More than 30 members, residents, and guests gathered recently at the Center for Life for the annual meeting of Community Housing & Resources (CHR).
Since 1983, CHR has partnered with the City of Sanibel to provide affordable housing for people who live and/or work on Sanibel, including senior citizens and the disabled. Currently, there are approximately 117 residents occupying 74 rental units and 14 Limited Equity Ownership (LEO) homes in neighborhoods throughout the island. With a daily presence in restaurants, banks, retail facilities, at the school, and for the City of Sanibel, the residents contribute in numerous ways to island life and often volunteer with island organizations.
Reports from staff and board members included good news from CHR president Richard Johnson: first, a very positive financial audit with zero management comments, and the sale of the last LEO home.
Treasurer Melissa Rice, on left, with CHR resident Tiani Macalka. PHOTO PROVIDED.
"I remember not so long ago when CHR was facing some major financial challenges and we went to the city and asked for time," Johnson said. "I'm proud to say we took that time and have managed to turn the agency around."
The good news continued: During the past year, CHR has paid down long-term debt and established reserve accounts for both rental and LEO programs. These accounts will provide vital funding for capital expenses -- such as replacing air-conditioning units -- in rental buildings, and costs associated with LEOs, such as earned appreciation required by law to be paid to owners who sell their homes back to CHR.
"A focus on fundraising coupled with staff efforts to keep expenses low has also helped improve CHR's financial picture," said Kelly Collini, executive director. "During the past year, we maintained a rent and utilities collection rate of almost 97 percent and a vacancy rate of just 4 percent. Both of these contributed greatly to the agency's fiscal improvement. Our small staff has done a very good job of running the day to day business of the agency and it has had a very positive impact on our bottom line."
Collini also offered heartfelt appreciation to all of the agency's community partners including donors, residents, volunteers, and city officials.
"The Sanibel City Council and City Manager Judie Zimomra continue to provide great support to CHR," she said. "I feel like I could go to any one of these individuals and ask for assistance or guidance and they would do everything they could to help me and CHR, and that is a very nice relationship."
She also offered a special thank you to Councilman Mick Denham for his service to the agency as council liaison.
CHR treasurer Melissa Rice and Vice President Ray Pavelka, giving their reports, echoed comments about the improved fiscal health and the overall positive direction of the agency. More recently, CHR launched its new web site, featuring vital information about the application process and testimonials from residents and island employers. Visit www.sanibelchr.org for more information.
The meeting ended with a drawing for a $250 credit towards rent for two CHR residents and a potluck luncheon.