In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, we are lost in a sea of virtual meetings, online content and global networks. We often forget to stay mindful of our physical surroundings, especially how our living space impacts our mood and well being.
Almost everyone prioritizes the aesthetics and location of residential spaces. It needs to be in the center of the city, so that work commute is not too long. It must be closer to supermarkets and shopping malls and pubs and cafes, so that we have a vibrant social life. But do we ever stop and think, “It should be peaceful and pleasing, so that I have good mental health.
Property maintenance and mental well-being
The more organized the daily operations of a property, the more relaxed and stress-free is life for tenants. Imagine living in a house full of creaking doors, shaky windows, leaking faucets and dripping ceilings. That would drive anyone crazy!
Efficient property management gives the tenants a sense of security and assurance that their living space will always provide them comfort. It will be their safe space, somewhere they can unwind, relax and forget the troubles of daily life.
The best examples of property maintenance contributing to mental health come from residential arrangements for people with mental illness. Traditionally, psychiatric hospitals have been associated with the dungeon-like appearance of Bethlam. These medieval and early modern hospitals were only designed to restrain and medicate patients, and they were a real horror!
Residential housing for inpatients often requires regular maintenance. Some residents may not have the energy or cognitive resources for cleaning and organizing things in the house. Without regular housekeeping, the constant clutter only adds to one’s irritation and distress.
Costs and benefits of housing maintenance for persons with mental illness
Labor and equipment for housekeeping will certainly be a major expense. For private organizations or government agencies who run housing program for inpatients or permanent residents, these costs can be substantial.
Staff training and support
The staff who is involved in housekeeping and interacting with residents will definitely require special training. They will require a rudimentary understanding of mental health concerns, how to communicate with people with different diagnoses, etc. They would also need training on how to respond in situations where a resident acts in a defensive, verbally abusive, or physically aggressive.
Patients with social anxiety, psychotic disorder, memory loss, etc. face certain unique difficulties while interacting with people. A trained staff ensures that the needs of different people are accommodated, and the residents don’t feel that their boundaries are being violated.
Housing for residents with mental illness is a niche area of real estate, and so is your demographic. Since you are catering to a very specific population, you are likely to have less local competition. You will be one of the few available candidates for upcoming government housing plans or private homes.
Stable rental income
If you are working on behalf of a public agency or NGO, you won’t have to worry about onboarding new tenants when there is a vacancy. In state-funded houses, especially, the demand is often more than the supply in the health sector.
People who have chronic or severe illnesses, often have to stay under supervision. They may be shifted to homes because their family is not around, or their family doesn’t have the time and resources to care for a person with mental illness.
In such cases, it is likely that the existing tenants will stay in the long term. Also, government subsidies and support programs may help them pay rent on time. Overall, people with mental illness and their family, will look for stable housing options in the long term.
Providing housing for people with mental illness will improve your reputation as a property manager in the community and the industry. Your public perception will be associated with your commitment to serving vulnerable populations and it will attract socially conscious investors.
Partnerships and funding opportunities
Non profit organizations, government agencies and advocacy groups may be open to partnerships with entrepreneurs who provide products and services for certain vulnerable groups. These collaborations may open windows to several funding opportunities, grants, and donations that will support your business.
Most importantly, entrepreneurs who take social responsibility seriously know that they are making a positive impact in the lives of their customers. Knowing that you are a part of your tenants’ journey to recovery, stability mental well-being can be an immensely rewarding feeling.
Insights from research
In 2001, a group of four researchers- Sandra Newman, Joseph Harkness, George Galster, and James Reschovsky , published a research paper in a journal called Real Estate Economics. This paper was focused on how presence of tenants with mental illness affected repair and maintenance costs in 153 properties that they studied.
The paper considered various ways in which tenants with mental illness affect repair and maintenance costs. On one hand, regular maintenance and upkeep may reduce careless and destructive behaviour. On the other hand, if the destructive behaviour is unavoidable due to the severity of an illness, expensive amenities can raise high maintenance costs.
They found that the relationship between number of tenants with mental illness and repair and maintenance costs, shows an inverted U shaped curved when plotted on a graph. It means that as the number of tenants with mental illness increases, the costs also increase, but only up to a certain point.
After that point, the costs actually come down to baseline. It means that in a building with all kinds of people, if there are only a few tenants with mental illness, the repair and maintenance costs are high. But if there are more and more tenants with mental illness, their behaviour around each other changes, and they probably have better functioning, which prevents high maintenance costs.
As you can see in this evidence-based paper, housing for persons with mental illness is a niche market, and it has its own costs and benefits. A strong understanding of the needs of this population, and insights from an investment perspective, are crucial for people who want to venture into this market.