News & Events

NeighborWorks Boise: Not Your Average Landlord

07/23/15 at 01:53 PM by Jillian Hanes

Apartment hunting can be downright tricky for anyone.   After spending hours searching websites, newspapers or community boards to find units in your area that are safe, close to everyday amenities, and that fit into your budget, you finally find 4-5 possibilities.  Next, you take time out of your busy schedule to visit these apartments – trying to absorb all the details of each place within the 20 minutes it takes the landlord to show you around the complex.  At the same time, you’re asking questions about neighbors and the lease policy.  If you’re a really diligent renter, you may even write down the details, go online to see if there are any reviews from former tenants, or even come back and ask some of the current renters if their experience living there has been positive.  This can be downright exhausting and stressful for the average renter, before the big move. Imagine how much more challenging this process was for the 978 refugees that arrived in Idaho this past year – many who don’t even speak English.

NWBoise Residents

This growing population within our community needs an affordable housing ally, and many have found one in NeighborWorks Boise (NWBoise).  While our non-profit provides 283 affordable rental units to low-income (30%-60% area median income) families and individuals of all different backgrounds in the Boise-Nampa MSA, approximately 68% of our tenants are immigrants and refugees in our Boise properties alone.  These residents represent over 20 countries and native languages, and NWBoise is proud to serve such a diverse population.

Our Approach to Resident Services

With this diversity, NWBoise created a Resident Services’ Program with a mission to build a supportive community and promote self-sufficiency of our residents living at the Gateway Crossing, Davis Park, Stewart Avenue, and Northwest Pointe apartment communities.  We strive to strengthen relationships between property residents, NWBoise staff and community services with the help of an AmeriCorps VISTA Resident Services Coordinator, a Community Outreach Specialist (COS), and helpful property managers.  

Our approach to this program is three-fold.  We are committed to:

  • Engaging residents to take ownership and personal responsibility of their community
  • Fostering neighborhood pride and community engagement
  • Increasing resident stability and opportunity for self-sufficiency

Training Resident Leaders

Over the past two years, our Resident Services crew identified residents at our properties who want to make a positive impact within their community, and built a team of resident leaders.  One such leader is David, a Kenyan who has a full time job, is going to school full time to become a Medical Assistant, but still makes the time to work with the resident children on their soccer skills.  He and a partner have broken the kids into teams that scrimmage regularly at the apartment community.

“People should work together to make things better,” David adamantly states.

Another leader is Ivy, a Hispanic woman who did not feel comfortable or safe in her previous community, and decided to volunteer and be a good example to her fellow residents in NWBoise’s apartment community.  Not only is Ivy currently receiving G.E.D. tutoring at the apartment’s community center once a week (her goal is to receive her G.E.D. by October 2015), she has led at least 10 activities within the complex over the past couple of years, and she drives her female neighbors – many who are unable to drive – to get the resources their families need around town.

Both David and Ivy will attend NeighborWorks America®’s Community Leadership Institute (CLI) training in Louisville, Kentucky this October along with 5 other resident leaders, 2 of NeighborWorks Boise’s property managers and the COS.  At this 4-day event, the team will take workshops on topics like “Developing Leadership Potential” and “Speaking with Confidence,” – a course that Ivy is especially eager to take to help improve her public speaking ability.

These resident leaders act as both representatives and coordinators for their fellow residents – assessing the needs and desires of the tenants, advocating on their behalf to NWBoise and the property management company, and putting together work groups. And their hard work is paying off!  Some of the successful resident-driven projects include the installation of a new basketball hoop at Davis Park, rubberized playground surface and painted curbs at Northwest Pointe, and community gardens at all the apartment communities.

Neighborhood Pride and Community Engagement

These projects require residents to work together and actually get to know their neighbors.  Facilitating this rapport between fellow-residents takes patience, understanding, and planning low-key events where the residents feel welcome.

“Many of these refugees come from nations that are at odds with one another.  Others come from war-torn countries where they feel they can’t trust anyone,” says NWBoise’s Community Outreach Specialist, Emily Pohlman.  “You can’t expect they will all get along right away, nor can you just go up to them and start asking them for their personal information.  It takes time to build their trust in each other and our crew.”

There are two main ways NWBoise’s Resident Services crew attempts to build rapport with the residents and among them.  First, the VISTA and COS spend a significant amount of time at each community – getting to know the children, initiating conversations with the adults, and attending community meetings.  Secondly, we coordinate regular activities from our larger Spring Fling, Harvest Festival, and National Night Out events to Popsicle Night, Pi Day, and even a summer Water Wrangle activity for the kids.  NWBoise staff often attends these events – engaging in conversations with the residents and offering our other housing services, when appropriate.

Increasing Resident Self-Sufficiency

Perhaps the biggest difference between NWBoise and the average landlord lies within our future goals for them.  Where the average landlord wants to keep their tenants for decades, our Resident Services Program is built to empower them to move toward sustainable homeownership.  We offer programs and activities such as English as a Second Language, G.E.D tutoring, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) - based workshops, all designed to encourage higher education and increased job opportunities.

As they work toward these more lucrative opportunities, we also offer free Rental Counseling and Financial Fitness Coaching – programs that help them learn how to track their income, budget, reduce their debt, and work toward achieving personal financial goals.  One of these goals may be homeownership.  When their finances are in order, NWBoise’s Homeownership Programs and Mortgage Lending Department are available to assist our residents in taking that step toward owning a home of their own – an accomplishment many dream of, but do not think is possible for their family.

Unlike the Average Landlord

In support of diversity within Southwest Idaho, NeighborWorks Boise recognizes the need for integrating the growing immigrant and refugee populations into our community while respecting their native heritages and cultural pride.  By empowering them with leadership training, opportunities to socialize and network, educational endeavors, and financial guidance, our goal is to help them acclimate to this new culture as easily as possible and accomplish their definition of the American Dream – things that never cross the average landlord’s mind.

Want to Partner with Us?

NWBoise ‘s Resident Services Program credits much of its success to the many partners and volunteers that donate time, money and expertise to the activities and events for our residents.  Some of our supporters include:

Salvation Army

YMCA

Idaho FoodBank

Learning Lab

Whittenberger Foundation

Valley Regional Transit

Better Business Bureau

4-H

Crossroads Church

Boise Farmer’s Market

El-Ada Community Action Partners

Boise Parks & Rec.

Health Insurance Exchange

Boise Young Professionals

Starbucks

Discovery Center

Boise Bicycle Project

Citizen Scientific Workshop

 

Our residents still need your help!  To partner with NeighborWorks Boise’s Resident Services Program, contact Emily at 208-258-6229 or epohlman@nwboise.org

NeighborWorks Boise’s mission is to lead in creating innovative housing solutions for underserved populations through strategic partnerships that contribute to building stronger communities.

 

Please visit our new website: www.nwboise.org