Our asset management team works to ensure that all APAH’s properties are safe and well-maintained inside and out. Overseeing the financial and physical health of APAH’s buildings is a collaborative effort between APAH’s asset management staff and S. L. Nusbaum Realty Co, our property management company.
APAH’s asset management team includes Senior Asset Manager Ash Bhatia and Asset Manager André Lewis. APAH is currently hiring a second Asset Manager to complete the team. The team works under Chief Operating Officer Kelly Eichhorn and is responsible for ensuring that our properties meet the needs and requirements of our organization, our residents, and our partners. We want residents to feel proud to live in an APAH apartment building and for our communities to consider APAH a good neighbor and a great addition to the neighborhood.
“I like commercial real estate and I like running financial analysis models and looking at trends and explaining those trends to people,” explained Ash Bhatia. “Many of my mentors recommended I look at a career in asset management because I get to do all these things and see the impact on people’s lives.”
Making a difference in residents’ lives also motivates André Lewis. “I am passionate about supporting underserved communities to help ensure all residents have access to critical services and economic opportunities,” he said. “The Washington, DC area is one of the most expensive in our country. Working in asset management at APAH allows me to help preserve quality affordable housing. This housing support provides peace of mind to our residents, giving space for them to raise their families and pursue their potential.”
What Asset Management Means
The team works with APAH’s finance and accounting teams to make sure all elements of budgeting and financial responsibility are included in each property’s annual budget, including property insurance, real estate and personal property taxes, business license fees, and other expenses. APAH provides all assumptions to Nusbaum, which prepares budgets for APAH to review. In turn, APAH shares budgets with its investors and manages those relationships.
The asset management team also collaborates with resident services staff. “Every year we pick three or four of our properties and survey the residents,” explained Bhatia. “We ask them about maintenance in their building, their interactions with the community manager, how they like their apartments, and what they would like to see improved. Resident services staff helps us distribute the surveys and coordinates offering incentives to residents for completing them.” Asset management also coordinates with resident services to connect residents with rent relief.
Understanding that many residents lost jobs and income because of the pandemic, APAH instituted an eviction moratorium for its residents experiencing financial hardships through December 2021. APAH has also collected $3 million in rent relief funds that households can apply for if they can’t pay rent on their own due to COVID related job loss. Community managers can fill out the applications for relief if residents provide the relevant paperwork. Nusbaum tries to make it as simple as possible for them to submit,” Bhatia said. “Our primary goal is to help our residents stay in their homes.”
APAH strives to keep rents affordable to our households. The Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes what rent should be for an apartment based on the area median income and the number of bedrooms. During COVID, APAH hasn’t raised rents for any existing households.
The Role of Our Property Management Partner
A family-owned business created in 1906, SL Nusbaum Realty Co. manages properties throughout the mid-Atlantic and develops, builds, and manages some of its own properties. While Nusbaum manages a variety of properties, affordable housing represents a large portion of its portfolio. APAH’s partnership with Nusbaum, established in 2015, has spurred the management company to create policies and procedures that reflect APAH’s mission.
“Our job is to make sure the residents and buildings are taken care of to the fullest extent possible,” said Nusbaum Regional Vice President Debbie Franco. “We have comprehensive guidelines and policies and procedures to guide our teams that are taking care of the properties themselves and the needs of the residents.”
Franco, who, along with three regional managers, oversees APAH properties, explained that APAH’s position on the forefront of affordable housing policies and practices has helped Nusbaum as well.
“Even though we’ve been working in affordable housing for a long time, some of the populations APAH serves [such as residents who need permanent supportive housing] are new to us,” Franco said. “Working with APAH has been a growth experience for us as a management company. APAH’s mission has helped guide some of our policies and procedures and helped us be more nimble in the industry and open to different ways of doing business.”
For example, according to Virginia law, if a tenant is late paying rent, they are typically charged a late fee and receive a notice that they have five days to pay. If they don’t pay in five days, the property owner can file a court order to begin the eviction process. “With APAH, they have a robust resident services team which provides financial and other support, so we don’t follow that same process with rent collection,” Franco explained. “If a tenant is late paying, on the 6th we send a late notice, but we’re not filing any orders on the 11th. Instead, APAH’s resident services team is contacting residents to see if they need assistance. We try to be flexible and take measures to support residents, but we also have to balance that with protecting the property and the owner.”
Innovations in Asset Management
“APAH is very forward thinking in the affordable housing market in terms of trying things that aren’t being done yet everywhere else,” Franco said. “That helps us get ahead as a property management company. For example, APAH wants to help residents build their credit scores, so we’re researching how to do this. APAH’s resident services component really helps residents be more successful in their apartments and in the communities where they live.”
Franco also appreciates APAH’s willingness to include property management in the development process. “Bringing us in during the development process has been a key part of the success of some of the newer properties,” Franco said. “For example, when you’re designing a building, you have to think about the maintenance shop, about package acceptance and delivery, and how locks and keys are structured throughout the building. APAH is making decisions about these elements, but Nusbaum will be operating and overseeing these elements, so it’s helpful for us to have input from the beginning.”