Media

COVID-19 POSITION STATEMENT

(New York – March 28, 2020) In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our company's mission, to regenerate the fabric of communities, has never been more clearly needed. It is now abundantly clear that safe, green, affordable housing is an essential social determinant of health, especially for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

 

In response to the pandemic, we must carry out two seemingly contradictory actions: to socially isolate, and to come together for the common good. In fact, these actions are deeply inter-related.

                                                                

Integrating these two actions lies at the core of our response, and permeates the hundreds of conversations each day that our amazing team of dedicated employees, partners, contractors and suppliers are having, all with the goal of protecting our residents and employees and the larger communities that they are part of.

 

Our first priority is the health and well-being of our residents and our staff. We take the potential widespread transmission of COVID-19 very seriously and are working to ensure our continued preparedness as the situation escalates.

 

Several weeks ago, we set up an internal COVID-19 Taskforce which has been actively monitoring the unfolding situation and developing the policies and procedures to guide our actions. We have also set up a Rose Community Management (RCM) Coronavirus subgroup to update operational issues within our properties.

 

In our corporate offices, we have implemented remote working policies and suspended all business travel. We have cancelled all large gatherings and have encouraged staff to practice social distancing and reduce in-person meetings. Fortunately, we have a robust "work from home" infrastructure in place as part of our business continuity plan. All of our corporate staff are now working from home and many of our field staff also have the capability to carry out some of their duties remotely.  

 

We have issued self-isolation protocols for any staff who may have been exposed and we have created a dedicated intranet site to serve as a repository of all COVID-19-related form documents and guidance. We have adjusted our paid leave policies to reflect the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). We have taken the decision to enact the provisions of the FFCRA in advance of the legal implementation date, for the benefit of our employees. We are actively amending other HR related policies to protect our staff and enable them to focus on their own health and wellbeing as well as delivering services to our residents.

 

At our properties, we have issued health and safety guidance for our community managers and implemented social distancing policies. All social programming and group events at our properties have been suspended and community rooms, computer rooms, fitness centers and playgrounds have been closed in an attempt to slow the transmission of the disease. We have dispatched CDC literature (translated in multiple languages) to all of our property staff and residents, which contains facts on COVID-19 as well as practical steps to reduce the spread of germs and achieve social distancing. We have implemented more stringent cleaning/disinfection regimes and have purchased additional supplies of protective equipment for our employees, to the extent available.

 

Additionally, we have revised our processes for how we connect with our residents. To safeguard the health of our staff, residents and the wider community, we are reducing the face to face contact between residents and staff. We are moving to an appointment only system for residents to meet with Community Managers and are encouraging telephone contact as much as possible. To reduce the number of people entering residents’ apartments, at this time we are only responding to urgent maintenance requests and we have suspended all in-unit major refurbishment contracts. Where we do respond to emergency repairs, we have compiled detailed protocols to ensure social distancing for the safety of both staff and residents. We have requested that our residents limit visitors in the building to only those delivering essential care services.  

 

Our communities often rely on food deliveries and our Social Impact teams are working to establish alternative delivery mechanisms that ensure much-needed food is received by our residents in ways that do not expose them to risk. Our Resident Services team is also looking at creative ways to try to alleviate social isolation and boredom amongst our resident groups.

 

We are in direct communication with our residents through letters and informational posters to advise of all of the changes that this new era demands of us. As the number of both suspected and confirmed cases increases, we have written again to residents to advise them to assume that the virus could potentially be present in any of our buildings, and to exercise additional safety practices, for the good of their health and the health of the community as a whole. We have also implemented an automated telephone call to all residents whose phone numbers we hold, to provide advice and to ensure that they have received our previous correspondence.

 

As we begin to receive confirmed cases in our buildings, we are ready and prepared to respond quickly to such an occurrence and to notify all residents in the affected building, to achieve full transparency and so that our residents are in the best possible position to protect themselves.

 

To help achieve the national objective of “flattening the curve”, we have implemented Alternative Work Arrangements (AWA) for all field staff, which consists of rotational skeleton staffing structures, reducing the number of staff on site at any one time but still ensuring that essential services, including increased cleaning regimes, are delivered to our residents.

 

To ensure that our staff are protected during these difficult times, we have committed to maintain their compensation levels at their previous rates, regardless of the fact that they will be on site for a reduced number of hours under AWA. We have also implemented a “Gratitude Pay” structure, that increases the hourly rate for all hours worked on site. Is it essential that our residents continue to receive the best possible service and we believe our Gratitude Pay system not only rewards our staff for being on site, but ensures that our residents do not experience a drop in their service provision.

 

We will continue to respond to changes that may emerge and will update all of these initiatives as we collectively learn more.

 

We are in close contact with our insurance provider who confirmed that our actions are in line with their expectations and recommendations, and we are staying abreast of HUD, CDC, regional, state and federal guidance and incorporating it into our practices.

 

Although there are many unknowns with regard to COVID-19 and its impact on the global economy, we have seen affordable housing demonstrate resilience in prior economic downturns. The pandemic has underscored how important affordable housing is as part of the social determinants of health.