NAHMA Names Top Communities of Quality for 2019

HDS_multifamilysolutions_4C_pos Navigate

 National Sponsors of NAHMA’s 2019 Communities of Quality® Awards Program

The National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) announces three communities were selected as four 2019 winners of its annual Communities of Quality® (COQ) Awards program. Since 1992, these awards have honored the best multifamily affordable housing communities across the country. 

Entrants are judged on how they manage the physical, financial and social conditions of their properties, and on how well they convey their success in offering the highest quality of life for their residents.

The 2019 COQ Awards will be presented at NAHMA’s Biannual Top Issues in Affordable Housing winter conference, March 8-10, in Washington, D.C. For details on the NAHMA meeting, visit

“There is no other award that focuses so comprehensively on the everyday life and management expertise of affordable housing properties,” NAHMA Executive Director Kris Cook, CAE, said.

NAHMA’s 2019 COQ Awards program is jointly sponsored by HD Supply Multifamily Solutions, a leading supplier of maintenance and renovation products to the multihousing industry, and Navigate Affordable Housing Partners, a leading provider of consulting and development services to public housing authorities and the HUD Section 8 project-based contract administrator (PBCA) for several states.

NAHMA congratulates the winners.

  • Exemplary Family Development: Castle Square Apartments, Boston, Mass.; Owner: CSTO Winn Owner LLC; Management: WinnResidential; AHMA: NEAHMA
  • Exemplary Development for the Elderly: Neilson Villa, Santa Monica, Calif.; Owner: Neilson Villa; Management Company: GK Management Company Inc.; AHMA: AHMA-PSW
  • Exemplary Development for Residents with Special Needs: Santa Barbara Village, Cape Coral, Fla.; Owner: Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida Inc.; Management Company: The Columbia Property Group; AHMA: SAHMA
  • Exemplary Development for Single Room Occupancy Housing: Santa Barbara Village, Cape Coral, Fla.; Owner: Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida Inc.; Management Company: The Columbia Property Group; AHMA: SAHMA

A brief summary of the award-winning developments follows.

About HD Supply Multifamily Solutions
With 50,000-plus items and free, next-day delivery on most items to most areas, HD Supply Multifamily Solutions is your source for maintenance supplies, fabrication, installation, and renovation services. Our 700-plus account representatives serve more than 130 markets, providing personalized service backed by the strength of a national company. To order call 1-800-431-3000 or at

About Navigate Affordable Housing Partners
Based in Birmingham, Ala., Navigate Affordable Housing Partners is a nonprofit engaged in developing, owning and managing affordable housing and consulting with various housing agencies to provide compliance and training. Navigate is also a federal contractor providing compliance and financial services on behalf of HUD as the Section 8 PBCA for multiple states. Navigate’s core values—Service, Respect, Transparency, Quality and Innovation—are applied to every aspect of their work and has resulted in an exemplary reputation in the housing industry. For further information, visit

Castle Square Apartments

Castle Square Apartments, Boston, Mass.

Exemplary Family Development
Castle Square Apartments
Boston, Mass.
Owner: CSTO Winn Owner LLC
Management: WinnResidential

Castle Square Apartments, a mixed-use mixed-income development located in Boston’s South End neighborhood, is home to more than 1,300 residents as well as local businesses.

The community consists of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units. Of the 500 units, 450 are Project- Based Section 8 serving families as well as elderly and residents with disabilities, and 50 are market rate. There are also 18 commercial spaces, totaling 36,750 square feet, which are occupied by tenants including a fitness studio, a doughnut shop and a hardware store.

Originally constructed in 1968, conditions at Castle Square Apartments, had deteriorated badly by 1990, when the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) HOPE program gave the residents of low- and moderate-income housing the chance to become owners.

Capitalizing on the program, the Castle Square Tenants Organization (CSTO) joined forces with WinnCompanies in 1992 to form a partnership that made the CSTO the property’s 51% owner.

The joint venture invested $50 million, including renovations to the property and the implementation of an array of resident service programs, making the Castle Square Apartments the single most successful HOPE development and winner of multiple industry awards.

Additionally, the partnership of WinnCompanies and CSTO helped to empower the residents of Castle Square to become more self-sufficient, creating lasting collaborations with nonprofit service providers, community organizations and advocacy groups to deliver innovative programs, interventions and high-impact solutions including computer laboratories and repair services, literacy and wellness services, year-round youth programs, media literacy training and workforce readiness training, resident field trips, arts and cultural exploratory programs, senior activities and adult literacy programming.

The community’s location in the heart of Boston’s South End neighborhood coupled with the size of the property, which is comprised of four seven-story mid-rise buildings and 19 townhouse buildings spread out over nearly seven acres, allows for creativity when it comes to landscaping. Castle Square has won multiple landscaping awards for its artful design of garden landscape and is often praised for its curb appeal.

Beyond its attractiveness, Castle Square has great programs and activities to offer residents and members of the Greater Boston community. Youth programming through its Square Roots program, which is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, provides quality after-school and summertime care, homework assistance and opportunities for engagement. During the school year, Square Roots provides much needed support for over 30 children between the ages of 6 and 13. The community also partners with Northeastern University’s Center for Community Service to place service-learning students—a form of experiential learning for students that purposefully integrates academics and service or community-engaged projects—in opportunities to provide academic tutoring support and foster facilitation skills in small groups.

Castle Square’s Teen Program offers paid internships to youth ages 14 to 19 to build skills in film and media. The teens learn about grassroots organizing and take part in civic engagement opportunities. The program’s Media Makers internship educates participants in social justice issues through media workshop methods such as photo, video and graphic design. The program’s Film Curators internship creates a space for teens to analyze different films and media in efforts to plan and host community events. The Teen Program also offers a variety of academic and college focused workshops including SAT prep, college advising, career development and after-school homework assistance. Additionally, the Teen Program has crafted sessions to educate residents about voter registration and elections so that they can become actively engaged citizens.

Square Tech offers a variety of programming for youth, adults and seniors with an objective to increase knowledge and affordable access to technology. Course topics include basics of phone usage, PC hardware, programming, computer security, gaming design, customer service, and business workshops. A technology-based youth program also teaches Boston youth between the ages of 14 to 19 the hands-on skills needed to refurbish computers as well as business acumen, since the computers they refurbished will be made available to the community for a suggested donation. Furthermore, Square Tech’s Computer Repair and Training Program has partnered with the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology to offer audio/visual technology classes for youth between the ages of 16 and 19. This opportunity is not only a paid internship, but also provides college credit for participants. Multiple grants from the Digital Equity Fund, the Amelia Peabody Foundation, and the Chinatown Trust Fund, to name a few, have made it possible for Castle Square to deliver programs geared towards youth development, education and civic engagement.

As result of deep community partnerships, Castle Square has also been the South End host site for National Night Out for the past 23 years, which highlights positive relationships between local law enforcement and community organizations. This past year, it had close to 700 community members in attendance, including the mayor and police commissioner.

Castle Square has two community coordinators who host a variety of programs and workshops to enhance the residents’ quality of life and connect them to community resources. Examples of programming offered include weekly tai chi classes, weekly fan dance classes, weekly social hours, wellness workshops and weekly chair exercises for seniors. They organize monthly resident outings that have included trips to orchards, amusement parks and shopping centers to increase social and networking opportunities. For the first time this past summer, Castle Square hosted a back-to-school event where free backpacks and school supplies are offered to residents.

The community coordinators have also made it possible for the Trustees Mobile Farmers Market to be at Castle Square on a weekly basis. The arrival of this on-site farmers market allows not only the residents, but also members of the general public, to have direct access to fresh produce, meats and cheeses from farms in the Greater Boston area.

In 2012, NAHMA awarded Castle Square with a Vanguard Award for Major Rehabilitation of an Existing Rental Housing Community after the community completed a deep energy retrofit that resulted in a 72% reduction in energy costs, drastically decreasing the building’s carbon footprint.

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded CSTO with the LEED Platinum Certification, which is its highest green building rating. In 2014, Castle Square was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with an award for Superior Energy Performance.

With a conscious effort in reducing its carbon footprint, Castle Square has continued its efforts to make propertywide improvements to increase the quality of life while reducing resource expenditures. In addition to the deep energy retrofit, the community installed low-flow toilets in all 500 apartments in 2018, which has dramatically reduced overall water consumption. It has also upgraded light fixtures in the common areas, kitchens and bathrooms to LED fixtures in an anticipated savings of $20,000 per year with MassSave’s LEAN Energy Retrofit Program. Because of this program, the community saved $238,431 in installation costs.

Since its inception, CSTO has worked tirelessly to build relationships that expand access to community resources. Strong partnerships with local and national organizations make it possible to provide top-tier services to the residents. CSTO’s efforts in property improvements and its diverse programming are influenced by a ““resident first” approach to property management. The residents’ needs drive and will continue to drive the direction of Castle Square’s development.

Neilson Villa

Neilson Villa, Santa Monica, Calif.

Exemplary Development for the Elderly
Neilson Villa
Santa Monica, Calif.
Owner: Neilson Villa
Management Company: GK Management Company Inc.

Neilson Villa is a 100-unit three-story elevator-serviced building featuring affordable one-bedroom apartments that caters to residents over 62 years of age and residents with disabilities. The community has been professionally managed by GK Management Co. Inc. since it opened in July 1977. One of the features of Neilson Villa that makes it such a special community is its location in Santa Monica, Calif. It occupies a prime site just steps away from Santa Monica Beach and is a five-minute trek from the famous Venice Boardwalk. The property is close to Interstate 10 and is just minutes from Marina Del Rey. It is no wonder that the waiting list for Neilson Villa has over 800 applicants, and had to be closed in November 2017, and the occupancy rate for the community generally runs between 98% and 100%.

Preservation of affordability at Neilson Villa is of utmost importance to the residents and the community as a whole given the extreme shortage of affordable housing in Southern California. The owners of Neilson Villa have made long-term commitments to preserve the affordability of the community. Neilson Villa’s Project-Based Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Contract with HUD that covers 20 units was renewed under the Mark-to-Market Renewal provisions for the maximum term of 20 years. The Section 8 Project-Based Voucher Contract with the city of Santa Monica that covers 79 units was amended this year to extend the length of the initial term from 15 years to 20 years based on the implementation guidance in the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. In addition, the owners of Neilson Villa have agreed to maintain the low-income affordability of the community by executing a Regulatory Agreement with the city of Santa Monica that expires Oct. 1, 2072. Neilson Villa has also collaborated with the city of Santa Monica to establish an affordability reserve totaling $1,700,000.

During the past several years, in collaboration with the city of Santa Monica, Neilson Villa has completed capital improvements totaling more than $1,000,000. The work completed includes roof replacement, exterior painting, balcony replacement, asphalt and paving concrete work, replacement of windows for each individual unit and patio sliders, common area flooring, updating of the laundry room and office.

The residents are also enjoying the updated garden area where their vegetable and flower gardens are flourishing. The community room renovation included the addition of a brand new fitness center/gym and has allowed the community to expand and enhance its free Adult Recreation Program, which helps the residents gain a sense of community.

The foundation for the success of Neilson Villa is the talented and dedicated team members both at the site and at the corporate office who help provide a safe, well maintained and well managed community. The maintenance manager has been with the property since July 2000, and he is supported by the porter who joined the community earlier this year. The maintenance manager takes great pride in maintaining the property as reflected in the excellent score of 91b attained in the most recent HUD REAC inspection Feb. 19, 2019. As one of the residents puts it, “[The maintenance manager] is our 911.” He has established a warm rapport with the residents, who he describes as “lively and fun to be around” and he loves working at the community since the residents “are like family.” He also actively volunteers his time through the Volunteers of America organization, and has enriched the lives of members of the community by providing holiday gifts and school supplies.

This year, Neilson Villa faced the challenge of staff turnover for the community manager position. The assistant community manager for Grandview Terrace, a nearby property, did an excellent job helping out by providing the necessary coverage and support to keep the property running efficiently. In addition, the Compliance Team headed by the director of compliance and the housing program specialist, stepped in to assist and provide their valuable knowledge. Their extensive expertise and command of HUD regulations has been gained through their years of experience and the education they attained through their vast array of NAHMA credentials such as the CPO, FHC, SHCM and NAHP-e designations. As a result of this excellent teamwork and collaboration, Neilson Villa was able to attain a rating of Above Average for the MOR that was conducted on Aug. 5, 2019. Additionally, there were no audit findings for most recent audited financial statements for Neilson Villa for the year ended Dec. 31, 2018.

The senior program coordinator’s energy, enthusiasm and commitment to her residents has greatly added to the success of the Adult Recreation Program. As Neilson Villa’s maintenance manager puts it, “[She] took it to another level—more activities equals happier residents. It feels good.”

The residents of Neilson Villa participate in a variety of classes such tai chi, yoga, dancing exercise and fitness, computer and English as a Second Language to keep healthy, fit and active, both mentally and physically. During the past year, the Neilson Villa residents enjoyed field trips to San Diego, Santa Barbara, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Ronald Reagan Library, whale watching and the Shen Yen Performing Arts. The residents are able to explore their creative side by taking painting and craft classes, and they were able to showcase their talents at the Arts & Crafts Show that took place at Neilson Villa in May 2019. Neilson Villa also sponsored a fashion show, which was very well received by the residents.

As noted in the letter of support from the housing manager for the city of Santa Monica, “the wide-ranging programs and activities provided through Neilson Villa’s Senior Program enhance the quality of life of the residents at the property.” Through program coordinator’s efforts, the residents of Neilson Villa have been able to “pay it forward” and have a positive impact on the community as a whole. The program coordinator has organized the Hat Donation Project where the residents knitted 100 hats and donated them to the Shriner Children’s Hospital during the holidays. It is so rewarding to see how much the programs and activities offered at Neilson Villa enrich the lives of the residents, and how the residents in turn brought joy to the community as a whole through their thoughtful, creative and generous donation of hats to many children in need. Additionally, the residents knitted small toys and dolls to donate to the children at a local hospital during the holidays.

Neilson Villa was excited to have been awarded the NAHMA Community of Quality Designation this year and celebrated this award on Oct. 11, 2019 with the residents, site team and corporate team. The field supervisor for Congressman Ted W. Lieu’s office presented Neilson Villa with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition. It was a fantastic day of celebration filled with food, music, dancing, pride and joy that showcased this very special and unique Community of Quality.

Santa Barbara Village

Santa Barbara Village, Cape Coral, Fla.

Exemplary Development for Residents with Special Needs and
Exemplary Development for Single Room Occupancy Housing
Santa Barbara Village
Cape Coral, Fla.
Owner: Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida Inc.
Management Company: The Columbia Property Group

Santa Barbara Village is a garden-style group home located in the heart of Cape Coral, Fla. It is owned by Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida Inc. and is managed by The Columbia Property Group. The property itself is 18 years old and has 10 single-room units and two two-bedroom units. This property is in a quiet little neighborhood where the residents look out for and help one another. The property houses elderly residents with disabilities as well as families with children.

The property is doing very well financially as its reserves are fully funded, rent is 100% collected, there are no vacancies, and it scored a 98A on its last REAC inspection. The property is very well maintained and the grounds are beautiful.

The residents are offered many amenities through the owner, Goodwill Industries, such as a Meals on Wheels program, medical and dental services, as well as activities including dancing, games and billiards. They also have library visits, computer classes, discussion groups and assistance with accessing transportation. Over time, the residents have formed very close friendships and “they look out for one another in a way that is very rare of our society today,” commented a member of the community management team.

The staff that works at the property plays a huge role in making this a great place for the residents. The community manager has received the Excellence in Management designation by SAHMA. Along with the occupancy specialist, they assist the residents with everything they need from assisting in setting up appointments, helping with their annual recertifications or just listening to them.

Additionally, the property also has a great maintenance staff as evidenced by the fact that the maintenance manager has also received the Excellence in Maintenance designation by SAHMA. He and his team respond to calls immediately to ensure the residents can live independently and in a safe environment.

One of the residents wrote in a letter, “The apartments are in great condition which reflect the time and attention put forth by maintenance which is excellent. I feel very content in this community. Finally, I would like to highlight the attention provided by [the occupancy specialist], of which I have received kindness, solutions to problems, etc.”

Past Award Winners:

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Disclaimer: Properties that meet the COQ National Recognition criteria may hold themselves forth to the public as such. However, NAHMA and the AHMAs do not assume and hereby disclaim any and all liability to any person or entity for any claims, damages, liability or other loss including, without limitation, any liability for injury or other damage resulting from any use of or reliance on the information provided through the COQ National Recognition and Awards Program. NAHMA and the AHMAs do not make any express or implied warranties, representations or endorsements whatsoever, or in any way, regarding the properties listed as COQ National Recognition or Award Winners.