Expanded Freddie Mac initiative covers first-year cost of rent reporting through Esusu for multifamily borrowers. Learn more!

Thousands of Related Affordable residents access first-time credit scores, student loans, and mortgages through Esusu partnership

Background

Related Affordable is one of the largest private owners and operators of affordable housing in the country, with over 50,000 units. When they began looking for ways to enhance services and programming for affordable housing residents, they knew they needed to find a solution that was scalable and could equitably serve renters, regardless of their zip code.

“Nationally, we have one of the largest affordable housing practices in the private sector, which comes with great responsibility,” explained Jeff Brodsky, Vice Chairman of Related Companies. “Though the industry is highly regulated, there has been a lot of focus on how we can innovate inside of that space.”

Challenge

Not every affordable housing resident needs the same assistance to become more financially stable. Someone who lives in New York City, an area with accessible public transportation, may not find more stability in getting access to a car. For someone in Milwaukee, that can be the key to finding a more lucrative job.

However, one thing that was identified as a major need was better access to the financial systems that enable wealth building.

“Related Affordable’s rental units cover well over a hundred thousand people, but we’ve always struggled to be aligned with a partner who could scale delivery of services to people that really had a measurable impact,” said Brodsky. “​​These residents have seen financial systems that don’t work for them. We wanted to provide a solution to this with whatever we brought into our properties.”

Increasing financial literacy was the goal of the Related Affordable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to enriching the lives of affordable housing residents and breaking the generational cycle of poverty. It supports organizations that make positive impacts in education, food and financial security, and workforce development by working directly with the residents to determine what services will benefit them most.

Solution

Related Affordable and Esusu partnered for the first time in late 2020 to work on solving these challenges. After rolling out rent reporting to a large portion of the portfolio, there was already a clear impact.

By November 2021, Esusu was expanded to Related Affordable’s entire portfolio and helped over 2,000 previously “credit invisible” renters establish credit for the first time.

“There are 45 million Americans without credit today,” said Brodsky. “Once we started to see our ESG reporting come back from Esusu, it was clear the effects rent reporting could have on the portion of the US population that are renters, particularly low-income renters.”

Less than 18 months after rolling out Esusu to the full Related Affordable portfolio, 10,000+ credit scores have been established, and the average increase in a resident’s credit score is 28 points.

Credit score improvements are a big step for renters in building financial stability, but scores alone only tell part of the story. What Related Affordable was hoping to understand was how these credit scores were making an impact on renters’ lives.

 

“The goal for affordable housing is to help residents build a better financial footing and eventually leave the affordable system.”

 

“The goal for affordable housing is to help residents build a better financial footing and eventually leave the affordable system,” explained Zac Silber, Senior Associate of Portfolio Management at Related Companies. “Rent expense for affordable households is one of the largest expenses they can see on a monthly basis, so it’s not really fair to deny these renters that boost to their credit. Esusu has stepped in to do just that while helping them move to the next steps in their financial journeys.”

 

Framework for resident engagement

Beyond the impact that Related Affordable knew rent reporting would have, there was also a goal of improving resident engagement.

“We looked to Esusu to do more than encourage people to pay on time; most renters were already doing that,” said Brodsky. “We needed this to be a solution that helps build trust.”

Related worked with Esusu to establish renter engagement tools like Renters Marketplace and to make rent relief readily available to all residents.

The Esusu Renters Marketplace and resident email newsletters aided the Related Affordable Foundation’s financial literacy goals. Thousands of Related Affordable residents receive monthly financial education newsletters, with an average open rate 4x that of similar industry benchmarks.

 

“Free access to tools that address financial education has clearly been well-received by our communities.”

 

“In working to address the unmet needs within the communities where our properties are located, financial literacy was definitely top of the list,” said Leleah James, Executive Director, Related Affordable Foundation. “Free access to tools that address financial education has clearly been well-received by our communities.”

Today, nearly 400 of the portfolio’s residents who have fallen behind on rent have accessed rent relief through Esusu. It’s a resource that allows Related Affordable to help keep residents in good financial standing without taking on more debt.

“There is a certain amount of trust that comes when residents actually see a system that works for them,” said Brodsky. “That trust allows us to have better communication with residents and allows us to help them in ways that create a better quality of life.”

Results

75%

of enrolled residents have improved their credit scores

10,000+

first-time credit scores were established

28-point

average increase in credit score

Nearly 400

residents have accessed rent relief

11,000+

residents were approved for credit cards

2,600+

car loans were granted

700+

student loans were granted

Nearly 300

residents went from affordable housing to accessing mortgages