Comunidad Leverages PropTech to Enhance Affordable Workforce Housing
In an industry that has been behind the technology curve, Comunidad is at the forefront of innovation in affordable workforce housing data analytics.
The complexities of affordable workforce housing from risk management, compliance and operational rigor perspectives create barriers to entry and execution. These challenges represented an opportunity for Comunidad to develop its own technological tools that help create a data architecture standard that streamlines data integration from disparate sources into one technological ecosystem to automate workflows, provide prescriptive solutions, and be stronger, smarter and faster in all aspects of an asset and resident’s life cycle.
At its essence, Comunidad’s PropTech platform leverages data to tell the stories at the heart of its communities. It generates actionable insights and prescriptive remedies addressing the real time status of its properties, which can be explored in an intuitive analytical interface. “Think of it as a doctor’s stethoscope for asset health as it helps Comunidad diagnose a problem such as leasing issues, leaky faucets that waste water, affordability levels being imbalanced, or a social impact health program that doesn’t get treatment to those most in need. We use our proprietary data analytics tool to prescribe previously proven solutions to cure an asset deficiency or identify opportunities for growth,” says Steven Johnson, VP of Technology and Data Science.
ESG performance alpha through data insights
Investors find value in the stability of the resident base that is created by social impact programs, as there is decreased turnover and vacancy, says Pamela Lopez, Director of Social Impact. “Interestingly, many investors are not content to see just a one-dimensional set of financials as many now want to know their investment is improving the lives of the residents in our communities to create sustainable returns over time.”
Through data, Comunidad can give investors detailed insights into the nature of their ESG ROI, Johnson says. Comunidad has designed the first of its kind ESG data framework for multifamily that maps to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), GIIN IRIS+, SAHF/CORES, etc. Comunidad is tackling 12 of the 17 SDGs that are specifically tailored to the needs of workforce housing residents and address impact outcomes concerning equity/economic empowerment, health & wellness, education, food security, and housing stability/affordability. Lastly, Comunidad’s ESG data analytics platform is driven by 52 ESG KPIs that are weighted and wired into an impact scorecard to create objective ESG benchmarking that is data-driven.
Lopez uses data gathered about a new property to design social impact programs that will be most beneficial to the community. That information can include area income, housing mobility, languages spoken, school performance or percentage of the student population qualifying for school lunch assistance.
“Then we look at available resources, because these tend to reveal the needs of the community,” Lopez says. “We begin our social impact design on this data, and then iterate over time as we gather data based on resident feedback and craft programming that satisfies the needs, desires, and dreams our residents aspire to realize.”
This process all drives to answering a simple question: “Are we helping people live their best lives?”
“We can tell that story through data,” Johnson says. “The unique part of this is the social impact component, and that’s a connection that I don’t believe anyone else in the industry has drawn yet. This is the closest representation I’ve ever seen of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) activity actually driving value, and we can clearly demonstrate it for investors.”
“So that’s the real part that adds value,” Johnson says. “Comunidad creates that interconnection so that the story flows from beginning to end. It starts with the social impact, which drives operating alpha, and then translates into real-time, transparent financial results that investors can see and creates more accountability, which only makes us better over time.”
Another example is the tracking and analysis of maintenance data at a property, Johnson says. Think about the workflow of what happens when a resident’s faucet is leaking. What does the resident do? She calls someone or submits a ticket on the website to report it.
Yet, the longer that process takes, the more frustrated the resident becomes, and the property loses money as that faucet leaks. The request gets logged, and a maintenance worker shows up to repair it. At many properties that’s done without a comprehensive timeline. There might be some paperwork, or maybe the maintenance worker just shows up and takes care of it with no record.
“We track that, log it digitally, and benchmark performance in a way that is very clean and organized. There’s an incentive to chase these down as we also bonus our maintenance staff based on their efficiency,” Johnson says. “This creates faster turnarounds and ensures we have strong engagement with our residents. There is a strong correlation between work order ratios and renewal ratios, and tracking that relationship provides valuable insights. For us, that maintenance request is a valuable touchpoint to improve on resident satisfaction and, ultimately, retention rates.”