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In case you missed it, ResMan is here to give you the 6 takeaways from NAHMA’s 2021 sessions regarding current conversations about the Affordable Housing Market. Janel Ganim, our Senior Vice President of Product, attended NAHMA October 19-21st for their third virtual conference since COVID-19.
“I know everyone misses the in-person events like I do,” Janel mentioned. “But it’s nice that NAHMA is still prioritizing safety and giving businesses an opportunity to network. They had really good participation. Attendees were actively asking questions and it was clear the engagement was high.”
At NAHMA, there were quite a few topics and conversations discussed around the current state of the Affordable market. Some were centered around new, pressing topics for Affordable, as COVID has continued to play a role in how the government is supporting the industry as a whole. Other topics were a continuation of previous conversations, expanding on problems and pain points with updates and new solutions. The most notable topics include:
- Emergency rental assistance plans
- Average Income Test and the IRS’ timeline on final regulations
- Vaccine mandates for government employees/contractors
- Supply chain disruption and staffing shortages
- TRACS 203A update
- Emotional assistance and de-escalation training for property staff
Emergency Rental Assistance Updates
Emergency rental assistance has been one of the consistent topics of discussion within the Affordable housing industry, especially around states who are struggling to get their funds distributed. Currently, the Treasure department is looking at underperforming (meaning less than a third of their funds have been distributed) grantees to see if they can create a sort of performance plan.
Right now, they’re considering reallocating funds to high-performing grantees who have distributed a lot of their money and might be looking for more funds. The Treasury Department stated they are trying to have all plans in place by the end of 2021.
Average Income Test
The Affordable Housing industry still waiting for a final rule from the IRS regarding the Average Income Test. The industry is still “business as usual” with their interpretation of the rule, which doesn’t necessarily align with the initial guidance put forth by the IRS since fixed unit income designations could in some cases conflict with other regulations (e.g. fair housing).
However, it is worth noting the IRS desperately needs to finalize the regulation with the new tax bill on the horizon which will undoubtedly take up majority of the IRS’ time. Hopefully, final guidance around average income test will be wrapped up and released soon.
Many attendees were asking about the new vaccine mandates for government employees and contractors and how this will apply to REAC inspectors. The short answer is REAC inspectors will be required to be vaccinated eventually. However, it sounds like it might take a while for vaccine mandates around REAC inspectors to roll out.
These mandates will also apply to government contractors such as project-based contract administrators who are monitoring contracts on behalf of HUD properties. Now those organizations are asking “What does this mean for me and my staff? How long do I have before I have to put this mandate in place?”
HUD did say they are looking to provide some guidance on that soon, but for now there is no timeline. The contracts in place for those PBCAs expire January 31st so HUD is working on an extension. However, they’re also going to address the mandate for vaccinations as a part of that guidance, too.
Supply Chain Disruption and Staffing Shortages
One of the biggest discussions during NAHMA’s 2021 sessions included the continued suffering in the industry due to supply chain disruption and staffing shortages. Many raised concerns about not being able to find people to work. From property managers to maintenance to even contract workers, there is a low supply of available workers out there. It’s not a salary issue at this point, either. Even with offering signing bonuses and other benefits, Affordable Housing properties are simply struggling to find qualified people.
It should be noted that government vaccine mandates are not the only reason or even the main reason for these shortages. Vaccine mandates might be affecting some areas with staffing shortages more than others. 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, a record high in the 21st century for the United States, so staffing shortages are happening in other industries, too.
Due to wage increases, a need for materials, and an increase in insurance, HUD staff are being told to expect budget-based rent increase requests to offset some of the costs that have been hurting operations. This speaks to the detrimental effects of shortages in supply chain and staffing. Properties’ concerns with shortages include the impact on the quality of housing for existing residents as routine maintenance and repairs aren’t able to get done in a timely manner. The shortage also impacts the speed at which properties can turn units, which leads to greater vacancy loss.
Timing on the TRACS (Tenant Rental Assistance Certification System) 203-A release has been a running joke – it’s been expected “soon” for what seems like an eternity. It seems like soon might finally be upon us, as HUD staff indicated they were wrapping up paperwork and ready for implementation in 2022. Software vendors showed concern as they need to know what those updates are, and need some lead time to make necessary product updates and roll them out to the industry. Typically, understanding the specs, updating code, and testing those changes is a three-to-six-month process.
HUD responded saying they were under the impression this was being communicated, but it turns out most of the software industry wasn’t aware of the timeline until the same week NAHMA’s 2021 sessions took place. Shortly after the conference, HUD sent out an email for a November 15th meeting to further discuss the TRACS 203A timeline.
Emotional Assistance and De-escalation Training
The Affordable industry has consistently spoken about the impact COVID has had on staff at properties and their ability to better engage with residents and maintain operations with online tools. The conversation shifted a bit toward residents and their mental health. After a recent shooting leaving two staff members dead, many are speaking up about the heavy increase in gang activity, police calls, domestic violence, and suicides in HUD properties.
Because of this, multiple management companies said they have implemented new training programs for their staff such as active-shooter training, suicide prevention training, and de-escalation training. Other properties are also brainstorming ideas to better support staff and residents. Some have created team member assistance hotlines as well as providing staff with walkie talkies that are on the same frequency as on-site security. Some suggested shelter-in-place plans and adding back doors to offices for necessary escape.
It’s unfortunate that crime rates are increasing at all, but what we’re seeing is consistent with the general decay in mental health and an increase in anger-related incidents in restaurants, airports and even entertainment venues. All in all, there will be an increase in safety features at HUD properties in the near future.
To hear more in-depth Affordable updates from NAHMA’s 2021 sessions, watch our latest Affordable Updates Webinar here.