for eviction diversion and emergency rental assistance initiatives. After that session, Samios, the day-to-day leader of the company’s effort, served on a working group that examined diversion tactics in various cities and states in more depth during a three-hour virtual meeting.
“The White House Summit spotlighted two fundamental truths about the need to focus on eviction prevention strategies,” Winn said. “The first truth is that the payment and collection of rent is fundamental to a stable rental housing infrastructure. Specifically, rental revenue is critically important to the maintenance and quality of the multifamily housing and services provided across the nation. The second truth is that renters deserve a safety net when or if they fall on hard times through no fault of their own."
“Our Housing Stability Program is based on the belief that these two truths can co-exist and that it takes both to create and maintain housing stability for renters and landlords,” he added. “Our program was conceived before the pandemic and we are committed to using it to cut evictions in half across our nationwide portfolio by 2025. We believe it can serve as the blueprint and toolkit for a national strategy to reduce financial hardship evictions across the United States.”
The White House readout of yesterday’s session can be found here.
Based on a strategy of education and intervention as soon as tenants have difficulty paying rent, the WinnCompanies’ program has helped more than 15,000 struggling households that normally would have faced eviction proceedings to stay in their homes during the past 15 months.
Implemented in 16 states and Washington, D.C., more than 1,700 WinnResidential property management staff have been trained to pursue combination of interventions that include negotiating realistic and responsible payment plans, providing one-on-one help to secure rental assistance funds, and recalculating rent obligations based on a better understanding of household expenses for subsidized renters. In addition, WinnResidential will host briefings this month to set new expectations for the more than 100 private law firms that handle housing court proceedings on behalf of the company and the private and non-profit apartment owners it represents.
“Our effort flips the traditional approach on its head by intervening upstream to avoid eviction whenever possible,” said Samios. “Helping people stay in their homes has myriad benefits; it’s good for our residents, for communities, our industry and the economy.”
Evictions contribute to homelessness and joblessness, numerous mental and physical health consequences, and educational setbacks for children. They also create a considerable financial burden for rental property managers and owners. Total eviction costs, incorporating lost rent, vacancy, legal fees, repairs, turnover, leasing and other costs, can range between $2,500 and $8,000 per case, depending on location and circumstances.
The WinnCompanies program does not waive household responsibilities under lease agreements, including the obligation to pay rent, but it can provide a viable path forward and relief to residents who demonstrate a good faith effort to meet their obligations. It does not apply to any household violating its lease through criminal behavior, violence or other activities deemed to be a danger to the health and safety of the community or damaging to property.
The initiative was initially developed by an internal task force created in November 2019 and refined by the company’s experiences during the pandemic in 2020. It is available to 160,000 individuals living in 600 affordable and market rate communities owned or managed by WinnResidential, which operates 61,000 apartments in Arizona, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.
Although WinnResidential is the nation’s largest affordable housing manager, more than half of the company’s rental income derives from individual tenant payments, rather than government subsidies.
Manuals for the Housing Stability Program have been distributed nationwide. The manual for Massachusetts can be found here.