Property manager LaTonya Fleming has been with Romney Meadows since it was acquired by new ownership in November 2015. Formerly dependent upon affordable housing herself, LaTonya takes pride in leading the management team onsite and feels that she has a special appreciation of the needs of her residents. LaTonya chooses to live at the property with her husband and three youngest children, believing that by living with her tenants she can be more engaged with them as a part of their community.
“By living on site, I’m able to interact with the residents even after hours. I can cater to their needs because I see up close what is happening,” says Fleming. “It’s nice living here because if there is something wrong, I can just tell them, ‘I’ll stop by and see you on my way home.’ And a lot of times I can defuse a situation or fix a problem without having to write it up formally. That makes our operation run a lot more smoothly, so it doesn’t have to escalate to higher management.”
As a single mother of four, LaTonya depended upon affordable housing in Chicago for over 11 years. “I have a good relationship with the people here because I’m one of them. I’m one of them meaning, not only do I live here, but I raised my kids as a single mother in Chicago in affordable housing just like this. Places like Romney Meadows allowed me to raise my children, get them the proper attention and care that they need, and focus on holding a job,” says Fleming. “I’m proud of having gone from low-income tenant to now managing a staff of nine and overseeing a 300+ unit property.”
Like several residents of the community, LaTonya emphasized that she appreciates the community resource that affordable housing provides for those on limited incomes just trying to get by. Properties like Romney Meadows can provide a critical safety net for families in need — providing a place to live while focusing on improving their financial position and independence. Many of the residents were previously unable to hold jobs or function on their own because of their living situation. Thanks to the resources in the community, many residents feel that they can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“It allows people to enjoy their community, and it enables people to live independently and successfully on their own without seeing it as a handout,” says Fleming. “Ultimately, the goal for the families at Romney Meadows is that they will not need affordable housing.”
The added security measures within the community — such as improved outdoor lighting, surveillance systems, and increased communication with the Lafayette Police Department — have given many residents peace of mind that they haven’t had their whole lives. Additionally, residents have access to other resources, like Bauer Family Resources, who offer educational child care services at the property.
In many ways, LaTonya’s history with affordable housing makes her an added resource to residents. The residents know they can rely on LaTonya to help them because she has an interest in the residents succeeding like she did. While she pushes residents to be active within the community, LaTonya also encourages residents to explore life outside of the community. For many residents, a personal life takes backseat to work and parenting. The Lafayette community is unique in that it offers a smaller, more-personal community. The Columbian Park Zoo, for example, is easy to get to and free to the public; a rarity found in a larger city.
“It’s a confidence thing,” says Fleming, “Affordable housing provides confidence to those who had none.”
Fleming says that the improvements at Romney Meadows have made it a prideful community.
“What we’re doing is cultivating an environment of people who want to actively participate in their community. It’s becoming a place that people want to be in, not just a place they have to be in.”