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Arlington housing nonprofit AHC to step back from property management

AHC Inc. Interim CEO Susan Cunningham during a recent Arlington County Board meeting

(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Nonprofit affordable housing developer AHC Inc. announced today (Tuesday) that it will begin ceding management of all its properties to third-party companies in the new year.

The move comes less than a year after AHC transferred day-to-day management of the Serrano Apartments (5535 Columbia Pike) to an independent company, which Arlington County required in response to complaints of rodents and shoddy maintenance.

Meanwhile, AHC has also been considering whether the other buildings still under its own management arm should move to independent oversight.

AHC doesn’t have the scale to “consistently provide best-in-class service to our residents or the high-quality career opportunities and the training AHC Management employees deserve,” Susan Cunningham, AHC’s interim CEO, said in a statement.

“This decision comes after a thorough and careful examination of our residents’ and employees’ needs, current industry trends and AHC’s long-term strategic goals,” she continued. “For over 20 years, AHC Management has served thousands of families across dozens of properties. However, AHC Management’s relatively small scale combined with two years of pandemic challenges, supply chain issues and persistent labor shortages has made it clear this is the best path forward.”

Sixteen AHC properties are already overseen by third parties, says spokeswoman Celia Slater. This change will impact 35 properties spanning Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties, the city of Alexandria and Baltimore, as well as 100 AHC property management employees.

Each company intends to retain onsite management staff with similar job titles, pay and benefits, says AHC.

This “will also create high-quality career opportunities for the AHC Management staff currently serving these properties,” Cunningham said.

The nonprofit expects to begin the transitions in January and finalize them by April, as it receives approvals from lenders and investors.

The selected companies are Drucker + Falk, which oversees the Serrano Apartments, as well as Harbor Group, Paradigm Management and WinnResidential. These companies operate where the nonprofit has properties and have experience managing the types of buildings it owns, AHC says.

“We believe that transitioning the management of AHC’s communities to a diverse group of well-respected third-party management companies with proven systems and track records will enhance residents’ experience,” Cunningham said.

Since Drucker + Falk took over management at the Serrano, there has been a flurry of activity to improve building conditions. As of a mid-November meeting with the County Board, apartments with recurring moisture have mostly been remediated, a number of convectors have been replaced, buildings are regularly treated for pests and extensive plumbing repairs are ongoing, Cunningham told Board members.

Tenant advocates have welcomed the building repairs, but say that trust in AHC is still lacking among residents.

AHC committed to working with the management companies to continue providing services and community engagement opportunities for residents.

Last week AHC distributed toys, provided by Amazon and Wakefield High School, to the children of the Gates of Ballston apartments and delivered Christmas trees, donated by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, to residents at the Woodbury Park and Frederick apartments.

This transition to the new companies will happen in tandem with the selection of a new permanent CEO in the first half of 2022, AHC says. The CEO will take over for Cunningham, who stepped in after former CEO Walter Webdale retired amid the controversy at the Serrano.

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