When you offer hundreds of special services to bring stability to the lives of your residents, you need to know what works—and what doesn't. That notion led Mercy Housing to launch in 2001 its Mercy Measurement Initiative (MMI), which requires onsite residential coordinators to carefully track the outcomes of programs offered on their properties.

Each week, coordinators enter data regarding use of their residential services in an online database, which managers then analyze for participation and results. “It all comes down to finding out which programs really do improve the lives of residents,” says Jennifer Covert, MMI director.

So far, data gathered is property-specific. For example:

  • About 90 percent of children attending the homework club at an Arizona apartment complex improved their grades during the 2005 to 2006 school year.
  • Nearly 40 percent of adults enrolled in financial education classes in California, Colorado, and Illinois started family savings programs.
  • About 92 percent of residents at a California senior community voted in the 2005 election, compared to 51 percent of the state's general population.
  • The MMI effort also attempts to measure the impact of residential services on the bottom line. The evidence so far is encouraging: A study of 36 Mercy properties conducted with Enterprise Community Partners found that projects with residential services outperformed those without such programs by 42 percent when it came to reducing the costs of vacancy losses per unit.

    “This research validates what we have known for many years—that properties do better financially when families are working toward their goals, obtaining good jobs, and their children are succeeding in school,” says Enterprise CEO Doris Koo.

    Now, with Corona Research, Mercy is embarking on a regression analysis study of its entire portfolio. This research will evaluate MMI data in light of property metrics, such as vacancy rates, legal expenses, bad debt, and staff experience. The results, set for release in 2008, will likely interest all developers that offer residential services.

    Says Mercy COO Dick Banks: “The goal is to determine the return we get on the social investments we make.”

    UNDER REVIEW: Known for its wide array of resident services, Mercy Housing is now closely tracking the benefits from these programs.

    UNDER REVIEW: Known for its wide array of resident services, Mercy Housing is now closely tracking the benefits from these programs.