December 10, 2021

When staff members at Community Housing Partners (CHP) began planning renovations at Cedar Crest Apartments in Blacksburg, Virginia, they knew that the resident perspective would be a critical part of the decision-making process.

In order to engage residents before, during, and after renovations at the 78-townhome community, CHP staff turned to a resident benefit framework developed by the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF). CHP, which is a member of SAHF, learned valuable lessons through online surveys, regular staff interactions with residents, and a transparent process.

“We found that having meaningful resident engagement before, during, and after a building upgrade can have lasting impacts for both residents and owners,” said Shaun Rai, Vice President of Asset Management at CHP, who explained that these lessons are highlighted in SAHF’s recent case study on Centering Residents in Building Decisions.

Flyer distribution at Cedar Crest

Asset Management and Corporate Development staff distribute information about renovations planned for Cedar Crest Apartments in Blacksburg, Virginia, for 2021.

Many times, development and management teams do not have direct experience with living in affordable rental housing when they make decisions that affect the quality of life for the residents they are serving. In collaboration with SAHF, CHP reevaluated its existing policies and developed new processes to reduce barriers for Cedar Crest residents to share their perspectives. Staff members designed survey questions and procedures to gather meaningful resident feedback as part of the yearlong renovation.

The renovations, which concluded this fall, included upgraded kitchens and bathrooms, new LED lighting, new high efficiency water heaters, new doors, and improvements to driveways and decks. Virginia Housing provided funding for the $1.6 million renovation effort.

“I feel like the renovation process was fast, and they did a good job,” said one resident who has lived at Cedar Crest for two years. “I do like everything, especially the kitchen because I am a cook. I have more space with the cabinets, and I enjoy the countertops and the new floor. The renovations came out really nice.”

The resident added, “Everything worked out in a timely fashion. The staff let me know they would be coming, and I was able to get ready in time.”

Early in the process, CHP committed significant staff time for resident engagement and opted for an integrated effort involving its Asset Management, Property Management, and Corporate Development teams. Through surveys and communications with residents, CHP set expectations for the project while having flexibility to make changes based on resident feedback. Residents had multiple ways to participate in the process, including the online survey, phone survey, printed survey, and in-person appointments.

CHP also created a website for residents to learn more about the renovations, view renderings and a model unit, and submit additional questions. Staff used door tags, virtual and in-person unit tours, and in-person visits to keep residents up-to-date and address any issues that came up during the renovations.

The upgrades at Cedar Crest will ensure that the affordable townhome community has a high quality of living for years to come. Founded in 1975, CHP creates affordable and sustainable homes throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic and has 14 rental communities in Virginia’s New River Valley.