Doreen Bushashia

As Gov. Maura Healey begins the process of creating a new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities along with a cabinet-level position focused solely on housing for the commonwealth, many who work in the housing sector as well as advocates for affordable housing are buoyed by this prioritization. The need for more housing throughout the state is undeniable, and affordable housing even more so.  

Yet while the need for physical structures and homes for residents is paramount, ensuring the stability of these communities is also incredibly important. Resident services already embedded in many affordable housing communities have a vital role to play in ensuring residents have access to health care and connecting the commonwealth’s managed health care plans to their members.  

Resident services, part of a team approach with property management, is a value-added component that does more than just enhance the quality of life for people – important enough on its own – but also promotes successful tenancies and coordinates wellness, educational and other enrichment programs on-site where residents live.  

These efforts work behind the scenes to maintain tenancy stability and support those who may be at risk for loss of housing and/or a return to homelessness. Moreover, resident services programs in affordable housing with their on-site resident service coordinator and wellness nurse, as demonstrated during the pandemic, serve as a lifeline to essential resources and are fundamental in addressing the social determinants of health care that lead to better health and quality of life outcomes. 

Resident services can take many forms: coordinating nutrition programs, grocery shopping trips, personal care and homemaking services, fitness and wellness workshops, rent arrearage assistance, care management, mental and behavioral health services, seasonal and other activities that reduce social isolation and help with navigation of health care. Additionally, resident services staff develop trusting relationships with residents and the community, offering culturally respectful support and a resident-centered approach in helping residents connect to social services and health care. These types of programs foster a deeper sense of community within the residence and provide residents with access to the resources of the broader community. 

The ‘Eyes and Ears’ 

Resident service coordinators and wellness nurses serve as the “eyes and ears” of an affordable housing community and when they observe health care and behavioral changes, they can share their concerns with the resident and alert health care providers that early intervention, an enhanced wraparound service plan and/or a clinician home visit to further support a resident may be needed.  

By focusing on wellness at home and prevention, resident services programs can also contribute to better health and quality of life outcomes for residents, leading to reduced utilization of emergency services and premature nursing home placement and an overall decrease in health care costs.  

This model helps older adults and persons with disabilities age successfully in their own homes in the community. Likewise, resident services as a part of affordable housing communities serve families and help reduce barriers as services can be readily accessed at home with a resident service coordinator providing linkages to childcare and afterschool care, educational and employment services, nutrition and food pantry resources, youth activities and other supportive and well-being programs. Along with the ongoing follow-up, advocacy and monitoring ensure services are delivered and service providers have access to those they serve within a clustered setting for continuity of care. 

The added value of resident services already present within many affordable housing communities has long been recognized by the industry as fundamental for successful property management by reducing turnover and legal costs, providing tenancy stabilization and understanding that on-site services and programs are amenities that increase property appraisal valuation and foster positive community relations.  

The new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities should consider ways to further promote vibrant affordable housing models that set the commonwealth apart from other states by deepening the connection between housing and health care access and resources. Resident services coordination – a longtime value-added component of property management – is a readymade platform to jumpstart bold initiatives. 

Doreen Bushashia is president of Peabody Resident Services, Inc., a division of the Peabody Cos.  

Resident Services in Affordable Housing Vital to Health Care Access

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min