Housing on Merit’s mission is to create a bridge to permanent affordable housing for vulnerable populations. We achieve our mission through developing affordable housing, providing resident services programming, and housing our heroes.
Housing is infrastructure. Research has shown that clean, safe affordable housing is of foundational importance for general health, child welfare, and a stable labor market. Since its inception in 2011, Housing on Merit has co-developed over 2,200 units of affordable housing in California and Washington, D.C. The supply of affordable housing has failed to keep up with the fast growing demand. In Southern California alone there is a shortage of nearly 1 million affordable homes. The decrease in affordable housing has been met with an increase in median rent that far exceeds the increase in household incomes. Housing on Merit is addressing the affordable housing crisis through innovation—specifically, a Housing Innovation + Learning Lab that explores non-traditional affordable housing options, tests innovative housing typologies, and accelerates the pace of production throughout the housing sector.
Housing on Merit’s resident services are designed to enhance the resident experience and promote individual and family development. We have developed a resident services programming model that allows us to measure participant outcomes as they relate to economic self-sufficiency, child and youth development, health and wellness, and community-building and civic engagement. Affordable housing creates stability; resident services programming enriches lives.
Housing Our Heroes is a program created to reduce the number of women veterans experiencing homelessness in Southern California. Through our Award of Merit for Housing Assistance, Housing on Merit provides funds to women veterans facing homelessness to help remove barriers to permanent affordable housing.
Our work is creating multiple pathways to permanent affordable housing and is helping to welcome vulnerable populations HOM!
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, has joined the Home Start Board of Directors to support the agency’s commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to provide evidence-based family strengthening services. The Board represents a diverse background of professionals and experts in their field, who have a passion for strengthening families and communities in San Diego and beyond. Board members also serve on select committees to provide financial oversight and governance, supporting strategic planning, developing policies and assisting with fundraising. In 2018, Home Start served over 28,000 families in San Diego and surrounding counties.
Housing on Merit has been a member of Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) since 2016. HAND is a nonprofit membership association comprised of over 350 organizations working across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to collaborate in the production and preservation of affordable housing in the Capital Region of Baltimore, Washington and Richmond. HOM supports HAND’s mission of convening a professional community of housing providers to increase the supply of affordable housing in the Washington metropolitan area, and we are involved in HAND’s Braintrust Committee, which is comprised of emerging leaders that support the implementation of programming as part of the GenerationHAND initiative. To date, HOM has co-developed 653 units of affordable housing in Washington, D.C.
Housing on Merit has long been a vocal advocate for residents of affordable housing communities. Our Planning & Programming Coordinator, Vivian Preciado, recently attended the 4th Annual Fair Housing Conference, which brought together fair housing practitioners, policy makers, housing advocates and developers, community leaders, and top experts to discuss fair housing discrimination issues and solutions. Keynote speaker Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at USC and Director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), challenged participants to consider fair housing and cross-over issues as opportunities to innovate and improve our communities from within. Council President Georgette Gomez officially declared April as Fair Housing Month in San Diego, and acknowledged the ongoing affordable housing crisis and the need to include residents when discussing solutions.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, attended the 2019 Women Making History Awards in Washington, D.C., on April 3. The event was organized by the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) to further its mission of telling stories of women who transformed the nation by growing a state-of-the-art online presence and a physical museum to educate, inspire and empower. Ms. Litwak, recognized as an innovator within the affordable housing industry, joined other accomplished women from various fields to honor three women who have made extraordinary accomplishments. This year’s award recipients are former President of Spelman College and Bennett College, and Former Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D.; Gracie and multiple Emmy Award-Winning advocate, activist, philanthropist and an internationally acclaimed home life expert Sandra Lee; and former United States Senator from Maine, the Honorable Olympia J. Snowe.
Housing on Merit is a longtime member of the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN), that has announced its support for AB 842 (Limon/Eggman) – Hunger-Free Preschool. This bill would ensure that all low-income children in public preschool have access to nutritious and free or reduced-price meals, using funds available from existing child nutrition programs. As a provider of resident services to low-income youth at our affordable housing communities, HOM understands the significant correlation between hunger and the ability for youth to focus in school. According to the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s 2015-2016 Benchmark Baseline Report entitled “Hunger Free Kids,” a shocking 1 in 5 kids lack consistent access to adequate nutrition in San Diego County. This can have devastating effects on children’s health, development and ability to learn.
Housing on Merit empowers residents in our communities by developing meaningful resident services programming with resident input and goals in mind, and by building strong community partnerships. As part of our commitment to be leaders in quality resident services programming within the affordable housing industry, HOM’s Planning & Programming Coordinator, Vivian Preciado, is participating in the San Diego Housing Federation’s 2019 Resident Services Support Network’s (RSSN) Training Series. The RSSN provides resident services professionals educational forums, networking opportunities and peer learning, and the Training Series offers workshops on relevant topics, such as immigration services and relief options.
Housing on Merit has been a long-standing member of the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN) and the San Diego Hunger Coalition. In a show of support to end hunger in San Diego County, Housing on Merit’s Planning & Programming Coordinator, Vivian Preciado, attended HAN’s Legislative Breakfast on March 22. The annual event was attended by legislators, staff, and like-minded organizations who advocate for better policies statewide that will reduce hunger. Food insecurity is a significant issue in San Diego, where there the affordable housing crisis often forces working and military families to make difficult choices. This year’s speakers included Congresswoman Susan Davis and representatives from Feeding San Diego, the San Diego Food Bank and Jewish Family Service of San Diego.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, was honored to win the Gamechanger Award at the Women of Influence Awards on March 20. The Gamechanger Award recognizes women who make significant contributions to their industry with a track record of change, innovation and accomplishments. Ms. Litwak has successfully managed the closing of over $283 million in multifamily acquisitions, and overseen the development, preservation and renovation of over 2,500 affordable housing units nationwide. The awards ceremony was presented by the Connected Women of Influence Association in celebration of Women’s History Month and to recognize women leading the way in business, industry and enterprise, along with the organizations and individuals that champion women leaders.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, was recently selected to join the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network’s 2019 Scholarship Selection Committee, an exclusive community that provides members an opportunity to access committee resources and network with other successful business leaders. Each year the Committee is responsible for identifying CREW Network Foundation scholars to be recommended to the CREW Network Board of Directors. In 2019 the CREW Network will award 20 academic scholarships totaling $100,000.
Application deadline for 2019 scholarships is April 30, 2019. Women currently enrolled as full-time junior, senior or graduate students and interested in learning more about this scholarship program are encouraged to review application guidelines at https://crewnetwork.org/foundation/college-scholarships.
Ms. Litwak is also an appointed member of CREW Network’s Member Education Committee and serves on CREW San Diego’s Board of Directors as a Foundation Delegate. CREW Network membership has grown to 11,000 worldwide and in more than 70 major markets, and is one way that Housing on Merit continues to expand its nationwide exposure and share its impact in the affordable housing marketplace.
As part of Housing on Merit’s commitment to community outreach our Planning & Program Coordinator, Vivian Preciado, attended the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s 19th Annual Dr. Suess Spring Read-In at Central Elementary School in San Diego on March 1. Ms. Preciado and a host of other professionals brought Dr. Seuss books to read to classes, and encouraged children to read aloud excerpts from the books. Central Elementary is a pre-k through 5th grade public school with a culturally diverse student body who are among San Diego’s most disadvantaged.
San Diego State University’s (SDSU) School of Public Affairs, Institute of Innovative Governance, held a Forum on Housing and Inequality on February 28. Housing on Merit’s Planning & Programming Coordinator, Vivian Preciado, attended the event addressing housing unaffordability in relation to inequalities of income, wealth and race. Additionally, the forum discussed San Diego’s inadequate supply of subsidized housing compared to increasing demand, and established a 5-year research plan to gather critical data needed for policy changes in the San Diego region. Policy changes proposed will be designed to protect tenants, preserve existing affordable housing and increase the production of affordable housing. City Council President, Georgette Gomez, was a guest speaker and Voices of Our City Choir performed.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, recently attended the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network’s 2019 Winter Leadership Summit in New Orleans on February 13 – 15. CREW chapter leaders and members from around the world attended the multifaceted event to exchange ideas with leading experts on chapter management and the leadership skills necessary to gain a business advantage. Ms. Litwak is an appointed member of CREW Network’s Member Education Committee , Scholarship Selection Committee, and serves on CREW San Diego’s Board of Directors. CREW Network membership has grown to 11,000 worldwide and in more than 70 major markets, and is one way that Housing on Merit continues to expand its nationwide exposure and share its impact in the affordable housing marketplace.
Housing on Merit’s Planning & Programming Coordinator, Vivian Preciado attended the 2019 Fair Housing For Our Future Conference on February 13, as part of the Fair Housing Council of San Diego’s 26th annual Laws and Litigation Conference. Topics discussed that impact fair housing included the environment, criminal justice reform, ethical considerations for advocates and attorneys, and the Supreme Court. Several experts spoke about hate and extremism, voting and housing civil rights, and fair housing and employment. The Fair Housing Council’s mission is to eliminate unlawful housing discrimination in the housing rental, sales, lending and property insurance markets.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, joined more than 800 stakeholders at the Los Angeles County 3rd Annual Homeless Initiative Conference on February 7. HOM is committed to preventing and combating homelessness, and this event recognized the Homeless Initiative’s past achievements and lessons learned, and explored challenges and opportunities for the upcoming year. Highlights included panels and breakout sessions intended to facilitate group discussion on both current and emerging issues critical to the success of the Homeless Initiative.
Housing on Merit is pleased to announce it has acquired Heritage Apartments in partnership with Standard Communities and GHC Housing Partners. The affordable housing complex consists of two communities located on adjacent lots: Sunrose, a 180-unit property serving families, and Harvest Ridge, a 91-unit property serving seniors. Heritage residents will benefit from a nearly $9 million dollar renovation program and be able to remain in their homes during the project, which will modernize building systems, improve handicap accessibility, and upgrade unit interiors, common areas and amenity spaces. “We look forward to providing supportive services and education programs to the residents of Heritage Apartments,” said Jennifer Litwak, Executive Director of HOM. “With both families and seniors calling Heritage home, there is a unique opportunity to enrich lives across many generations.”
In an effort to continually advocate for the expansion of affordable housing throughout the nation, Housing on Merit has joined the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign that includes national organizations working in housing, education, healthcare, civil rights, anti-poverty, senior advocacy, faith-based sectors, anti-hunger, veterans affairs and LGBTQ rights. Recently, this multi-sector campaign released a report entitled “Within Reach” and is bringing it to Congress to advocate for stronger federal action and involvement for the most vulnerable low-income households. Included in the report are three long-term policy strategy initiatives to dramatically expand rental assistance, expand the supply of affordable housing, and prevent housing instability and homelessness through a national financial assistance emergency program. The report also presents research highlighting how housing can significantly affect outcomes in education, health, civil rights, food security and poverty reduction. The campaign is also pressuring Congress to increase the annual funding of the national Housing Trust Fund to $3.5 billion.
By 2030 an estimated 61 million baby boomers will be over the age of 65. Housing on Merit recognizes the growing housing challenge facing seniors and currently has four senior-only affordable housing complexes. The topic of senior housing also received increased attention at the annual CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network Convention and Marketplace, held in San Diego in October 2018. Housing on Merit’s Executive Director Jennifer Litwak was CREW San Diego’s Director of Education and Programs for 2018 and took a key role in planning the event. The convention included a breakout session entitled “From Urban to Suburban – The Changing Landscape in Senior Living” to address the anticipated “Silver Tsunami” and discuss ways the commercial real estate industry can prepare for this influx with unique designs and by raising awareness in communities throughout the United States. The annual CREW Network convention is one of the top real estate networking events, focused on advancing the achievements of women in the commercial real estate industry. Ms. Litwak has been selected to serve on CREW San Diego’s 2019 Board of Directors and continues to address the challenge for seniors.
Housing on Merit distributed Christmas gifts to children residing at two of our San Diego properties, thanks to our longstanding partnership with the San Diego U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. We received more than 120 gifts from Toys for Tots, and a group of volunteers wrapped all of the gifts in preparation for our annual Holiday Celebration. Young participants at our Rio Vista and Vista La Rosa communities each received two gifts and enjoyed numerous activities such as a cookie decorating contest, a Christmas mad libs game and musical chairs.