Reflections from a landlord on the importance of relationships, self-awareness, trust and more

Showing up isn’t easy. But we must.

How do you show up for work as a landlord or property manager?  

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot recently. How do I listen to people who are angry?  How do I communicate in a swift-reaction email? How do I listen (or not) to staff or tenants who are balancing work with life challenges in such an uncertain time. 

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to share these questions with a small group of like-minded women who, like me, provide leadership to housing operations. It’s been really inspiring. One of the (many) things we’re in agreement about is that it is not easy to face the death of how things have been in the housing sector and to open up to the vulnerability of how things could be. But we must.

How things HAVE BEEN for some landlords:   

  • Using language that implies wrongness 
  • Making assumptions
  • Having a lack of curiosity
  • Distrusting people until trust is ‘earned’ 
  • Avoiding awkward/hard conversations
  • Working alone in a posture of power in times of crisis (heat domes and pandemics)
  • Housing as a ‘burden’ or ‘system to control’ 
  • Dehumanizing tenants (hearts harden) 

How things CAN BE: 

  • Using language that communicates kindness and connection
  • Creating space for feedback – Mutual learning and transformation (having our assumptions be wrong)
  • Trusting people so trust grows
  • Being open to awkward or hard conversations 
  • Working together in a  collaborative posture, especially in times of crisis (heat domes and pandemics)
  • Experiencing the gift and privilege of providing housing 
  • Discovering our interconnectedness (hearts soften)

I’ve been learning a lot at Co:here, where the Salsbury Community Society provides deeply affordable housing and nurtures a sense of neighbourliness in East Vancouver. One of the main learnings is that the role of providing housing isn’t as simple or straightforward as I maybe thought it would be. It’s a lot of work and most of the work is personal – it’s mine and yours to do! It’s relational, self-awareness work that requires me to show up and listen up everyday. 

Can you relate? When I think about how I show up in my role as landlord/property manager, some days the bar is set low: quiet and easy tenants who pay rent on time. But when I’m awake and paying attention it’s a lot more than that.

What I thought measured a successful landlord

  • Rents on time
  • Quiet building

A better measure

  • People love their home (low turnover)
  • High trust (fewer calls to emergency services)
  • People love their home (low vandalism)
  • Positive shared memories btw staff and tenants
  • People love thier home (host/use amenity areas)
  • Rents on time
  • People love thier home (respect building guidelines)
  • Vulnerable leadership (Naming harm/making amends)

I heard an architect say that the two most powerful incentives that attract real estate sales in Vancouver are luxury and privacy. People will spend A LOT of money to get these things. Last time I checked luxury and privacy were not on the index of what makes people happy. However, I do know that relationships and feeling content in your home/housing situation can contribute to happiness and well-being. 

I need more conversations about how we can support one another and encourage a better measure for our work. The work of communicating kindness, creating space for feedback and practicing awkward or hard conversations is something that we can all grow and work at together – and in the process discover our interconnectedness. What do you think? 

A version of this article was first published at Salsbury Community Society.

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