An affordable multifamily housing model aims to create upward mobility for residents

National CORE has an internal job training program and is looking to expand opportunities for more of its low-income renters

National CORE is a nonprofit that develops and operates affordable housing in California, Florida, and Texas, explains Gregory Bradbard, senior vice president of social impact for National CORE and president of the Hope Through Housing Foundation.

The company has 85 properties with 75 of those in southern California. An additional 787 units are currently in various phases of construction, primarily in California.

Gregory Bradbard, National CORE and Hope Through Housing Foundation (Photo: National CORE)

“Our model is to use affordable housing as a platform to elevate the health, the wellbeing, and the self-sufficiency of our residents. A piece of that is the Hope Through Housing Foundation bringing in on-site resident services to provide our residents the support and tools that they need to create upward mobility,” says Bradbard.

Bradbard explains that residents can voluntarily receive, what he calls, “pillars of support services.” Youth development includes onsite afterschool programs and teen clubs. A second pillar helps residents connect with employment and money management. The third focuses on health and wellness, particularly for seniors. And the fourth provides case management and wraparound services to formerly chronic homeless individuals.

Bradbard notes the company consistently needs employees in both their office and maintenance tracks. “National CORE has about 400 employees across our footprint. That means that we, at any time, have 30-plus job openings, so there’s a continual needed pipeline into the property management industry.”

He continues, “We have our own training program. A very structured orientation and onboarding process. Much of the training is not in the classroom. It’s hands-on. It doesn’t require a lot of prerequisites. Someone could have a high school degree, not more than that. Really just the basic individual skills and talent that’s required. We’ll provide those hard skills and the training to help equip them to do the job successfully.”

(Photo: National CORE) 

Expanding Career Opportunities

A recent allocation in California state funding will facilitate an expansion of the learning opportunity in property management.

Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga and National CORE are using $1 million award to develop the CORE Academy and a curriculum that will lead to a real estate property management certificate. The program will target low-income residents of the Inland Empire, including National CORE residents.

“[The certificate program] would actually be the platform to add additional classes which could give them the real estate property management associate degree,” says Bradbard.

Bradbard says the academy will expand opportunity beyond the company’s current internal training program. “We do recruit from our resident population, but we’re excited about CORE Academy giving us the opportunity to do that more intentionally.”

The program development is in its early stages, but Bradbard explains some of the areas of focus, including introduction to property management, leasing, one-on-one marketing, the application process, the paperwork associated with property management, the move-in process, general maintenance budgets.

He adds, “[Understanding] fair housing is really important, and those pieces that are specific to affordable housing requirements that come with various funding sources.”

An internal National CORE assessment, conducted by REDF, of the 30-mile radius around Rancho Cucamonga, indicates growth in the industry, according to Bradbard. “Some of the things they came up with were between 2013 and 2018, the property management industry grew by 7.5%. Affordable housing units in the local market increased by 21%. Their projection was there would be 8% grow in property management jobs through 2024.”

‘National CORE has changed my life’

Jocelyn Vazquez was in junior high when her parents qualified and moved into a National CORE property in Montclair, California.

“At the time, my parents were struggling. We didn’t know about affordable housing. I don’t remember how my parents found out about the place, but I remember my mom telling me, ‘Oh, we’re going to be going to a new place.’ I thought we were going to a different country.”

“We walked into the [leasing] office and the staff greeted us. Let us know that we had a move-in date. I remember my little brother’s face and his emotions. He was so happy, and I was, too. Thanks to that, my parents were able to manage their financials.”

Fast forward to a then-18-year-old Vazquez who, at the time, was unhappy working at a fast food restaurant. She says a staff person from the Hope Through Housing Foundation offered to help her create a resume. “The job I had did not need a resume. I was looking for something to start my career.

In 2017, another staff person suggested that Vazquez apply for a job with National CORE. Hired as a leasing agent, she says she received on-the-job training noting, “Every day I was learning. Customer service has a lot to do with the job, because you do deal with residents and prospects every day.”

Jocelyn Vazquez, compliance auditor, National CORE (Photo: National CORE)

The majority of the National CORE properties are designated as affordable housing with a lesser portion being market rate rentals. Vazquez says, “On the affordable housing side, I helped people get onto the waitlist, let them know how the waitlist works, guided them.”

With an attention to detail, Vazquez says she was “passionate” about the leasing paperwork. After a promotion and brief stint as an assistant community manager, she explains, “One day, I said, ‘You know what? I want to get into the compliance department and just deal with the paperwork.’”

Today, that’s what Vazquez does. As a compliance auditor, she says, “I make sure that the numbers match and that this person meets the requirements of the income limits.” Vazquez says the next step in her career would be a compliance specialist.

Vazquez points out that she was hired by National CORE with no previous experience in the industry. “National CORE has changed my life in different ways. To think, for me being the person to give a home to someone that really needs it, seeing those happy faces makes me feel good.”