It’s no secret that affordable housing has become an incredibly demanding industry, with more supply desperately needed across the country at a time when funding resources are increasingly limited.
Cambridge Management offers 26 years of experience building and managing these communities so that low-income, disable and elderly citizens can enjoy a safe and modern place to live. Its success in a challenging field has allowed the firm to expand from its native state of Washington to California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and South Dakota.
‘”We expanded into Georgia lost year, and it’s possible that we will grow into other states in the near future,” says Jennifer Wood, Director of Property Management at Cambridge. “We are an owner-manager company, and our owners have assets In other locations. It Is always possible to acquire or manage properties because owners are satisfied with our services in our current locations.
IMPROVING AND PRESERVING SUPPLY
Cambridge pursues a mix of new construction and acquisition in its efforts. When it comes to its acquisition properties, the firm seeks marketable communities with good long-term prospects for affordability and attracting residents. This often involves rehabilitation, including to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 affordable housing.
“When we do an acquisition rehab, we’re looking to enhance the property for long-term viability,” Wood says. “We plan for the future, depending on the type of financing it has and the programs present. If it’s Seciton 8, the affordability alone assures marketability. With the tax credit properties that don’t have that added layer of subsidy, we consider marketability more. We look into unit or amenity upgrades to ensure the property’s future success no matter the market conditions.”
Rehabilitation efforts vary depending on the property and may range form merely updating appliances to completing major infrastructure work. Another priority in this area is safety, as designers look for ways to reduce crime in low-income areas.
“We look at each property form a crime-prevention-through-environmental-design perspective,” Wood says. “The resulting changes are intended to make a community safer. Although we cannot guarantee 100 percent safety, the enhancements still offer a definite improvement.”
Another priority is accessibility, especially with the demand to house senior citizens and people with disabilities.
“Accessibility is present in our new construction projects, even if they are not intended specifically for seniors or people with disabilities,” Wood says. “We also make things easier for our residents by choosing locations near services. It helps everyone, but especially older residents and those who have mobility issues.”
One of the reasons why Cambridge has been so successful has been its work with key partners, including Franklin Street, a firm that provides insurance and risk management services.
“Franklin Street provides us with excellent insurance solutions for our Eastern portfolio, including the Eastern seaboard and Florida,” Wood says. “They rise to the challenge and offer good options. They are an effective brokerage firm and we’re happy to be working with them.”
DESIGNS AROUND COMMUNITY NEEDS
As the demand for affordable housing grows, adapting to diverse population segments
becomes increasingly necessary. With its flexibility and deep knowledge, Cambridge is able to provide an assortment of housing to serve different requirements.
“We have properties for agricultural workers, homeless families and seniors. They also include supportive services,” Wood says. “Where we are unique is our ability to provide units designed for large families, including apartments with five bedrooms in some locations. This is virtually unheard of in Washington. We also set aside unit with adaptations for individuals with mobility and sensory impairments. There are a lot of different populations with different needs.”
The Cambridge team is also very detail-oriented when it comes to design, another important element of its success.
“We have had a long-standing tradition of gathering the decision-makers once a year, including owners of our company, architects, construction personnel and management,” Wood says. “We visit the most recently developed property and look through the units, deciding what needs to be adjusted and what works well. That way, we can continue developing our designs and using the best materials for a long lifecycle.
With these efforts, Cambridge aims to serve even more markets in the future, including Hawaii – “We are rehabilitating senior communities in Hawaii – they have not been significantly updated in the past 20 to 30 years. The residents will appreciate it,” Wood says.
And in Tacoma, Washington, there is a new development that is helping to meet the needs of a community where affordable housing is a big need.
“When we opened our last community [in Tacoma], we were unable to keep up with the traffic,” Wood says. “We had to close the application process at times so that we could determine what was available and finish screening folks. We posted a sign on our front door indicating that we would reopen on a specific date for applications, and that morning we came to work and found 17 families waiting outside the door. I’m really excited to finish this next property because it will fill a need and provide a nice place for 60 more families.”
Franklin Street specializes in providing Insurance and Risk Management services to affordable housing owners across the country, including Cambridge. The growth CMI has experienced throughout the years is truly exceptional and is the result of their commitment to this industry. We view ourselves as being part of the Cambridge team and work diligently to manage all insurance related matters so they can remain focused on growing and operating their portfolio. We’re proud to call Cambridge our client as they continue to be a leader within the Affordable Housing Industry.