In 2005, my partners at AREA Property Partners and I set out to create a business with a new approach to affordable housing. The concept was simple: Bring professional management, a sense of duty to customers and a significant capital investment to restore longâˆ’neglected buildings. We believed we could be successful by providing working New Yorkers with housing they can be proud of and afford. We also knew that the challenges would be tremendous as we sought to reverse years of disinvestment by prior landlords in both their buildings and customers.
Over the last two years, our company has acquired nearly 80 buildings in Queens, where an estimated 20,000 residents lived in deplorable conditions. Repairs of any kind were neglected, boilers and elevators were constantly failing, children played in lead paintâˆ’filled apartments and fire escapes were chained in a misguided attempt at security. These buildings were the intense focus of tenant advocates and elected officials alike, who fought an unwinnable fight against faceless landlords. Residents suffered without recourse, believing they had no option for quality housing at an affordable price.
The task we face today is enormous and will take years to achieve. But we have not wasted a second and are already proud of our many significant accomplishments. We:
• dispatched an army of maintenance workers, who have scheduled or completed repairs in over 1,000 apartments to date
• implemented a 24⁄7 tollâˆ’free maintenance hotline so our residents can always reach us and we can log and track our service performance. Calls are answered within three minutes, each caller is guaranteed an appointment within 72 hours and each resident is asked to confirm that they are happy with the service they received
• have cleared 8,600 of the roughly 10,000 building violations we inherited from prior owners
• are in the process of replacing several hundreds of critical building systems to ensure that residents have heat, elevator service and protection from the elements. We are also pursuing green strategies to promote a healthier environment for our communities.
Each of our buildings is equipped with a 24⁄7 security system so our residents feel safe at home.
Responsible building managers must also ensure that residents are there legitimately. A manager’s failure to take this seriously leads to diminished security, as transients overtake legitimate neighbors. Our promise to our residents is simple: Lawful tenants will enjoy a secure home while those who live illegally, commit fraud, steal, deal drugs or are a nuisance to their neighbors are not welcome.
Some have mistaken our commitment to responsible management for “harassment” or a means to achieve excessive turnover. In fact, our turnover rates have averaged 9.9 percent, compared to a citywide average of 9.3 percent — according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So, with all due respect, they misconstrue the facts and misjudge us.
On the contrary, we are committed to our properties and their neighborhoods for the longâˆ’term. We have reached out to local elected representatives and tenant advocates and taken their advice to heart. We will continue to listen, learn and work with those who share our concern for the future of affordable housing.
The over 400 men and women at Vantage, our partners at AREA and the local elected representatives and tenant advocates who hold us to task are joined in a collective investment of time, heart and capital in the future of New York’s housing stock, its working families and its cherished communities. Together, we will prove this to be a sound investment.
President and CEO