Financial Capability Programs Make Cents for Residents
CHP recognizes the important role financial security plays in economic empowerment for those it serves and economic strength for the greater community. As such, CHP's resident services program has dedicated an entire focus area to fostering the financial capability of its multifamily residents. This includes sound financial education, but also the skills, dispositions, and access to appropriate financial products necessary to make informed financial decisions.
CHP Resident Services provides one-on-one and group financial coaching to encourage behavior changes and achieve positive and sustainable long-term financial outcomes. The coaching includes guidance on managing finances, adjusting daily spending, developing a savings plan, and understanding banking. According to CHP Vice President of Resident Services Angie Roberts-Dobbins, many people on a budget do not often find financial planning to be financially accessible. CHP’s program, however, works in a preventative fashion so that residents are better positioned to make sound financial decisions and avoid problems like eviction.
Maintaining housing in hard economic times is challenging, particularly for low-income families. Eviction is an issue that inordinately affects America's poor, especially single women with children. By helping to prevent eviction through financial capability programs, CHP is helping individuals and families avoid homelessness, uprooting their children from school, damaging their credit and rent history, and/or the threat of legal action on behalf of the landlord.
"Poor financial decisions have impacts on the financial security, well-being, and prosperity of individuals and families. CHP’s eviction prevention efforts give our resident services staff the opportunity to build relationships with the residents and to understand them on a more personal level. Ultimately, our goal is to do what is best for each family unit in our rental communities, and that is to keep people in their homes," explained Roberts-Dobbins.
One successful financial capability initiative provided by CHP, the CHANGE program, is an interactive educational program that helps people gain a better understanding of their finances and make sound judgments regarding banking, budgeting, saving, and general money management. The program, which is funded by JPMorgan Chase and administered by NeighborWorks, also holds participants accountable for their behavior and decisions by helping them set goals and tracking their progress. In other words, it helps develop financial skills as well as knowledge.
“The CHANGE program is great! It has helped me learn to manage my finances, budget more effectively, and identify areas of saving money. I enjoy all aspects of the program. I love being able to bounce ideas around, learning alternative and new ways to deal with money, and becoming financially independent. Not only am I able to learn more information about money, but I’m also learning a lot about myself. I welcome anything that can be applied to all aspects of my life,” said Dolly Ann Apartments resident Lynn White.
While preventative financial coaching such as that provided in the CHANGE program is ideal, sometimes a more short-term solution is necessary to help a resident that is late on rent. Once a resident has missed a rent payment, a late notice is sent to the resident, accompanied by a written offer to meet one-on-one with a resident services staff member. The offer is completely participation by choice, as there are no mandated resident services through CHP’s program.
"This type of intervention helps eliminate any sense of embarrassment the resident might have over late rent. Not only do we try our best to assist the resident with the possibility of eviction, but we are able to connect residents with benefits or resources they may not know are available to them,” said Roberts-Dobbins.
Preventing resident eviction also makes financial sense for CHP. Due to the nature and expense of evictions, the organization is able to save over $4,000 per eviction. In 2015 alone, CHP was able to avoid 219 evictions, which equates to $929,618 in savings. As a result, this money can be re-invested into additional resident services programming.