Dana Hanchin, President and CEO, joined Cinnaire’s “Advancing Communities” podcast to discuss HDC’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and how the organization has shifted operations to keep residents and employees safe.
While Lancaster County has long struggled with housing affordability, the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has spotlighted the need for safe, affordable housing in our communities.
HDC President and CEO Dana Hanchin, in partner with Jennifer Koppel, director of LanCo My Home and Michael McKenna, president of Tabor Community Services, shares insight into how HDC and our partner organizations are assisting residents during this time.Check out the op-ed in Lancaster Online.
To Our Partners, Supporters, and Friends
I write to you today to share an update on HDC’s work and mission during this time of national crisis. HDC MidAtlantic is no different that many organizations and businesses right now: the last few weeks have presented tremendous challenges to our organizational operations. I am humbled to lead an amazing team that has demonstrated an unwavering commitment and continues to push through with strength and compassion to meet the needs of our residents and communities. This support extends beyond our employee as HDC’s Board of Directors, our funders, and investors have proven as committed as ever to advance our mission of creating, preserving and strengthening affordable housing communities.
Upon understanding the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, HDC acted swiftly to ensure the health and safety of our residents and employees and immediately created a plan for the continuity of operations, taking into account the evolving guidance from federal, state, and local health officials. Our work in managing affordable housing and providing services to residents is considered an essential, life-sustaining business in all three states across our footprint – Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. We implemented an action plan to modify business practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and keep our employees and residents safe. This included the cancellation of all resident group activities, eliminating in-person interactions, have nonessential personnel working remotely, and initiating enhanced cleaning protocols for all HDC communities. Even with these operational limitations, the core of our mission to provide affordable housing and support our residents remains fully operational.
We are working hard to position ourselves to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization and to create financial stability now. We are actively finding ways to eliminate non-essential spending, restructuring positions for greater efficiencies, placing a hiring freeze on open positions and reducing or eliminating expenditures on consultants. We have also completed stress-testing of our portfolio to identify residents and communities at the highest risk of rental income loss. We are proactively reaching out to residents to see how they are doing and where we can be of assistance. We are reaching out to our partners and investors for their flexibility and creativity, helping us implement mitigation strategies to weather this storm in the coming months. And we are completely overwhelmed by our corporate donors and friends who, despite the cancellation of our annual fundraiser, shared that we can keep their contribution. This is so impactful and now more than ever, we will need to work harder and redouble our efforts with friends and funders to help mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19.
What does all of this mean for over 5,000 residents living in our 58 housing communities? It means things will get harder as we know the most vulnerable populations will be most adversely impacted. Many of our residents will struggle to pay rent, to stay healthy, and to make basic ends meet to support themselves and their families. Truth be told, this struggle existed before COVID-19, but HDC has always been and will continue be there for our residents and those in need of affordable housing.
For any resident who cannot pay rent on time, they will enroll in our eviction prevention program to ensure housing stability and connect them to various services and benefits to assist with longer-term financial capability. We have also made sure our food distribution programs hosted at many of our housing communities remain open to serve not only our residents, but the community at-large. And we are ramping up advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels to support policies and programs that help our residents, communities and the affordable housing industry, both in short-term with stimulus programs and in the long term with systemic change.
I am heartened by the resilience and compassion of our residents, the nimbleness, skillfulness, and open-heartedness of our employees, and the outstanding stewardship of our Board of Directors. I have faith that together, we can move through this crisis and be stronger in the end.
Above all, we remain steadfast in our vision of creating a world where a safe, welcoming, affordable place to call home is available to everyone. And we know that you will be there right beside us – now and for whatever the future may bring.
Your support, friendship, and partnership mean so much to us!
With gratitude and hope,
President & CEO