Teachers and principals at several Houston elementary and middle schools noticed a positive trend in public education soon after a partnership was formed between the Southwest Management District and the Houston Apartment Association.
Fewer students were transferring between schools, ensuring continuity in the classroom, which improves students’ learning and achievement. The students’ families were simply moving less because of better safety in apartment complexes throughout the district.
In the partnership, the District pays for apartment complex management and owners to use Rental Credit Reporting Service, a program of the Houston Apartment Association (HAA).
Working with CoreStaff, the HAA’s RCR program provides a variety of services for apartment managers as they consider the applications of potential tenants.
The six-part assessment of each potential resident includes access to a National Landlord-Tenant database, a Texas criminal data base, a sex-offender search, a terrorism check through the FBI and other federal agencies, an eviction history, and a record of each potential tenant’s moves in and out of apartments.
“It is a direct, tangible benefit provided by the districts that can really have benefits,” said Alice Lee, executive director of the Southwest Management District.
With more than 25,000 individual apartments in the District, a more stable population helps to boost security, Lee explained.
Stephanie Bryson owns the 60-unit Glenwood Apartment Homes in the Southwest Management District, as well as about 430 other apartment units in the Houston area through Stellar Equity Management.
As a former third-grade teacher, Bryson said she believes the program has had a positive impact on public education.
“An indirect benefit is that for schools, you have much more stability,” Bryson said. “There is simply not that much skipping around” between apartment communities.
“That makes a huge difference,” Bryson said.
Because continuity builds better communities, Bryson said apartment managers want to keep residents as long as possible.
“Our mantra is improving lives through community,” she said.
The Management District has made “so many positive changes to improve the whole area. It Is truly a positive partnership.”
The training for the RCR program, provided by the HAA, also allows apartment managers to learn about other ways to improve community safety, ranging from improved lighting and landscaping to programs offered by the Houston police department, Lee said.
“That relationship building is important. Through those contacts with apartment managers, it is just so important to make sure there is communication, whether it’s about health and safety or something like a food drive that is coming up,” Lee said. “That all makes for a better apartment community.”
Tina DeFiore, who runs the RCR program for the HAA, said that its ultimate benefit for school children was first noticed about seven years ago in elementary and middle schools.
“In some cases, just transferring schools can cause a student to fall behind by as much as a year,” DeFiore said.
The stability resulting from the RCR program also benefits apartment managers and owners, DeFiore stressed. With less turnover in rental units, those communities directly save on such “make-ready” costs of cleaning, carpet cleaning or replacement and painting, she said.
Now the pandemic is straining the finances of many tenants and, as a result, of apartment owners, too.
Apartment managers have to find ways to keep “front-line” employees, such as maintenance staff, safe at work. And despite a nationwide moratorium on evictions that was recently extended until Jan. 31, tenants — many who lost their jobs — are going to have to eventually pay rent and any late fees.
The HAA has compiled a long list of organizations that might be able to offer financial assistance to families facing economic hardships. A complete list of those organizations can be found at haaonline.org/financialhelp.
According to the Texas Tribune, there are also several statewide information and advocacy organizations that provide assistance to renters in need. Those are Texas Housers and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.
— by Anne Marie Kilday