COVID-19 Crisis – Multifamily
Everyone Has A Role To Play

No one is coming. No one bigger, better, smarter than we are will be showing up to solve this problem, to save us from this virus. It’s here and we must deal with it. We must decide to be on the team that responds. Or be in the way.

~ Angela Blanchard, president emerita of BakerRipley and leading disaster expert Houston Chronicle interview with Lisa Gray

Better World Properties LLC provides jobs for 100+ families and is responsible for the apartment homes for over 3,000 more families. Senior leadership at Better World Properties LLC combines over 100+ years of apartment management, multifamily financing solutions and apartment operational experience with decades of disaster and crises relief experience offering unique insight in managing multifamily properties during uncertain times. Not long ago, the company expertly and successfully navigated through the unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

Over the past few weeks, we have been researching, listening and learning. We’ve been on the front lines with multifamily advocators, regulators, legislators, apartment owners, investors, multifamily lenders and apartment residents. This is some of what we have figured out so far.

When in doubt, do the math. Right now, the only math that matters is the plot of the infection rate curve. At the moment, we are riding the wave up.

If this seems really complicated – it is. The smartest people in the world are working on the problem, but currently, there is insufficient information about the virus, how it is transmitted, how long it remains viable on surfaces and how many are already infected to be able to definitively do accurate math. What we do know is that “flattening the curve” makes all the difference when it comes to preventing spread of disease.

The bottom line is, the less people interact, the slower the virus may spread – hence, flattening the curve. The slower the virus spreads, the better chance we have taking care of those who may become seriously ill. This is strictly a function of resources. Some estimate sufficiently flattening the curve could cut the number of deaths by half.

In our crisis management experience, it is important to pay attention to official information. The CDC and your local health departments are the best sources. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures out what is going on nationally, local health departments translate this into local action. Get on their websites and get the real deal. Hearing from someone who reads something on social media that someone in the government might have said is wasting valuable time. Too much of what we hear in today’s hyper-connected world is reiterating, speculating, pontificating and hallucinating. This just fuels unnecessary anxiety.

Social distancing has proven effective in past epidemics and pandemics. We can learn much from history. Well over half the population is ultimately expected to contract the virus. We all must do our part to soften the loads.

Real control over COVID-19 comes from real people efforts. That’s you and I. How willing are each of us to forego groups and activities? Which ones? And, for how long? Regardless of what government or companies may mandate, these are the key decisions we must each make for ourselves and for our families. If even one infected person decides to show up at a gathering, they can ruin it for everyone – fewer participants equates to slower spread and flattening the curve.

The reality is that a number of people will get sick, some people will die, and life will go on.

Number of U.S. deaths for top 10 causes of death in 2017

  1. Heart disease: 647,457
  2. Cancer: 599,108
  3. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
  5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
  6. Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
  7. Diabetes: 83,564
  8. Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
  9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_06-508.pdf

We may not be able to stop COVID-19 from making this list, but we can at least attempt influence where it falls.

When it comes to understanding what is going on, you can wait and hope others provide the facts, or you can gather them yourself. Real information does not all reside on the internet. If you want to understand the real situation at your grocery store, ask the store manager, but keep your social distance. Want to know how people are feeling at your apartment community? Walk your apartment property and ask but keep your social distance. Look up from your digital screens. We don’t guess and we don’t speculate.

Ultimately, everyone must make their own decisions. The more people understand and appreciate these concepts, the more successful we will be in slowing the spread of this virus and getting back to a new normal. We know our apartment property managers have their finger on the pulse of their communities. They know their apartment residents, their issues and concerns. Armed with knowledge and up to date information, we are confident they will help all they can, do what is appropriate and be appreciated by their residents as strong community leaders.

We all want to be cautious, but we must balance caution with our responsibility to provide for basic human needs. One of these basic needs is housing.

Better World Properties LLC is committed to keeping our communication and our leasing offices open as we are able by law to serve the needs of our apartment residents, our staff and those in search of housing. We will continue to provide clear and decisive leadership as this situation continues to unfold.

Michael Knight is Executive Vice President of Better World Properties, LLC. He is a recipient of the Walter L. Cook lifetime achievement award from the Building Service Contractors Association International. He has consulted for facility service companies in 12 countries, has led disaster recovery operations for multiple corporations and FEMA, is a recognized sanitation expert, owns 440 apartments and is a partner in one of Houston’s largest apartment management companies. He considers it his life’s work to make the world better.