One partnership has brought together education and affordable housing to help shine a new light on the industry.
Beacon Communities, a Boston-based firm focused on affordable development, finance, management and ownership, recently partnered with Project Destined, the Housing Partnership Network (HPN) and California-based nonprofit Eden Housing to provide opportunities that bridge the gap between student education and real-life experience.
“Beacon Communities is committed to fostering a more diverse and inclusive affordable housing industry,” said Dara Kovel, CEO of Beacon Communities, in a release. “That starts with building a strong school-to-work pipeline and providing opportunities for the next generation to build critical connections in this field.”
This commitment sparked the creation of the Affordable Housing Bridge Program, a fellowship program designed to “expose alumni of the Project Destined program to careers in the affordable housing side of real estate,” said Gina Martinez, Senior Development Director with Beacon Communities. “This affordable housing fellowship program not only builds off of Project Destined’s successful real estate training program, but it also revealed that numerous students had a particularly keen interest in affordable real estate.”
Beacon and Project Destined have shared success in the past. During a previous internship program, interns networked, were mentored by program alumni and learned technical skills. Beacon hired one of the students as a summer intern last summer.
Included in the eight-week fellowship is an executive speaker series featuring leaders from Beacon and other organizations. Fellows also had “access to mentors, exposure to potential careers within the affordable housing sector, specialized workshops and career development coaching,” said Martinez. “Fellows also receive a $1,000 scholarship as well as a travel stipend to visit their sponsor organization to participate in tours of their properties, meet residents onsite and attend construction management and planning meetings.”
Nearly half of the first fellows have lived in affordable housing themselves and almost two-thirds are female.
Project Destined’s efforts comes as the U.S. continues to face housing affordability challenges, stemming from a lack of supply at all price points. For Project Destined, that makes this endeavor all the more important. “Solving the challenges of housing affordability requires diversity of thought, background and a tremendous amount of work,” said Cedric Bobo, Project Destined CEO and Co-Founder. “This program is creating a pipeline of people who bring an abundance of ideas and life experiences to the table, many of whom have direct, personal experience with affordable housing.”
Innovative solutions like Project Destined’s foster meaningful collaboration and achieve tangible results, paralleling the work of the National Apartment Association (NAA). NAA continues robust advocacy efforts to improve affordability across the country, promoting solutions that revitalize renter subsidy programs and remove barriers to apartment development to boost housing supply
Last month, rental housing industry advocates convened in Washington, D.C., for Advocate, NAA’s annual advocacy conference. NAA members met with their Congressional representatives to promote sustainable and responsible policy solutions, working to improve affordability and strengthen the rental housing infrastructure for generations to come.
The successes of Project Destined also come as the rental housing industry—alongside so many other industries nationwide—face staffing challenges. “Project Destined has an incredible success rate across all of its programming, with some 70% of participants securing a job or an internship in the real estate industry within a year of their program,” said Bobo. “The first iteration of this fellowship program just ended in December, and students are interviewing at the moment for internships and job opportunities.”
NAA recently celebrated Residential Property Management (RPM) Careers Week, held April 17-21, 2023. This weeklong event honored RPM as a foundational part of rental housing, celebrating the contributions of industry professionals across the country.
Beacon echoes the value of this partnership—and hopes that others throughout the rental housing industry will consider similar endeavors. “These types of apprentice-style programs are absolutely critical in opening up any industry to new groups,” said Martinez. “We at Beacon are absolutely thrilled to be partnered with Project Destined, so that we may play a part in exposing students to our work and use the program as a talent acquisition pipeline.”
Michael Miller is NAA’s Managing Editor, and Zach Quimby is NAA’s Public Affairs Manager.