A new report finds that the average annual salary for full-time affordable housing service coordinators could make it difficult for providers to recruit new workers, could result in residents experiencing lapses in services, leaves workers feeling underappreciated and means that coordinators often are eligible for the same federal benefits programs as the low-income people they serve.
The average annual salary for full-time affordable housing service coordinators is $46,896, according to the report from the American Association of Service Coordinators. That salary amount is up from a range of $39,000 to $42,000 reported in the 2019 survey, but the increase represented little change due to inflation, according to report author Melissa Harris, AASC director of government affairs.
The majority (80%) of service coordinators received annual pay increases ranging from 1% to 3%, but most respondents to a survey said they are underpaid and, as a result, felt underappreciated by their organizations relative to the impact of their work. A previous evaluation of a housing with services model for older adults, conducted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, found that the model, which included service coordinators, could positively affect measures of resident wellness.
Harris said that the 2023 report is the most in-depth survey of the service coordinator workforce to date. The AASC surveyed 1,570 service coordinators from March 14 to April 10 on a range of labor and wage topics, including average hourly pay rates, education and years of service.
The primary population served by survey respondents were the elderly (86%), with the most common types of housing assistance programs served by respondents listed as HUD Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly (58%), HUD Section 236 (32%), tax credit (24%) and public housing authorities (18%).
“We’re hopeful that the survey results and the resources that showcase them will provide the necessary context for employers and policymakers to better understand the social and economic factors impacting service coordinator job satisfaction and salary needs,” Harris said.
Housing a challenge
Although wages have increased since the 2019 survey, service coordinators are facing economic headwinds from inflation and the lack of affordable housing for themselves, according to the report.
Inflation and the lack of affordable housing for workers has some reconsidering the profession and has driven others (53%) to take on second jobs to supplement their incomes, according to the report. Several respondents specifically called out the cost of housing in their communities as the reason for their inability to get ahead financially on their salaries.
An AASC comparison of survey responses to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2023 Out-of-Reach report found that the hourly wages of service coordinators aren’t enough for them to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment.
Some respondents said they are eligible for the same federal benefits programs as the low-income families and residents they serve.
In response to some of those issues, LeadingAge helped develop the Expanding Service Coordinators Act (HR 5177) to expand and improve service coordination programs in affordable housing, adding a potential funding mechanism for tax credit-financed housing. Among other supporters of the act, which was introduced in August and referred to committees, are the National Center for Assisted Living and providers HumanGood, National Church Residences, United Church Homes and Volunteers of America.
Issues for operators, residents
The departure of service coordinators from their positions could cause cascading effects that could further affect affordable housing challenges, Harris said.
A 2022 turnover report based on a survey of service coordinator employers found turnover rates as high as 70% in some companies since March 2020. Last summer, 57% of participating companies reported having open service coordinator positions, with it taking three to six months, on average, to fill positions.
“This is concerning because there is typically a lapse in services and supports for residents when there is turnover, but it’s especially harmful when there is an extended vacancy,” Harris said.
AASC typically completes a survey every two years, with the last being conducted in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic was part of the reason for the gap in reports, Harris said, but service coordinators took part in multiple large-scale research studies with Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies at a time when they were assuming more responsibilities as essential personnel during the pandemic.
To improve the circumstances of service coordinators, the report included several recommendations, including expanding program funding and resources, providing budget flexibility, including service coordinators in the annual budgeting process, and reducing caseloads.
The report also contains a state-by-state guide outlining average hourly wages, raises and benefits, as well as resources to address high turnover and difficulty attracting new staff members. Additional resources are included to help employers implement sustainable budgets for service coordinators.