When you’re in the business of affordable housing, you’re in the business of helping people. Period.
West Allis-based Cardinal Capital Management Inc. and affiliate company Astar Capital Management Inc. have acquired, developed and rehabbed approximately 9,000 multi-family housing units across the country.
According to Erich Schwenker, president of Cardinal Capital Management, about 95 percent of those projects are done in partnership with nonprofit organizations, and 90 percent serve residents at or below the poverty line.
“Being a for-profit company provides us with the flexibility our nonprofit partners don’t always have,” Schwenker said. “It can be difficult for these organizations and their boards of directors to react quickly. We have to be prepared to help them, and we do.”
Cardinal Capital routinely steps in when grant money or additional funding doesn’t come through for specific projects, Schwenker said.
“We’re here to support these organizations throughout the entire process. If that means stepping up and finding money or furniture or other services, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
In addition to stepping up when needed financially, Cardinal Capital has made several internal commitments to better the lives of those who reside in its communities.
One such initiative is the company’s plan to provide free Wi-Fi in all of its units.
“The true cost of this is extensive,” Schwenker said. “But we can’t think in terms of dollars. Access to the Internet often means access to opportunities, access to jobs, access to other resources.”
According to Schwenker, while access has improved, minorities, people with disabilities, seniors and lower income households are less likely to have the technology available to access the Internet.
More than 1,000 units in the company’s portfolio are already connected, but Cardinal Capital hopes to continue to work to provide Internet access in all of its units.
Cardinal Capital employees believe in the company’s goals, and often take matters into their own hands.
This is evidenced by Chris Geiger, asset manager at Cardinal Capital, and his wife, Karla, who had a passion for gardening, starting what is now the Gardening Through Community initiative.
A program that began as a sharing of hobbies and talent has grown into a platform with social and economic effects in many communities in Wisconsin.
“Our passion for gardening, the outdoors and construction has evolved into (106) community garden beds at (56) housing sites, directly impacting (more than 2,800) residents,” Geiger said.
Not only do the gardens promote healthy eating, but they also educate residents, promote social interaction, encourage physical activity and improve psychological wellbeing.
“I’m very proud of this program,” Schwenker said. “It’s entirely volunteer-run, and while we support the program with some funding, our vendors and corporate sponsors have been wonderful.”
“It’s easy to recognize the needs and obstacles that our residents go through on a daily basis. I’m lucky enough to work for a company where our leadership and the employees really care about our residents,” said Lindsay O’Connell, social services manager.