Maintaining Occupancy in COVID-19
As a property management organization providing housing to low-income seniors, CCH is a leader and strong advocate for the affordable housing industry. The ongoing pandemic has impacted not only our thoughts and actions in regards to health and safety, but also has brought about some revised safety protocols for how we fill vacancies and address the need to maintain viable open wait lists.
In general, most of our communities have had closed waiting lists for years, reflective of the high quality of our properties, the housing crunch in much of the country and the need for more available affordable housing. We’ve kept high occupancy rates and have been able to quickly fill vacancies using the wait lists at our various communities.
COVID-19 safety protocols have brought about some changes in how we’re able to reach out to potential residents. For example, our ability to conduct site tours has been limited. “It takes longer to process applicants,” Compliance Department Manager Carol Frank shares. “Many applicants are also fearful of moving during the pandemic and so they’re opting to pass on changing housing until pandemic fears ease.”
Nationwide occupancy rates dipped 0.8 percent for the first time following the onset of the pandemic. Whether from fear of the disease spreading or the perceived loss of communal perks, such as group activities and socializing with neighbors, some potential tenants began to rethink the notion of moving into independent senior living.
The good news is that the impact of COVID-19 has been less severe among independent living properties, such as CCH, as opposed to nursing care communities with a more vulnerable resident population. Skyrocketing housing costs and the need for more affordable housing makes it less likely low-income residents will make drastic housing changes. Additionally, occupancy changes have stabilized as the nation grows more accustomed to COVID-19 protocols and vaccinations begin to roll out.
AS CCH manages the multiple impacts of the pandemic, it’s important to be aware of trends and how it can affect occupancy and leasing rates. Our goal is to ensure CCH is able to maintain its high occupancy rates. This means carefully managing oversite of the application and selection process for new tenants in an equitable, fair and consistent manner.
CCH has procedures in place to determine when a wait list should be opened or closed. Our Compliance Department closely monitors eligibility requirements and the process for how applicants are placed on the wait list and in what order. To ensure a fair and equitable process, CCH complies with HUD rules for non-discrimination, including reaching out to the underserved in our communities when wait lists are opened.
“Based on the average number of annual vacancies, we determine how many applicants are optimal for the community,” Carol explains. “When the number drops below that optimal number, it’s time for us to open the wait list.”
The wait list should retain a sufficient number of eligible applicants to ensure vacancies are filled quickly but should not be so outdated or large that the list is unmanageable. “Having a list of people who are ready and eager to move in when contacted allows us to fill units as quickly as possible,” Carol explains. “This minimizes financial loss to the community due to vacant units and helps us to fulfill our mission by getting qualified residents into their new homes.”
CCH President and CEO Syd Najeeb shares, “A well-managed, up-to-date and maintained wait list is crucial to our business success. Staying abreast and responding to changing trends keeps our organization robust and helps us provide the best quality housing.”
Syd adds, “Our goal is to ensure we not only meet our financial obligations and remain stable, but that our residents are safe, cared for and engaged within their communities,” he says. “In this way, despite living life in a pandemic bubble, we can maintain a sense of home and encourage our residents to want to stay in place because they are comfortable in their surroundings.”