Scattered Site Rental Toolkit:

Business Planning for Development & Management

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IV.B. Serving Special Populations

A decision that needs to be made as you develop your program design is the extent that you will serve special populations. Special populations, for the purposes of our discussion here, would be any subset of our general low- and moderate-income population with a particular set of needs. Examples include mentally or physically disabled persons, homeless persons, elderly persons, and very low-income persons.

There is more than one way to serve special populations. One way is to develop a program that is structured completely around them and their needs. For example, it is possible to have a program designed entirely for the elderly. Maybe only elderly people would be allowed to live in the units. Perhaps the units would be designed to accommodate the needs of an aging population by having grab bars in the bathrooms, accessible doorways, entrances with no steps, and easy-to-grip and turn faucets and door handles. Special services could be offered to tenants that are designed specifically for the elderly, such as hot meals brought in to those unable to cook and transportation provided to doctorsí offices.

Another way to serve special populations is to include them in the mix of allowable tenants, but to design the units to better accommodate them and have additional services to assist them. Often, the accommodations will provide benefits to a number of these sub-groups. For example, having accessible units is a benefit to not only the elderly, but to the physically disabled. The provision of services will also benefit many tenants. For example, transportation not only allows the elderly to get to the doctor, but it allows other tenants to get to work, classes, and the grocery store.

A third approach to serving special populations is to set aside some units that will have special accommodations or services. Sometimes a combination of these approaches can be workable as well. For example, you may wish to develop some units specifically for the physically disabled and then add modifications to all other units to make them more accessible.

The provision of services is especially important when providing housing for special populations. Though some services are universally beneficial to all tenants, some specific services are critical to certain special populations. Make sure that you understand the needs of each population group that you are trying to serve and then work to provide services to meet their needs.

Next: IV.C. Attracting Quality Tenants