Supportive Housing & Affordable Housing

General Model Description Supportive Housing & Affordable Housing
In this model, Supportive Housing units are combined with Affordable Housing units in a single property or series of properties to create mixed tenancy across incomes. The integrated developments created under this model provide housing opportunities for a variety of supportive housing populations as well as other households in need of affordable housing.  This model promotes integration by providing opportunities for supportive housing tenants to live among diverse populations and coordination among property management and supportive services ensures the primary focus is on housing stability for tenants. This model often has an affordable or community development focus with a for-profit or non-profit housing developer in ownership. Property management of the property is handled by the ownership entity or in agreement with a third party manager, depending on the housing type and the number of units.  The owner and property management coordinates with one or more supportive service partners to design and deliver services to supportive housing tenants and support housing stability.

Download this section of the toolkit for all of the answers to the questions below. 

Population Considerations

  1. How is homelessness defined? 
  2. What are supportive housing populations?
  3. How is a person with disability defined?
  4. What is Olmstead and how does it have an impact on supportive housing populations?
  5. How do project partners determine the demand for and market to specific supportive housing population needs in my community?
    In most any community, or region of communities, there are people with disabilities and people who are experiencing homelessness (see definitions) in need of supportive housing. Project partners must look beyond the traditional market study results to ensure that the data on demand for housing at all income levels – particularly below 30% or the area median income – are reflected. Project partners can make connections to the local department of homeless services, United Way, public health, local hospital, Center for Independent Living, and even the local sheriff to learn about the number of people (individuals and families) who are in need of supportive housing and the need among the specific sub-populations. All communities have a coalition of homeless service providers referred to as the Continuum of Care (CoC) that can be helpful in providing data about the people experiencing homelessness, housing needs, and characteristics about the population. For example, is there a need for housing and services for Veterans, families or chronic single adults?In some smaller metro, rural or geographically broad communities the need for supportive housing exists, but the people in need might not be living in the immediate proximity of a proposed site. In this way, we recognize that people with special needs or housing instability may end up residing in locations or receiving services simply because that is where help is available. A helpful approach is for a community to take a more regional view of need, instead of neighborhood or municipal need, depending on size and relation to other nearby communities.

    In selecting an integrated model that services supportive and affordable housing populations, the development will consider overall demand for both affordable and supportive housing populations in the community or region. Affordable housing can also be considered work-force housing or senior housing, depending on the income stream or target group for the units affordable to low and middle-income groups.

  6. What type of supports and services are needed for supportive housing populations to live independently in the community?



Ownership, Partnership, and Operations Key Considerations

  1. What are the benefits and challenges of combining affordable and supportive housing units in a development?
  2. What are the different housing types that can be created under a supportive ad affordable housing model?
  3. What are the roles and responsibilities for key partners needed to successfully develop and operate a development that is this Supportive and Affordable Housing Model?
    With all models of supportive housing, there are key partners that impact the success of the development.  For this Model, the key partners include the developer/owner, property management company, and supportive service provider(s). Listed below are the key roles and responsibilities for the partners to successfully develop and operate a development.Developer/Owner -

    The developer is responsible for the real estate development portion of the project — from the initial planning stages through the construction period, and ongoing ownership. The owner is legally and financially responsible for the property, representing the long-term interests of the project and its residents. The owner drives the planning and development process. The owner will enter into the legal lease agreement with the tenant (see Master Lease discussion under Scattered Site Leasing model) and will have the responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the property.Property Management Company

    will oversee the maintenance of the property, lease enforcement and relations with the tenants, financial oversight including rent collection, budgeting, and payment of expenses, and compliance with funding requirements, if applicable. The property management functions may be retained by the housing owners or subcontracted to a third party management company.In addition to these traditional property management functions, it is helpful during the development planning and operations of the development for property management to have an understanding of supportive housing and target populations. During development phase, the property management partner will help in developing tenant selections plan (TSP), application and screening process for all tenants. Having an understanding of supportive housing target populations and characteristics will help as partners develop a TSP and process that supportive housing applicants can navigate easily. This will also include planning the process for reasonable accommodations. During operations, property management staff will play an important role in coordinating with supportive services staff to ensure that tenants are paying rent on time, engaging good tenant behaviors, preventing evictions, and managing unit turnover.

    Supportive service partners design and deliver services to supportive housing tenants to maintain housing stability and be good neighbors. They play an integral role in helping the development team to understand the resident  needs, and providing suggestions for project design elements like the need for common space and service delivery space and key amenity features. The development may have one or more service partners (see the Service Section). Additionally service providers work closely with property management in the development of screening criteria, during the marketing and lease-up of units, and in the delivery of and linkages to services in the community. Service partners coordinate with property management staff to address tenant behaviors that may put their lease at-risk and assist with eviction prevention efforts

    The target population may influence which service provider is selected. For example, if the development is serving Veterans, linkage and coordination with the local VA Medical Center and other local Veteran service organizations is important. Or if the development is serving families, ensuring there is a partner and/or linkage to an agency that can provide services specifically to children.

    A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the owner, service provider and property manager will govern the relationship between the parties and establish the policies and procedures. An owner may have a MOU agreement with more than one service provider.

    To effectively implement this mixed affordability strategy, all partners must have an understanding of, and operate in accordance with Federal, State, and Local Fair Housing Laws.

  4. How can project partners ensure accountability to roles and responsibilities through the entire development timeline, including operations?
  5. Is there a ratio of affordable to supportive housing units that impact the marketability of the non-supportive housing units?
  6. What is master leasing and what partners are needed to create it?
  7. What are the best strategies to coordinate Property Management and Supportive Services delivery to promote housing stability of supportive housing tenants?

Integration Strategies Key Considerations

  1. What does community integration look like in this Supportive and Affordable Housing Model?
  2. What are the best practices for managing community opposition to supportive housing?
  3. How can development location and design impact community integration?
  4. How can the development implement a standard screening criteria and process across all units without creating barriers for supportive housing applicants?
    Supportive housing populations often face a difficult time exiting homelessness or institutions and accessing housing due to barriers related to criminal history, low or no credit, or previous evictions.  Developments targeting supportive housing populations must plan in advance on strategies to engage the target population and also operate in accordance with federal, state and local Fair Housing laws. Fair Housing laws require that the screening of all tenants is consistent. This can be a challenge when a development has a mixed tenant population. There are, however, a number of ways that developments can implement consistent screening criteria and successfully provide housing for vulnerable supportive housing populations. These include:

    • With support from supportive services partners, identify where there may be screening criteria challenges. Identify those criteria that can be removed from the standards while supporting the overall safety and security of the entire development.As an example, instead of utilizing a broad criminal history report examining the past 10 years, partners can utilize a 3 years; or limit it to only violent or arson related crimes.
    • If a more extensive screening criteria is utilized prior to initial lease-up, work with service partners to develop a standard appeal and reasonable accommodation process.As an example:A supportive housing applicant is denied due to criminal history. The applicant should be informed of their ability to submit an appeal or reasonable accommodation request, made aware of the documents required and the timeline in which they can appeal. For supportive housing applicants who have signed a release of information form notifying the referring service partner is also useful.

      The applicant submits an appeal to Property Management Staff outlining the support they are receiving from supportive service providers to address challenges and help prevent any future acts. Additionally, the tenants provides letters of support from their case manager, friends and family members, faith based leader, employer/volunteer coordinator – all verifying the supports and consistency of the applicant. Informing the referring case manager of the denial, allows them to provide the necessary support to the applicant and meet appeal the appeal requirements.

      • A reasonable accommodation request may be utilized if the applicant can demonstrate that the criminal activity was due to their disability. Additionally, and similar to housing appeal request, the applicant also demonstrates that they are participating in supportive services to manage their disability and avoid activities and situations related to previous activities. While supportive services cannot guarantee there will be no future lease violations by the tenant, the supportive service partners can assist property managers to advert any violations or crisis.


    If the development does not plan in advance for targeting supportive housing tenants and utilizes more stringent criteria, the project lease-up and timeline could be significantly delayed.

  5. How can the project use preferences to target specific supportive housing populations?
  6. What are the best practices for navigating the application and understanding responsibilities of tenancy for persons with disabilities and/or language or literacy barriers?
  7. How do reasonable accommodation and modification practices contribute to community integration and how does it work?
  8. How do tenants living in a supportive and affordable housing model connect with community resources?
  9. How can supportive and affordable housing models maximize tenant involvement in the property to promote integration?


Supportive Services Considerations

  1. What types of services and supports are available to supportive housing tenants?
    Overview on Services in Supportive Housing
    The services provided to supportive housing tenants distinguish supportive housing from other types of affordable housing. To the extent possible, the services available in a supportive housing development should be customized to the needs of tenants. Supportive housing services are intended to help ensure housing stability and to maximize each tenant’s ability to live independently. Services should include assistance with the housing application process, providing support during move-in, guidance on maintaining an apartment, and help on resolving issues that could lead to eviction. For some populations, living in supportive housing may be the first time the individuals have enjoyed the full rights and responsibilities of being a tenant. Strategies to engage tenants, and tackle feelings of isolation at initial move-in and throughout occupancy are important for tenant stability. Lastly, service design and delivery should promote the integration of tenants into the community in which they live to the greatest extent possible. Staffing Considerations
    Staffing patterns in supportive housing vary based upon the population being served, the goals of the project, the number of tenants to be served and available resources. The ratio of direct service staff to tenants will vary based upon the anticipated intensity of tenants’ need. The examples of services and staff roles commonly offered in conjunction with supportive housing listed below do not represent an exhaustive list. Services and staffing are to be tailored to the needs and interests of the targeted tenants.Services Categories
    Case Management/Service Coordination/Tenancy Support
    This is the most widely used form of services in supportive housing. The case manager does not provide every service a tenant needs but helps broker relationships between the tenant and other service providers. Case management can include new tenant orientation, assisting the tenant in accessing services such as child care or mental health treatment, and supporting the tenant in meeting all obligations of tenancy.

    Mental Health Services
    Focused on assisting tenants improve their mental health. Services under this category may include psycho-social assessment, individual or group counseling, support groups, and peer mentoring.

    Health/Medical Services
    These services ensure that a tenant is addressing their physical health. This is particularly important as individuals that experienced homelessness often have serious health and medical needs that have gone untreated or addressed. Services may include establishing routine medical care, HIV services, medication management and nutrition counseling.

    Substance Use and Addiction Services
    These services are designed to assist tenants in addressing substance use disorders. Services may include relapse prevention and recovery planning, individual or group counseling, harm reduction services, and inpatient rehabilitation.

    Independent Living Skills
    Tenants in supportive housing may need assistance in acquiring or regaining skills to maximize their independence. This may include financial education to help ensure on-time rent payment, creating personal budgets, conflict resolution, cooking and meal preparation, personal hygiene and self-care, and housekeeping and apartment safety.

    Employment Services
    Assist tenants in accessing employment or improving their employment status. Services may include vocational counseling, job placement and supported employment. Employment service staff may establish relationships with businesses in the community to help secure jobs for tenants, serve as liaisons between tenants and employers to address problems and issues and assist tenants in developing career plans.

    Peer Support Services
    For adults peer support services are provided by someone who is working to stabilize  their own life and has received training in how to help others who participate in mental health services. For children, peer services are “family-to-family” services. Peer support specialists can help people find interesting community activities to engage in, advocate for themselves, make friends, get a job, find better housing and learn skills to live well in the community.

  2. What are the considerations in working with one primary service provider versus multiple service providers?
  3. What is included in the supportive services budget and how are services funded?
  4. Can non-supportive housing tenants in the development utilize services?
  5. What are strategies to provide services on and off site?
  6. How can service provider partners work with supportive housing tenants and property management to prevent evictions and keep unit turnover low?
  7. What should an owner know about service delivery to supportive housing tenants?

Financing Considerations

  1. What capital resources are available to develop Supportive and Affordable Housing Model?
  2. How is the operating budget impacted if an affordable development includes supportive housing units?
    When considering a strategy to put units on-line that could create supportive housing an owner must understand the target population, and have a budget that will support leasing to people with low and very low incomes.  If rent levels are affordable to low and very low-income households then the revenues received to cover operating costs will be lower.  Certain rental assistance programs may be available to subsidize rents for these lower income households and enable the owner to bring in additional revenue to support operations.Generally the operating budget for a property that includes supportive housing units will be similar to a standard operating budget for a multi-family rental property.  Budgets should align with the rent levels, tenant income, physical design and property management needs that reflect the targeted tenant population. This may include estimated tenant portion of rent and rental subsidy allowance, weekend or evening property management or front desk manager, more efficient and durable building materials, and even higher collections allowances.It is also common that the number of supportive housing units in the development may affect the project’s ability to support the cost of a capital loan. In nearly all cases, projects that include supportive housing units need to include some type of rental assistance in order to maintain financial sustainability, and pay any debt service associated with a capital loan.  Having rental assistance for supportive housing households is important to targeting households with little (0-15% of Area Median Income) to no income.

    CSH studies have found that it does not cost more to manage supportive housing units than other affordable units.  However, property managers working in any development that does include supportive housing should develop additional skills such as an understanding working with supportive housing target populations and coordinating with service providers.

  3. What is rental assistance and how does it work?
  4. What are the available funding sources for rental assistance to create supportive housing?
  5. How can rental assistance be used in a Supportive and Affordable Housing Model?



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