How Affordable Housing Providers Can Boost Residents’ Economic Mobility

Brief

How Affordable Housing Providers Can Boost Residents’ Economic Mobility

Abstract

Affordable housing providers are increasingly focusing on supporting residents to build assets, improve incomes, and get jobs with real career ladders that will help them move out of poverty. This brief draws from the experiences of 16 highly-regarded housing and service providers and distills four key lessons:

  1. Pay Residents for Training and Work: Paying participants in workforce training programs removes a barrier to participation, reinforces the notion that their time has value, and provides material incentives for consistency and effort.
  2. Integrate Property Management and Resident Services: Losing stable, affordable housing through eviction can have a radically destabilizing economic effect. By integrating property management and resident services, housing providers can mitigate the risks of lease violation and promote resident-centered decisionmaking.
  3. Individualize Services and Supports to Match Resident Goals: Instead of focusing on addressing deficiencies, services should empower residents to meet their own economic goals. Techniques like coaching can demonstrate the psychological benefits of increased agency and autonomy and the material benefits of increased income, assets, or employment.
  4. Extend the Timeframe for Services and Supports: Economic mobility is an ongoing process, and not always linear. Longer term supports can help residents to retain and build on their achievements in areas such as job retention and asset building.

Resources and context matter. These lessons require investment in order to pay trainees and workers, or to train property managers. In addition, however strong services are, their ability to move the needle on economic mobility is dependent on local opportunities, such as good local jobs that will pay enough for residents to live, to remain in stable housing, and to empower them to leave public benefits behind. 

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