Boosting Financial Capability and Self Sufficiency for Very Low-Income Residents in AHC’s Affordable Housing Communities

AHC provides onsite Resident Services in its affordable housing communities to empower residents to live their best lives.

Photo of Niki Wanner
0 0

Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Maryland: Baltimore (21215), Silver Spring (20910)
Virginia: Arlington (22201, 22204, 22205, 22206)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Health & Fitness

Date Started


Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)


  • $500k - $1m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter @AHCInc
Facebook AHC Affordable Housing

Twitter URL

Facebook URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

AHC is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing. Not long after acquiring our Baltimore properties, we realized that 90% of our residents earned less than $20,000 a year. What’s more, they were paying their rent using money orders through usury institutions that charged high fees and preyed on them in myriad ways. Few used bank accounts or knew about budgeting and saving. What started as an eviction prevention program quickly led to offering financial capability and money management. We were trying to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and address just one example of the many ways it is expensive to be poor. Our goal is to empower residents to set their own goals and connect them with tools to become more stable.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We seek to break down the structural barriers that persist for minorities in inner-city Baltimore. 98% of our residents are African American. All are extremely low- or very-low income. Through financial coaching, access to job readiness, women’s empowerment programming, and community engagement, we are actively working to counteract inter-generational imbalance, a lack of access to information and opportunity, and cyclical poverty.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

AHC improves residents’ lives by providing social, financial, community empowerment and health programs onsite right where residents live. We use high-quality, affordable housing as a platform to address barriers.

Our financial capability program, Dollars and Sense, uses certified financial coaching by full-time onsite staff to share information about mainstream banking, saving money and building credit. Innovative practices include the following:

1. Pre-paid debit cards for those who are unable or unwilling to open a checking or savings account. Recipients use the card to make purchases online or via their phone.

2. Rent Café, where residents pay rent online. This gives them a reason to establish a checking account and avoid money orders.

3. Rent Reporting, which reports on-time rent payments to the credit bureau and helps residents build credit.

4. “Ready, Set, Bank,” a pilot with Capital One whereby seniors use tablets purchased by AHC to access online banking.

5. The use of financial incentives, such as matched savings plans.

Through 1:1 financial coaching and job readiness training, we help residents prosper based on their individual needs.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Shakiya, a single mom (pictured), started working with a financial coach in 2012, establishing checking and savings accounts. Today, she continues to work with her financial coach to repair and build her credit. She also worked with an AHC job coach to advocate for an advancement at work. This allowed her to consolidate two part-time jobs into one full-time job with more pay, moving from dispatcher to driver and allowing her to have more time with her daughter. Through our Just for You Savings program, she has saved enough to take her daughter to Disney World two straight years for vacation!

Shakiya is an example of how people can be helped using our model. She works 1:1 with a trained financial coach and a job coach on an individualized plan. She is a sign of how as people progress, they rely on AHC’s staff for continued support for their own unique situations.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

AHC is working in Park Heights, Baltimore, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. 98% of our residents are African American and 90% report income of less than $20,000/year. One property is nearly all seniors with a mistrust of the financial mainstream, while another property is 85% single mothers with children of all ages. Many are unemployed and rely solely on public benefits. We strive to empower these residents to be the drivers of their own financial wellbeing, resilience and freedom.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • geography
  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • age - elder
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other nonprofit developers of affordable housing in Baltimore include Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Episcopal Housing Corporation, Saint Ambrose, and GEDCO. Organizations doing similar work in Financial Capability include CASH Campaign, Guidewell Financial Services, and Community Action Agencies. AHC differs by offering services onsite where clients live. Being onsite also helps build trust and work with people on sensitive issues. We provide onsite 1:1 coaching by trained full-time staff and refer residents to a multitude of partners for expanded services when needed.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Resident Services has offered onsite programs to low-income residents at our Baltimore properties for 10 years. We started an eviction prevention program in 2009 after resident surveys disclosed a strong need for stabilizing families. The program expanded later to include financial capability and others.

We have worked with about 100 residents each year on financial coaching since 2012. Last year, we connected 77 clients with a workforce related resource and helped 27 clients obtain new or better jobs. We also helped 50 clients build or repair their credit and helped 61 residents begin to save. Among those receiving financial coaching, 44 set aside money for savings. These statistics tend to be consistent across the years.

These programs have become so strong that we have begun to replicate them first at AHC’s Arlington properties, then nationwide.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

We are now working to replicate our Financial Capability program in Arlington, VA, then nationwide. A consultant will help evaluate our program and develop a tool kit to help other organizations implement their own financial capability programs. Learning about emerging products and technology will help with scaling.

AHC does not develop and evaluate its programming in isolation. Community engagement informs our actions every step of the way. AHC works to engage residents in developing and implementing our work through surveys, feedback, and intentional development of resident leaders.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Trainings, Consultation

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

AHC’s Resident Services programming will always be funded by a diverse combination of grants, property fees, and individual and corporate contributions. It has been a good model that we intend to continue.

HUD also assists with the affordable aspect of our housing communities as all our Baltimore city properties are HUD-based Section 8 properties whereby HUD provides rental subsidies to all of our tenants, making safe, affordable housing available to them on an extended basis.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

AHC has four full-time onsite Resident Services (RS) Managers in Baltimore, plus an Assistant Director of RS. All have been trained as Financial Coaches and two have received Financial Capability Certification through NeighborWorks America. A job coach works part-time.

In Arlington, a FT Assistant Director of RS and three FT RS Managers are in the process of becoming certified financial coaches and rotate time among 10 properties. Future plans call for the addition of a job coach.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)
  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others


Join the conversation: