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!
As part of Housing on Merit’s commitment to community outreach our Planning and 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 the Member Education Committee and serves on CREW’s San Diego 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.
Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, was recently presented the 2018 Woman of Influence award by the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network for San Diego. The CREW Network has been empowering women since 1989 and has become one of the premier business networking organizations within the commercial real estate industry. Housing on Merit has been involved with the CREW Network to further its impact in the affordable housing marketplace and expand its nationwide exposure. The global network of more than 11,000 allows members to develop business contacts and assist each other to succeed professionally. The CREW Network now reaches over 70 major markets.
The Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network Board of Directors has appointed Housing on Merit’s Executive Director, Jennifer Litwak, to serve on CREW’s Member Education Committee, which is responsible for leading the selection of high-quality programs for the 2019 CREW Network Convention and Marketplace. The Committee will head the search for innovative industry programs and exceptional professional development training opportunities for CREW members and chapter leaders. Member education and professional development are two of the high-priority cornerstones of CREW Network’s strategic plan and are critical to the success of its chapters and members.