On a summer's morning at Mountainside Apartments, an affordable housing community in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., the property is alive with activity as kids play at the pool, ride bikes, roller skate, and simply hang out. But around noon, things start to settle down. Many resident children head toward the clubhouse for lunch. Other area kids – who participate in the summer lunch program – join them.
The summer lunch program is one of the many social service programs offered to residents by Southern California Housing Development Corp. (SoCal Housing), the nonprofit company that owns and manages Mountainside. Rebecca Clark, executive director, explains that SoCal Housing is an organization with a heart that runs like a business. "It's not enough to just provide affordable housing," says Clark. "The intent is to provide an environment where people can flourish, where they can find opportunity."
SoCal Housing, which owns, manages, and develops affordable housing, was founded in 1992 on the premise that social and business goals can co-exist. To help meet that goal, it created the Hope Through Housing Foundation, a subsidiary that ensures the company continues to go beyond providing a roof by making contributions to its residents and the community at large.
The summer lunch program, which is coordinated through Hope Through Housing, is a perfect example of SoCal Housing's community commitment. Diane Williams, city councilwoman for Rancho Cucamonga, explains that once school is out, the district needs a place to provide lunch. By being a host site, Mountainside was able to meet the company's mission, plus, the "kids are getting a good lunch," she says.
Back to the Basics It's not always so easy to marry social and business objectives, explains former Sen. John Seymour, CEO of SoCal Housing. Like any new company, SoCal Housing experienced early growing pains. Clark was hired in 2000 to bring better management practices to the organization.
SoCal Housing completed its first project in October 1993 – and has grown exponentially since. Its portfolio now includes 4,500 units, all in Southern California. "We are in an active growth mode," says Clark. "One of the things that we need to do, and really have been focused on, is building our systems. [We want to create] a company that will be able to handle the addition of 1,000 units to 2,000 units per year."
Clark started the organization's rebuilding process with the basics – operations software. When she arrived, SoCal Housing was not using the latest accounting or property management software systems. After a review, it decided to install Yardi Enterprise. Since implementation, "we have been gaining efficiencies in our accounting department," says Clark.
For instance, before the upgrade, to compare financial data across the portfolio, someone would have to manually look up each property in big binders stored on bookshelves and input the desired numbers into a spreadsheet. Now, a report is created with the click of a mouse, pulling financial data for every site and consolidating it in one report.
"[Clark] has brought tremendous organization to SoCal Housing," explains Jeffrey Burum, its founder and former executive director, who is still a member of the board. Burum also is executive director of the National Housing Development Corp., a national housing preservation organization in California. "I'm an entrepreneur. I helped get ideas up and running, but I wasn't the best manager. She has brought better management practices to the company, so it can do more good with its resources."