National Community Renaissance (National CORE) started a resident relocation division about five years ago when it began the redevelopment of a large public housing community in San Bernardino, Calif. The nonprofit then worked on a number of additional rehabilitation projects that have involved either in-place rehabs or temporarily moving residents out of their homes while their apartments were being renovated. National CORE now provides relocation services to other affordable housing owners. Courtney Richard, head of the division, shares tips for a successful relocation.
1. Start Planning Early: Begin organizing for resident relocation as soon as you know a property will be undergoing rehabilitation. “You can never do enough planning,” Richard says. “Whenever we hear about a project, we start planning for the process right away.” Before the project even starts, you should have a beginning and an end point for the residents. You should have multiple places where residents can be relocated just in case one avenue doesn’t work out. For example, plans may call for residents to stay in a hotel, but the hotel may be sold out when needed. If you plan ahead, you’ll have solutions for issues that will inevitably pop up.
2. Don’t Skimp on the Budget: Prepare a well-thought-out relocation budget and not cut it. Again, unexpected issues often surface during a rehab. Having an appropriate budget allows the team to address any surprises and keep the process moving.
3. Communicate with Residents: Richard often begins by holding a large community meeting to talk with residents about the relocation process. She then meets one-on-one with people, which is an opportunity to address concerns and build a relationship with the resident. Relocation team members continue to communicate throughout the process and are on-site during the renovation.
4. Work Closely with the Contractor: The relocation team needs to work in tandem with the contractor. This starts early on, with the development of a detailed schedule. Residents need to be out of their apartments at the right time to ensure that the work gets started promptly. Richard’s team also inspects each apartment when the work is completed to point out any additional items that need to be addressed. It then does a second walk-through with the resident.
5. Be Understanding: Relocating, regardless if it’s just during the day or off-site for a few weeks, is difficult for residents. Richard has seen residents with iguanas and other more exotic pets that will also need to be located. She’s also faced hoarding situations. No matter what comes up, it’s important to think about the resident and make sure they are taken care of, she says.
6. Create Opportunities: Residents may receive a stipend during a relocation. National CORE has helped families save those funds and apply it toward a down payment on their own house.