Camden Property Trust chairman and CEO Ric Campo knew some of his tenants would be unable to afford rent as more governors across the country enforce stay-at-home orders and millions of Americans file for unemployment.
Foreseeing this, Campo decided to be proactive.
It took a 10-hour Zoom meeting with staff last week, but he and the company achieved a game plan that would provide newly unemployed tenants with up to $2,000 per apartment home.
The initiative is part a $5 million Resident Relief Fund that is fully sponsored by the company.
“We came up with the idea to go big,” Campo said. “Five million dollars isn’t a lot for Camden, but $2,000 is for someone who may have lost a job and has no savings to fall back on.”
On Monday, the firm accepted a total of 2,520 applications in just the first 15 minutes of launching.
Checks were sent out Tuesday and Wednesday — meaning the money will likely be in the hands of tenants before the U.S. government expects to dispense direct payments to Americans through its $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Trump on March 27.
"That’s $5 million that came out of our bank account, but business is about taking care of others and the community,” Campo said. “This is the kind of thing businesses need to do during a crisis.”
Because Florida’s economy depends so much on the hard-hit travel and tourism industries, unemployment rates are expected to be higher than others states.
Already about 562,000 unemployment benefit applications were submitted in Florida between March 15 and Sunday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Those who successfully apply are collecting a maximum of $275 per week, but a backlog caused by an increased amount of applications can stretch out the amount of time it takes before an approved applicant receive benefits.
Campo said the Resident Relief Fund is not necessarily meant for rent but to provide living expenses for things such as food and utilities.
Tenants needed reasonable proof of job loss or reduction of income to qualify. The one-time, non-repayable grants were only offered to Camden residents in good standing and not currently on notice to vacate.
The Houston, Texas-based company owns and manages about 90,000 apartments throughout the nation. In Central Florida, the firm has a portfolio of about 3,600 apartments across nearly a dozen projects.
In downtown Orlando, it’s currently building a new 360-unit apartment complex that it plans to open by the third quarter of this year.
In addition to the relief fund for tenants, the company established a fund for its 1,689 employees whose income may have been affected. About $750,000 was sourced from Camden and an additional $250,000 was personally funded by senior executives, according to BisNow.
The effects of the pandemic are leaving many multifamily property owners scrambling to find ways to pay bills on their buildings. Others are wondering what the fallout would be if renters withhold rent in mass for a prolonged amount of time.
Campo said those factors are important, but a bigger company should try to find value in investing in its customers.
That could include waiving late fees for rent, implementing a moratorium on evictions or sending out renewal notices with no rent increases — all things done by Camden prior to launching the fund.
“We view our properties as our equipment, but the assets are the people that operate the equipment,” Campo said. “This is not some random event that happened, it’s really an ongoing next step in what you ought to be doing in a situation like this.”