As the coronavirus crisis continues to escalate, restaurants, retail, and other businesses are being forced to shutter their doors to crowds, resulting in layoffs and furloughs. Leading affordable housing developer and owner Woda Cooper Cos. is taking action to help its residents whose jobs are directly impacted by the coronavirus epidemic.
“Woda Cooper is celebrating its 30th year in business. We have developed, built, and continue to own and operate more than 300 affordable housing communities in 15 states. It is an honor to serve the states, cities, and communities where we have properties, but we never forget that our residents are our highest priority,” said principals Jeffrey J. Woda and David Cooper Jr. in a joint statement. “In lieu of a 30th anniversary celebration, as a company, we have decided to establish a rental assistance fund and put in place new policies to support our residents whose jobs are directly impacted by the coronavirus.”
Woda Cooper Cos. is waiving late fees for rent due April 1 for any resident who has been laid off or furloughed as a result of the crisis; has established an interim rental assistance fund of $250,000 to assist residents; and is asking vendors, lenders, and investors to help in its effort and will match the first $250,000 of contributions received for the assistance fund.
“We believe that unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions, and that we should all do what we can do to help each other through this crisis,” the principals said.
The Columbus, Ohio-based firm has also put procedures and policies in place for protecting its staff and residents. Letters were sent to all residents and notices were posted with information to help everyone stay safe and understand what the firm is doing. It also is encouraging residents and employees to follow CDC guidelines on travel, social distancing, hygiene, and other behaviors.
“At operating communities, we’ve temporarily halted group activities, and we’ve closed fitness centers, computer centers, and community rooms,” said Philip A. Labelle, senior vice president of management. “We are addressing maintenance and work orders carefully. We are asking residents to refrain from calling in nonemergency work orders if members in the household are sick, but we are not discouraging emergency work orders at any times. If emergency work orders are needed in households where a member is sick, our maintenance team has been instructed to wear personal protective equipment whenever possible.”
At construction sites, Woda Cooper Cos. is encouraging contractors to keep their distance, at least 6 to 8 feet, from one another and to limit the number of people within a unit at one time as well as to hold meetings outside the job trailers with as few people involved as possible.
In addition, Labelle said the firm is accommodating required agency inspections but is suspending monthly internal inspections in order to reduce traffic in units.
The firm’s investment in technology over the past five-plus years also is paying off during this crisis. “We’ve encouraged residents to reach out to community managers by phone and email if they have questions,” Labelle added. “On-site offices are now open only for appointments, and we are encouraging online rent payments.”