Creating Comunidad

Creating Comunidad: Supportive Resources and Positive Outcomes for Residents

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Antonio Marquez’ Comunidad Partners’ properties in Sunbelt markets throughout the U.S. were standouts in the affordable housing sector.

Not only did they offer safe and affordable residences for families, but residents of the portfolio’s approximately 10,000 units could take advantage of after school programs, health and wellness classes, financial literacy and tax help courses, and more.

Featured at a 2018 Fannie Mae conference hosted by The Atlantic and profiled in this exceptional video posted by Affordable Housing Finance, it’s easy to grasp the sense of community that Comunidad Partners created from its start in 2007 – when Marquez founded the company to invest in underserved workforce and affordable housing communities.

Asked often about his “why” for such deep community involvement, Marquez says he was motivated by his family background. As immigrants and entrepreneurs, his parents Juan Antonio and Pamela instilled a strong sense of community responsibility in Antonio Jr. His father began his working life as a vineyard worker, but ultimately started one of the nation’s largest distribution networks of Hispanic foods from his garage. His son learned that with a good idea, and a lot of hard work, amazing outcomes could be achieved. After finishing his undergraduate degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, he began exploring the multifamily industry.

“I wanted to provide more than just shelter. These are living, breathing souls and families,” Marquez said. “I really boiled down my ‘why?’ to what I took for granted growing up. My parents made sacrifices and were phenomenal in terms of supporting us and providing a quality roof over our head, food on the table, a good education even though we were a low income family. My ‘Why?’ was to provide these same impactful things to the communities we serve so that the same opportunities exist in underserved communities and, hopefully, in many ways could positively change lives like they did with my family.” When signing his first deal in San Antonio for a 209-unit property, the desire to support its residents was already part of his plan.

“He figured out, if I offer services, and I offer compassion to people that live in my properties, they don’t turn their lease, they continue to rent from you over the long term,” said Jeffrey Hayward, executive vice president and head of multifamily at Fannie Mae, says in the video.

Yardi recently had the chance to catch up with Marquez to talk about how Comunidad Partners and the non-profit he co-founded, Veritas Impact Partners, has responded to the COVID-19 crisis. Founded two years ago, Veritas Impact Partners is an extension of the great work that Marquez was already doing at his communities. He added the non-profit to his efforts in 2018 to give more property owners and managers a chance to participate in valuable non-profit partnerships and improve residents’ lives.

“I realized we were doing great work in our communities, but I wanted to transcend us and our communities and create best practices for other operators to use. So, I co-founded this non-profit with support from private equity partners, social impact investors, housing advocates, former government officials, etc,” Marquez said. Originally, the intent was to bring housing providers and non-profits together to improve lives by providing educational, economic, and health & wellness resources. In the pandemic pivot, the priority has been helping with finances and rent relief, health and wellness and food security.

During COVID-19, Veritas Impact Partners has made an impact in the following ways:

  • Started the Veritas Relief Fund to provide resources and financial support to residents in rental communities who are suffering from financial and social impacts of this pandemic.
  • Created a COVID Calculator so residents could easily research and learn how to receive benefits like CARES Act funding and unemployment insurance.
  • Shared information about local foodbanks and meal distribution resources to enhance food security during a period of high unemployment.
  • Set up telehealth resources (where available) for residents who needed to seek medical attention, but were not comfortable visiting a doctor’s office or hospital.
  • Offered online fitness classes like Zumba and yoga to replace in-person health and exercise gatherings.

“We wanted the message to be that this is a challenging time, and we are here to support you. We want to be a resource. We call our teams ‘resident ambassadors,’ they’re really representing our residents and helping them find rent and financial assistance along with access to low-cost healthcare in order to be on a better path to recovery,” Marquez explained.

“We had one family who went through the program, got funding, and said thank you, we’d like to pay three months’ rent in advance. They wanted to make sure that their home was intact, and they were so grateful that we helped them support their family.”

As the pandemic drags on, Marquez is committed to continuing to build Veritas Impact Partners into a force for good.

“I think we are just scratching the surface. We are just getting started,” Marquez said. Learn more about Veritas Impact Partners and how you can enhance supportive resources and positive outcomes for your residents.