Equity LifeStyle Properties is a real estate investment trust (REIT) traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ELS." Our size, national scope and status as a publicly traded company afford us benefits unavailable to smaller, private owners. We have access to capital that allows us to grow, and to expand and upgrade existing communities. We are able to streamline our management operations, owning multiple communities in the same market areas. Our broad presence in 32 states and British Columbia protects the company from economic downturns in any one market. Furthermore, our reputation allows us to attract and retain some of the best employees in the business.
Our portfolio of communities has grown significantly since our initial public offering when Equity Lifestyle’s owned and managed, or had a controlling interest in 40 communities with 12,000 home sites compared to today with more than 370 communities and resorts with nearly 140,000 sites. Our regional management offices located in key areas of the country keep us close to our communities and help us effectively manage our expansive portfolio. We continue to add to our portfolio carefully, looking for communities that meet our high standards.
While we have been a public company only since 1993, we have been in the business for over thirty years. We have done much in that time to consolidate a highly fragmented industry, improve service levels to residents and elevate the reputation of manufactured housing overall. We believe our companywide strengths, combined with the increasing popularity of the lifestyle found in our communities, ensure our growth and continued success in the future.
The key to creating both satisfied residents and shareholder value is effective management. Virtually all of Equity LifeStyle's community managers have several years of property management experience when they are selected to join the company. Managers typically receive extensive systems training, giving them access to up-to-the-minute information, which is a vital resource that allows them to run communities efficiently. Because managers generally live on-site, they also serve as social directors and often sales representatives at the community. Theirs is a hands-on management job that is both demanding and rewarding.
Our community managers are supported and led by a skilled and experienced corporate management team. Regional offices keep management close to communities and current on each area's competitive conditions. In addition to regional offices, our corporate headquarters provides vital in-house services such as accounting support, market analysis, due diligence and property management expertise.
Many communities are irreplaceable assets, found in locations where these types of developments simply cannot be built anymore -- along lakes, near beaches, nestled among mountains or overlooking scenic desert landscapes. These are one-of-a-kind properties, much sought after by residents and investors. Only a finite number of quality, investment-grade site-set housing communities exist across the country. Significant barriers to entry and strict zoning laws make it extremely difficult to develop new communities, making Equity LifeStyle's properties even more valuable.
Equity LifeStyle owns and operates some of the best communities in the country. In fact, over the last three years, seven communities have been recognized by the Manufactured Housing Institute with Community of the Year awards for the outstanding quality of the properties and professionalism of management. Our communities frequently offer residents resort-like amenities including golf courses, clubhouses and tennis courts. Organized activities such as exercise classes, clubhouse parties and group outings provide residents a real sense of community.
Equity LifeStyle's presence in 32 states and British Columbia creates a strong brand-awareness of our commitment to the industry and to the high-end of the market. Our clusters of communities create economies of scale in operations, allowing us to offer residents high levels of services and amenities at attractive prices. Plus, our nationwide operations insulate us from the effects of economic downturns in any one region of the country.
With 30 years of experience in the business, Equity LifeStyle Properties has developed a prominent history in the site-set housing industry. We currently own and operate more than 370 communities and resorts in 32 states and British Columbia. By establishing a reputation of adding value to the communities we own, we have forged lasting relationships throughout the industry and helped transform the image of site-set housing.