El Paso, Texas—Some of the residents at the San Marcos Apartments, a 468-unit apartment property here, working in the United but have another Mexico. Others are Mexican students who the border to study University of Texas, others are immigrant families beginning lives here.
all of them require a little and sensitivity, said Melanie president for Integrity Management, the manager of the property.
“Choosing a home is one of the most stressful things that a person does,” she said. “You [the property manager] are their first connection to doing business in this country.”
Integrity manages more than 10,000 apartments at 45 communities concentrated in Dallas and El Paso. The El Paso-based company specializes in renovating Class B and Class C properties that house recent immigrants.
It takes sensitivity to manage these communities well. Integrity makes sure at least one person in each property’s management office speaks the primary language of their tenants. At Integrity’s 34 El Paso properties, that’s Spanish, but at a few of its 11 Dallas communities, in which nearly all of the residents are from West Africa, the language is French.
“You’ve just got to do your homework,” said Bailey. She visited the embassy of one of the West African home countries of her tenants to educate herself. That extra sensitivity helped Integrity get its West African residents more comfortable with the property management staff. “Women weren’t as strong in their communities,” said Bailey. “They [the tenants] had to become used to the fact that most of the managers in their office were female.”
This sensitivity has clear benefits: “If you can establish trust, [tenants will] refer everyone that comes from their town or their village to your property,” said Bailey.
Integrity’s apartment portfolio has a 93 to 95 percent occupancy rate. Rents vary, ranging at the San Marcos from $430 to $585 a month, which is strong for El Paso, said Bailey.
Like many landlords that house immigrants, Integrity accepts forms of identification other than driver’s licenses, such as foreign passports and consular IDs. However, Integrity does not accept cash payments, mainly because of the risk of gathering and moving thousands of dollars in rent. Instead, residents without bank accounts use money orders.
Community activities help Integrity keep its residents happy. The tenants at the San Marcos can take classes to learn English as a second language, work with a weight trainer, and attend dance lessons in addition to attending a long list of other events.
Integrity typically doesn’t have to pay for these services. Organizations like the local Kiwanis Club put on a free Christmas party for the many kids at San Marcos. Other providers charge the residents $5 to $10 per person for admission.
Most of the time, the dance instructors or speakers will come to the San Marcos for no charge at all, said Bailey. Instead, Integrity offers these service providers ad space in the property’s community newsletter. “I tell them we have 45 communities,” she said. That usually does the trick.