Top Affordable Housing Software Features That Save You Time
Your affordable housing software should push your productivity, not your patience. A lack of effective software results in property management professionals wasting work hours duplicating data entry or inadvertently leasing to ineligible households.
With the right software provider, you can increase operational cost-savings while more effectively managing your time and expenses. However, budget restrictions and compliance hurdles can make it difficult to choose a solution that will set your organization up to meet long-term goals, according to Janel Ganim, vice president of compliance at RightSource Compliance.
“The affordable industry has historically run behind in technology as compared with other housing markets,” Ganim said. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon, which is unfortunate. I think a lot of the reason is that the industry does not have the budget that the conventional, student, and military housing markets have to invest in technology. The affordable housing industry has very little control over rents they can charge, whereas the conventional industry can react to different market conditions.”
As a result, many property management professionals in the affordable housing market have not prioritized software. But that’s all starting to change as more and more realize how these solutions can boost their bottom line — and restore their sanity.
Choosing the right provider is not easy, especially when you couple budget restrictions with the many different features each vendor offers. How can you quiet the chaos to find a software partner with the features that will best meet your organization’s long-term needs?
Below, we explore 4 affordable housing software features that are guaranteed to help you operate in the most compliant, efficient, and logical way.
1. Ensure the Affordable Housing Solution Supports Multiple Subsidy Layers
One of the most important reasons property managers opt to use affordable housing software is because of compliance, said Ganim. In particular, most properties have multiple layers of subsidies which equates to multiple sets of rules to follow. Without software to support these multiple layers, it becomes extraordinarily difficult for on-site staff to keep up with regulations and requirements.
Most vendors support basic eligibility tracking, but it’s important to prioritize solutions that can handle multiple subsidies, Ganim said. The property manager’s goal is to lease to eligible households to avoid losing money — a task that is exasperating if you are manually tracking eligibility.
Your affordable housing software should support a combination of programs — including HUD, tax credits, and rural development — through a single platform.
2. Prioritize Software That’s Up-to-Date on TRACS Standards
Another critical feature to consider is a modern platform that keeps up with Tenant Rental Assistance Certification System (TRACS) standards, such as electronic signatures and document storage.
Soon, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will release a notice to allow the use of e-storage and e-signatures for tenant certification and monthly vouchers, Ganim said. The notice will provide detailed requirements on record retention, encryption, how to properly destroy data, and more.
“One of the things we see with HUD is they have to come in and [recertify the household’s] income on a yearly basis,” she added. “To do that electronically with your residents and make sure those re-certifications are completed on time, would be great. If those aren’t completed on time, it results in adjustments that have to be made on the accounting side. If the rent changes or if you have to terminate their subsidy because they didn’t recertify on time, then you have to reinstate it retroactively. It’s just a lot of headache for on-site staff to go through, as well as for the resident.”
Additional benefits of electronic document storage are that it offers a way to preserve paperwork and tenant files in the event of a natural disaster, and it provides a more seamless way to handle file reviews and audits.
“If you have e-storage of documents, you don’t have to have that auditor from the state agency physically on your property going through your files; they can do that from their office,” Ganim said. “This saves travel costs for the state agency, and let’s be honest, it saves stress for the on-site staff because it’s that much less time that you have an auditor physically on your property.”
3. Scout for a Seamless System and User-Friendly Workflow
Affordable housing software should offer a seamless system to help process move-ins, certifications, and compliance hurdles while eliminating operational losses. It is critical to scout software with a user-friendly workflow that allows you to easily customize approval workflows, regardless of whether or not you use a centralized compliance department.
Having the ability to access all the data and documents needed to qualify a household on one screen is a game-changer. Compound these features with the ability to track certifications, monitor compliance issues, and set up email notifications when certifications are submitted through the workflow, and you have a platform ripe for the picking.
4. Make Sure the Software Offers Efficient Reporting Capabilities
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the affordable housing industry is keeping up with state and federal reporting requirements.
Not all tax credit properties are required to submit electronically, but HUD and rural housing properties must submit at least monthly. Additionally, there are specific reporting requirements for tax credit properties. Considering the subsidy is granted at a state level, some states could require quarterly reporting while others require monthly. The agency may also ask for an electronic report in one state and a paper report in the other.
“A lot of the state agencies require electronic data submissions, and most software packages can export that data into whatever reporting format the state agency wants, or there are ways [the software] can upload the data onto an agency website,” Ganim said. “For people who don’t have that software, that is manual data entry, and in some cases that is a year’s worth of data.”
Affordable housing software significantly eases the process, minimizes human error, and cuts down on precious work hours spent on manual data entry.
The Bottom Line
Keeping up with the details of compliance, operations, and overhead costs for even the simplest affordable portfolios is challenging — especially without compliance technology. While most solutions offer standard features to help mitigate risk and manage expenses, it’s worth the time and effort to search for innovative affordable housing software that will help you reclaim productivity and increase efficiency.
With the right technology system in place, you can ensure your organization operates seamlessly to meet long-term goals. Keep these 4 features in mind as you scout for providers to better position your organization for continued success.