asked local stakeholders to pool resources. “The mayor’s leadership created the opportunity for a number of
organizations that wouldn’t normally coordinate their services,” says CEO Paul Hilgers. “It was important for us
to be engaged proactively to address a critical housing
issue in this city.”
The ABR has a strong leasing and property management membership. “We tried to connect our property
managers with advocates helping the homeless population,” says Hilgers, “and some people made their rental
The collaboration wasn’t always easy. Property managers
have a fiduciary duty to their clients, and advocates for
homeless people sometimes bristled at the strict requirements landlords had before accepting tenants. The ABR
created a video it sent to its partners to explain its members’ professional duties.
At the same time, Ann Howard, executive director of Ending Community Homelessness Coalition in Austin, says
part of her role was giving ABR members a 101 course
on the housing and other needs of veterans and chronically homeless individuals.
“They needed to learn from us, for example, that when
you require that a potential tenant demonstrate income
that’s three times the amount of rent, you’re screening
out potential tenants who might be gainfully employed
and might be able to afford the rent,” she says. “Another
example is an eviction history. But they partnered with us
and changed their screening criteria for the veterans’ program. They really recognized the needs of the veterans.”
ABR’s charitable foundation also donated $5,000 to a local
Housing for Heroes fund. “It’s to be used in a flexible way,”
notes Hilgers. “Let’s say a toilet doesn’t work. Somebody
accidently dropped a T-shirt down there. Who fixes that?
Those are normal landlord-tenant problems. This fund lets
everybody say, ‘Don’t fight over it; let’s just fix it.’”
The partnership took time and required give and take. “The
beautiful thing is we took the time and did the give and
take,” says Howard. “I hope it’s a long-term partnership.”
The partnership took time and
required give and take.
The Austin Board of REALTORS® tried to connect its property managers
with advocates helping the homeless population.
Veterans United Home Loans is involved
in a project in Columbia, Mo., where a
decrepit hotel is being rehabbed to
house homeless veterans.