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Serving with a Sense of Compassion | Joaquín Cintrón Vega

Serving with a Sense of Compassion | Joaquín Cintrón Vega

Joaquín Cintrón Vega

President  & CEO

Joaquín Cintrón Vega, Lucas Metropolitan Housing (LMH) president and chief executive officer, began his journey in his beloved Puerto Rico. He has overcome many challenges in his life, and those experiences provided the lessons that define who he is today—one of the most dynamic leaders in the residential housing industry.

Early in his life, he battled—and beat—cancer. The disease reshaped his perception of time and instilled in him the importance of maintaining a sense of compassion and appreciation for the simple and most essential things in life—like helping people obtain and maintain a place to call home. With a sense of understanding and a mission-driven approach, he is leading LMH to provide housing opportunities and supportive services to the Toledo area community. “Our mission is to create and maintain sustainable, affordable housing  opportunities, provide pathways to  a better quality of life, and empower vibrant communities,” explained Cintrón Vega.

Culture of Excellence

Under Cintrón Vega’s leadership, the agency is evolving and transforming its workplace culture through the LMH “Culture of Excellence Committee.”

“The Culture of Excellence Committee (COE) enhances the communication and engagement of staff at all levels. Furthermore, the committee strives to ensure that staff has an opportunity to openly express their opinions, share ideas and suggestions, and to simply have their voices heard,” he continued. Citing a famous quote by the Virgin Group’s founder Richard Branson, he concluded, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Among the topics that the committee considers include:

  • Operational Improvement
  • Proposed Activities
  • Training Needs
  • Engagement
  • Relationship with Management and Peers
  • Recognition
  • Feedback
  • Personal Growth
  • Alignment
  • Satisfaction
  • Wellness

By effectively communicating and recognizing its core values (Reliability, Excellence, Safety, Passion, Ethics, Commitment, and Teamwork—RESPECT) and providing employees with the voice and tools they need to do their best work, the LMH team is empowered to come together and focus on their daily challenges.

The Challenges

The low incomes of Toledo residents translate directly into housing problems. The main housing problem in Toledo is that households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs are cost-burdened. Cost-burdened households may be at risk for missed payments, foreclosure, eviction, or inability to provide for other necessities such as food, clothing, or transportation due to the amount of money being spent on housing costs. Cost burdened households account for nearly nine percent of all households in Toledo. Quality, affordable housing is an essential component of providing pathways for economic stability and the opportunity to transition from renting to owning if desired. Having a secure and safe place to live is the most immediate need of residents in public housing and those who have Housing Choice vouchers. Also, the lack of long-term and well-paying employment is an immediate need for this population group because the status quo will remain without access to better economic opportunities.

Access to social and community-based services can help residents of public housing and those with Housing Choice vouchers. LMH manages self-sufficiency programming and opportunities to meet the needs of the residents and has proudly watched as many participants have graduated from making better lives for themselves by either improving their level of educational attainment, improving their credit scores, or starting to save for a home.

Building Credibility and Reputation

Joaquín Cintrón Vega implemented a strategic approach to maintaining the agency’s financial resources based on key performance indicators. Those indicators are focused on measuring the effectiveness of LMH management and operations and its financial and programmatic compliance to achieve outcomes that result in business development opportunities. The approach proved to be effective. In 2020, LMH received the Ohio Auditor of State Award recognition. The Auditor of State’s office audits nearly 5,900 entities, and fewer than eight percent of all audited entities are even eligible for this award. It is the first time that LMH has received this award.

Looking Toward the Future

As part of LMH’s unconditional commitment to improving the quality of life for low-income families and individuals the Agency proudly serves, Joaquín established a two-pronged approach to deconcentration of poverty. The goal is to:

Create housing opportunities in existing high opportunity neighborhoods

Improve neighborhood conditions to create mixed-income communities of choice

“Following this approach, we plan to make a very significant investment in our community. Our vision is to reposition our assets to continue improving the quality of life and living conditions of our constituents,” said Cintrón Vega. One of the significant investments is the Collingwood Green project.

 

Collingwood Green Master Plan

To be built out over five phases, the Collingwood Green Master Plan is enthusiastically endorsed by community stakeholders. In 2012, HUD granted a Section 18 Demo/Disposition approval for the entire Brand Whitlock and Albertus Brown Homes sites, which were quickly demolished and prepared for redevelopment. The site is re-envisioned as a vibrant, new construction, mixed-income community centered on a new 20-acre site.

The initial three phases of Collingwood Green are now complete and provide 188 units of affordable housing within a mixed-income context:

  1. Collingwood Green Phase I: is a 65-unit elderly mid-rise, mixed-income building with a total development cost of more than $12 million.
  1. Collingwood Green Phase II: is a 68-unit mixed-income townhouse development targeted to families. The total development costs for Phase II exceed $15 million.
  1. Collingwood Green Phase III is a 55-unit mixed-income townhouse development targeted to families. LMH utilized the Department of Housing and Urban Development Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program to develop 28 of the 55 units. The total development costs of Phase III exceed $19 million. Phase III is certified LEED – Gold.

 

Upcoming LMH Projects

 Collingwood Green Phase IV: will build upon the successful Collingwood Green Phase I, II, and III projects. Phase IV is a continuation of the family townhouse design. This 40-unit project completes the townhouse portion of the development and adds community green space and a community building to support the activities in the neighborhood. The projected total development cost for this phase is $18 million.

Collingwood Green Phase V: completes the planned Five Phases for Collingwood Green Master Plan. Lucas Housing Services Corporation (LHSC), LMH’s not-for-profit affiliate, and National Church Residences—a national not-for-profit provider and developer of Affordable Housing for seniors—are partnering to develop Phase V of Collingwood Green. Phase V will be a 75-unit mixed-use, mid-rise building with commercial space on the first floor and will bookend the 20-acre site with a mid-rise building serving the elderly. The projected total development cost is $17 million. The agency already received a HUD Section 2020 award in the amount of $5.9 million.

Park Hotel: LHSC, in conjunction with the Community Housing Network (CHN), will develop the Park Hotel in Toledo, Ohio, from a vacant obsolete building into a transition-aged youth permanent supportive Housing project. This project is designed to include 43 one-bedroom apartments contained within an existing revitalized three-story structure. The proposed building provides socialization, counseling, and education resource space for resident use, along with required management and maintenance areas. Each unit will have a project-based rental assistance voucher attached to it.

Choice Neighborhood Initiative Grant Award:

HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) was started in 2010 to end cyclical poverty in targeted neighborhoods by creating mixed-income communities that offer opportunities for economic advancement. The CNI program helps local communities achieve program goals by providing two types of grants: planning grants and implementation grants. Following Cintrón Vega’s guidance and direction, LMH applied for and was awarded a 2020 Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Planning Grant for $450,000. LMH could leverage additional funding of $315,000 for a total CNI Planning project of $765,000.

There are individual plans for people, housing, and neighborhoods to create a community of choice. LMH will submit its CNI plan to HUD in 2023 and will later apply for a CNI Implementation Grant in which it will be eligible to receive up to $35 million to invest in our community.

Joaquín Cintrón Vega is committed to a process of true neighborhood transformation, including the implementation of a repositioning strategy that will impact the lives of thousands of families within his service area. A commitment that he is fulfilling with a sense of compassion, empathy, and dedication.

Joaquín Cintrón Vega Award

"CitrusBits is firmly planted at the intersection of user-focused design, mobile app development, digital strategy, and emerging technologies. "

Joaquín Cintrón Vega

President & CEO

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