The balancing act of being a non-profit landlord

The balancing act of being a non-profit landlord

There are so many different terms to describe what CCOC does: social housing, affordable housing, community housing, non-profit housing, mixed-income housing.

I like “non-profit landlord”. It describes the core of what we do, being a landlord, but also puts front and centre that we aren’t in the business of housing for money or profit.

CCOC was founded on the idea that all people should have good homes they can afford, from a landlord they can trust, in good neighbourhoods. Our mission and values are anchored in those things. The “business” of managing properties and serving tenants is our main tool to achieve that: our motivation is our mission, but we can’t achieve our mission if we ignore the business side of our operations.

So what does this look like during the pandemic?

It means reaching out. Our rental and engagement teams are reaching out to tenants impacted by COVID-19. We have been pleased to hear some positive news – people getting by okay, people looking for ways to help their neighbours. But we also hear a lot of anxiety: tenants who have lost work, those who have shut down their small businesses, and people afraid of long term losses. Many don’t know how they will continue paying their rent.

It means listening. A quarter of our 60 staff is CCOC tenants, or former CCOC tenants (including myself). Half of our Board of Directors are current and former tenants. Each administrative department at CCOC is advised and governed by a completely open committee – anyone can join and we especially want tenants to. We value open and inclusive decision-making. This feedback becomes even more essential during the pandemic.

Many tenants, staff, Board members, and committee members came together for an annual property tour. This year, the group learned about and discussed how healthy transportation and affordable housing go hand in hand.

It means responding.  We’ve been working with tenants to defer rent they can’t pay. As a rule, if tenants stay in communication with us, we can almost always work something out. The same thing applies during the pandemic.  We’ve been facilitating a “Neighbour Network” to help people reach out and assist their neighbours who might be struggling during the pandemic.  We’re disinfecting, fixing, and cleaning as much as we can, we’re keeping a safe distance, washing our hands, and making sure we are a big part of flattening the curve.

It means focusing on quality of life. The pandemic has been particularly hard on people who don’t have a good home, on people who may struggle with their mental health and people who manage addictions. Sometimes that can lead to behaviour that negatively impacts a neighbour’s quality of life. We’re seeing more of this during the pandemic. We try to take a balanced approach, but we always remember our responsibility to be a good landlord and to protect the quality of life for everyone living in the building.

It has never been more clear that everyone needs a good home that they can afford, from a landlord they can trust, in a good neighbourhood where they feel safe. CCOC will continue to serve our tenants and the broader Ottawa community as an essential service during this unique time, and will do so by working together with tenants at every opportunity. That’s what it means to be a non-profit landlord.

 

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