How affordable housing developers are adding tenant services

Early investments pay off as developers expand programs and forge new partnerships.

Editor's note: This article, originally published by, is the second in a 2-part series looking at how resident services programs are evolving to meet the needs of tenants. Click here to read part one.

As explored in the previous article, some affordable–housing developers, owners and operators are changing how they operate by prioritizing resident services that may help tenants overcome barriers and challenges—from health and wellness to financial wellbeing to childcare and educational services. For Mercy Housing and Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), this means tailoring services to tenants and creating a suite of programs to support them. 

Over the past several years, Capital One has provided Mercy Housing with grants that support resident services in affordable housing communities. The company has also worked with APAH to preserve and create more than 500 affordable housing units in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Both organizations are working to expand resident services across their portfolios. Those efforts have included growing their in–house teams and engaging community partners to provide extra support and help deliver vital services. 

Building an in–house team

APAH expanded its resident services program during the pandemic when it saw an immediate need for rent assistance, growing from a team of 4 to 18 and serving 2,400 households. As APAH’s portfolio grows, it is continuing to expand its resident services in step. “We’re now coming up with a model where, as we bring on every 100 to 200 units, we’re thinking about how to staff that,” says Marquan Jackson, vice president of resident services at APAH. 

According to Garrett Jackson, director of resource development and communications, APAH is on track to triple its portfolio in the next five years to 7,500 units spread throughout the district. 

“Our 5-year strategic plan has some pretty bold goals,” says Garrett Jackson. “That’s going to have significant implications on how we scale our resident services programs.” Much of this growth is happening at the property level. The goal is to have a full–time coordinator assigned to every property to help families navigate and eliminate barriers. 

Forging community partnerships

An onsite staff is only part of the equation. Community partnerships and third-party organizations have proven critical to providing meaningful support, sponsoring or hosting new services and augmenting programs offered by the ownership.

In APAH’s rent relief program, they accessed millions in pandemic-era funding, helping 1,300 households remain stably housed. However, as that funding expired, they noticed a gap remained, and that’s where a community partner showed up big. Arlington Presbyterian Church made an initial investment of $200,000 to catalyze the effort at Gilliam Place, where their sanctuary is located on the first floor. It then invested an additional $200,000 to buy down rents for several households, for a total gift of $400,000.

At Mercy Housing, community partnerships are also essential. “Housing really touches every part of a person’s life,” says Doug Shoemaker, president of Mercy Housing California. “It’s about their community and connectivity to the larger community. We have found that if you combine that with resident services, it really activates and accelerates the impact.”

Working with a range of organizations—from the Boys and Girls Club to mental and physical health clinics—Mercy Housing can leverage expertise and thus provide more robust services for its residents. 

“The idea is not to duplicate existing services that are already out there in the community, but rather we want to partner with them. We find out what services are being provided and how we can tap into those services,” says Joe Thompson, president of Mercy Housing Northwest.  “Forging partnerships with other providers is essential toward solving complex, but interrelated challenges for our residents and larger communities.”

Overall, the combination of an internal team and community partners creates a scaled and extensive resident services program that aligns to the resources that affordable housing residents need. “We try really hard to identify community resources and assets and build on them rather than compete with them,” adds Shoemaker. “We believe it makes for a stronger community.”