Workforce and market-rate investor Chris Finlay has created a homeless assistance program that he considers a “sustainable way forward.”
Middleburg Real Estate Partners CEO Chris Finlay considers himself an unlikely do-gooder. The self-proclaimed “profit-oriented real estate guy” launched his Virginia-based investment, development and management firm in 2004 to buy and manage workforce and middle-market apartments from a fiscal standpoint. Then five years ago, he read an article about situational homelessness, which occurs when a person faces some sort of loss crisis related to housing, financial, or employment, and his eyes were “sewn open.”
“I read that article and for some reason felt compelled to act,” Finlay recalled. He acted by founding Shelter to Shutters, a 501c3 organization that transitions individual people and families out of homelessness to economic self-sufficiency by engaging the apartment industry to help provide jobs and housing.
Through the program, real estate companies provide rent concessions to participants who are trained for entry-level apartment management positions, which typically have a turnover rate of about 50 percent compared to about 7 percent through the Shelter to Shutters program.
In exchange for about a year of rent concessions, not atypical in the industry, Finlay points out that real estate companies get something that’s worth far more: a loyal, dedicated employee who is more focused on career than a job, creating less turnover. “That longevity and that motivation really adds tremendous value to the real estate company and the property,” he explained.
The results are impressive to date: 260 people lifted out of homelessness with 87 percent annual employee retention rate for participants, 89 percent receiving wage increases or promotions, and a 93 percent success rate of participants not re-entering homeless services.
“My focus is going to be helping other people,” Finlay said. “But I migrated to this understanding over time—the more we do, the better we do. It’s recognizing this co-dependence on community engagement and financial performance and how these things are not mutually exclusive, or rather, intertwined.”
Read the full article from Multi-Housing News here.