Top 3 Reasons To Utilize The Refugee Resettlement Program

Oct 13

The housing industry consist of a large tenant base. It varies from high, middle, and low income tenants, student renters, tenants receiving government assistance (section 8, welfare), tenants on disability or social security, and refugee tenants. Depending on the location of your portfolio and your needs as an owner; you should seriously consider connecting with the Refugee Resettlement Program!

Religious agencies such as Catholic Charities and Interfaith Works, have a refugee resettlement program aimed at assisting refugees, immigrants and displaced people in beginning a new life in this country through education, cultural training and most importantly for the purpose of this article,  housing accommodations.

The mission of Refugee Resettlement is to assist refugees in beginning new lives in America; to work as a resource and cultural center for the Southeast Asia population in our community; to assist our communities in being a place of welcome for refugees and immigrants; and to help refugees and immigrants in developing their own self-help skills, projects, and associations. (Interfaithworks)


In Syracuse, NY there are over 2,000 refugee families brought into the city annually. There is a tendency for the families to cluster in close proximity to the sponsoring organization. For property owners and landlords this is a GEM. It’s the simple rule of supply and demand. A community needs to be able to supply housing for 2,000+ families per year. The demand is ridiculously high but the supply of good homes are sparse!

The benefits of the resettlement program:

  1. Guaranteed rent – The agencies pay for the first month’s rent and security deposit.  Then they set the tenants up on welfare.  If for some reason welfare is problematic, the agency will continue to pay rent until the tenant is situated.  In some instances, welfare will stop paying for an individual’s rent because that person is now employed.  This is not a problem because most refugee tenants take great pride in paying their rent on time. The agency will handle any financial issues that may arise at least for the first six to twelve months of residency.  The agency will set up the tenants’ housing accommodations, fully furnish the unit, move in the tenant and teach the tenant about American housing culture.  So, as with any other type of tenant your job is to get the apartment ready and collect your rent.
  2. Low vacancy rates – Because of the renters housing shortage (at least in Syracuse, NY) and the influx of refugees; there is usally a waiting list for available units.  Properties in prime resettlement neighborhoods MOVE QUICKLY!  Many times families are turned away because of shortages in available apartments.  When units do become vacant, properties can not be turn around quickly enough.  Bottom line – once a relationship was formed with the various resettlement agencies, the vacancy rate became non-existent in resettlement areas.
  3. Low maintenance expenses and less headache – For some reason or another, the everyday residential issues and repairs have drastically been reduced with the refugees.  For the most part (nothing is perfect), I do not have tenant disputes, eviction fees, code violation calls, damaged property from move outs,  police investigations, broken windows, walls punched out or any of the numerous other work order request.  It seems that the refugees take a sense of pride in where they live.  They are extremely clean (85% of new refugee tenants), very respectful, and most appreciative of anything you do for them.  They respect the rules of renting – If I say no pets they abide and don’t try to sneak one in.  They ask before they make any alterations to the property, and most importantly they pay their rent on time if not early.  We do get our share of work orders but its not because they damaged something but because they don’t know how to use it.  I will take a work order on how to turn on a stove over having to replace a stove because the tenant broke it.  So, the headache and financial stress has diminished greatly while working with the resettlement program.  That in itself is worth it’s weight in gold!
NOW, the program does have its share of downfalls. 
  1. Communication barrier – most refugees do not speak English so unless you decide to learn a new language be prepared to draw out and gesture your speech.  The agency does provide translators and will communicate with the tenants on your behalf ; however  the agencies are overwhelmed and understaffed so it might take awhile before you actually get some assistance.
  2. Cultural differences – Many refugees come from cultures very different from the American way of life.  It can be very challenging to explain to them how things operate in the United States.  For instance – I often have to explain how to use a thermostat,  how to hit the breakers, sometimes how to even change a light bulb.  One of the biggest problems is storage of food.  The concept of placing cooked food in the refrigerator and storing dry food in containers, seems to be lost.  Many refugee tenants tend to put cooked food everywhere but in the fridge and dry food (rice, pasta, cereal) is left out all over the counters and cabinets.  It seems that the rodents have a personal invitation to an all you can eat buffet. Now, if they are not inviting rodents in they literally bring them into the unit. There is a large tendency to want to bring furniture and other items off the street  into their apartments.  I understand the theory “one man’s trash is another’s treasure,” but when that trash comes with bed bugs, roaches and fleas; it really needs to stay someones else’s trash.  Needless to say one expense with refugees is pest extermination.  Then comes sewage backups.  Now, backups are a plumbers nightmare.  With the refugees its very challenging to express that food, grease, and baby wipes are not to be put down the drain.
It’s difficult with the communication barrier and the change of cultural lifestyle but it can be managed and worked out with the aid of the agency, a translator and a lot of patient.  At the end of the day the pros still outweigh the cons.  So, if you are looking to get into real estate or have a portfolio already and you want to utilize the resettlement program, I suggest you:
  • Contact the local agency to get listed as a landlord and find out the areas families are being placed in
  • Purchase property in those locations
  • Supply agencies with your property vacancies
  • Set up an account with welfare
The Refugee Resettlement Program provides a reliable tenant base for property owners.  It is not for everyone, but it is definitely worth looking into.   Rest in Wealth . . . . . .
(pictures courtesy of: Socialist Alliance Queensland & Rose Ng’ang’a , Nairobi-instablogs)

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