Celebrating National Fair Housing Month with Anne Sadovsky

The industry and ResMan are celebrating National Fair Housing Month to educate and spotlight the very real and ongoing discrimination that still happens within rental housing, even decades later. Let’s take a look back on Fair Housing since its beginnings in April of 1968.

What is the Fair Housing Act? 

The Fair Housing Act is a law created to help limit discriminatory practices related to landlords, tenants, and housing. The act was created on the principle that every American should have an equal opportunity to seek a place to live, without being afraid of discrimination due to factors outside their control. At this time 54 years ago, The Fair Housing Act was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson, a law that has motivated change within the property management industry since its passing.

The Fair Housing Act’s Creation 

Attempts at fair housing in America have been around since the mid-1800s, but it was not until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that any real change took place. The Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were two of the first attempts to address discrimination. The real groundbreaking legislation, however, was the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which was established one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. 

fair housing month
Fair Housing Milestones since its passing in 1968

Sitting Down with Fair Housing Expert, Anne Sadovsky

As someone who worked in property management when the Fair Housing Act was passed, Anne Sadovsky has been a champion for rental housing and spends most of her time speaking to properties about Fair Housing, helping them stay compliant and accountable for their residents and the laws around discrimination. We sat down with Anne to ask her a little bit about her history with Fair Housing and to better understand how far the industry has come since 1968:  

It’s National Fair Housing Month. You were actually working at your first property management company a few months before the bill was passed. Tell us what you remember about the environment before the law was put into place.  

I was new enough that I had no experience to understand what was happening at the site level.  Training was almost non-existent. I approached my boss and suggested that we start training our team members, (in general and with things like Fair Housing laws).  He said “Fine, you do it.”  I had never worked on site, so I started visiting and working weekends just to see what they were doing.  I was stunned! Every protected class has been denied equal treatment.  When I started in the industry, we made mothers cry when WE told THEM that the property was “all adult, no kids allowed.” 

It’s been 54 years since the Fair Housing Act went into place. What do you remember changing and did it change quickly? Feel free to share stories.   

I had no clue about discrimination and fair housing. 

Working in “HR” as personnel recruiter, I was not involved in on site daily operations. I did share in the podcast that two people from ‘the government’ showed up at my office and asked “how many “black people I had hired for management jobs.”  I replied that I had not had any applicants from people of color.  It was suggested that I change that.  My question was ‘I am happy to do that, however I am not sure how to legally recruit people of color specifically. They responded with, “If you haven’t had any people of color apply in the next 6 months, we’ll bring you some to come work for you.” That’s what I remember about the early months of Fair Housing. 

What was the response from your colleagues in the apartment industry to the Fair Housing Act? Do you remember people you worked with having any pushback or resistance?    

I didn’t start teaching FH (Fair Housing) until 1988 when the last protected classes were added.  Familial Status and Handicapped/Disabled changed the way we did business greatly.  Prior to familial status being protected by law, we flat out advertised and told people “Adult living, no children allowed.”  

fair housing month
Anne Sadovsky in the 80s

In 2022, how has the industry improved and where could it use room for improvement when it comes to Fair Housing?   

Savvy educated housing providers do a respectable job of complying with the longer- term laws. As America has become more sensitive to the LGBTQAI community and people with non-visible disabilities plus Sexual Harassment/Violence Against Women and Felons, the industry is still in a learning curve.  Sadly, smaller companies, individually owned and managed properties seem to be less educated in Fair Housing and get many of the complaints filed.  Sexual harassment, especially against low-income women, is a frequent issue.  

As someone who supports and speaks frequently about it, why is Fair Housing so important to you?   

First…I love this business, my clients, the associations and my desire is to help them stay out of Fair Housing trouble.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid in fines annually.  HUD is justifiably serious about compliance and is funding big sums of money to the local housing authorities.  Much of the money is used to hire testers/shoppers. What we might consider entrapment, HUD considers ‘law enforcement.”   I have a new class titled “What Testers are Looking For Today.”  I will explain who testers are, how they are trained and paid and how the best (and really only) plan is to know the laws and comply! 

What would life be like without the Fair Housing Act?   

Some housing providers feel many elements of the law are unfair; such as being fined for words, behaviors, and errors of employees.  Or for mistakes made by architects in the lack of accessibility, or for persons being segregated based on the color of their skin or A disability. 

This act came into being to assure EQUALITY.  That’s what America is all about! 
For more than 50 years we have been instructed and expected TO respect the rights of every renter.  Yet many housing providers still fail to educate and supervise their team members.  We hear the stories of ‘landlords’ who think they are above the law, who blatantly disregard it.  
We also see huge fines, even owners who are never again allowed to manage their assets. 

When one drives 80 miles per hour in a 40 MPH speed limit they should expect penalties.  When housing providers discriminate, they should expect the same. 

EDUCATION IS CRITICAL AND SHOULD BE PROVIDED AT LEAST TWICE A YEAR! 

About Anne Sadovsky: 

Anne Sadovsky is a Dallas based professional speaker. She provides training, keynotes and counsel to a variety of industries, businesses and associations and is a former Vice President of Marketing and Education of Lincoln Property Company. Her expertise makes her a sought- after speaker, consultant and trainer and her training via Zoom, webinars and seminars have educated thousands. She has officially flown almost four million miles sharing her experience, expertise, wisdom and wit.   

Her most sought- after topics include Fair Housing, Customer Relations and Retention, Conflict Resolution, Change Management, Leadership Skills and Dealing with Generational Differences…customizing topics is her specialty. 

Anne is a widely published author and a popular guest on radio and television talk shows nationally. Her success story has been written about in many newspapers and magazines including MONEY MAGAZINE, TEXAS BUSINESS and LADIES HOME JOURNAL. 

MIRABELLA Magazine listed her as one of the One Thousand Women of the 90’s, along with Mother Teresa and Oprah Winfrey. Anne’s book “Mission Possible” with Stephen Covey and Brian Tracy was a best seller.   Multi Family Pro and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas have honored her with Legends Awards.  She is affiliated with numerous business and professional organizations. 

She has earned a Texas Real Estate license, and is a CAM, CAPS, and RAM, a CSP Designation from the National Speakers Association along with many other designations and honorary positions. Anne is one of the most astute trainers in Fair Housing and Diversity in the industry. She has been named one of the Top Trainers by Multi Housing News. 

Hundreds of thousands of people have been inspired and challenged by Anne’s story. Her message is common sense, entertaining, and enlightening. She specializes in teaching people skills and believes that “where the rubber hits the road” is when people actually come face to face. She makes a difference and helps create success in both business and personal lives. 

On a personal note, Anne is ecstatically married, has two spoiled dogs and 2 noisy parrots, a large family and loves living a joyful life! You can book Anne Sadovsky for speaking engagements and learn more at annesadovsky.com.

Electronic Documents: Why Affordable Housing Is Behind and How to Solve It

It’s hard to believe that many Affordable Housing properties are still using paper-based filing systems. With paper filing comes a lot of unnecessary risk. Think about if your property were to experience a fire, flood or any other natural disaster that would result in the loss of documents. There would be no backup or chance of retrieving important files. It’s not just an unexpected disaster that can cause problems. Human errors occur every day and can contribute to the loss of files which is why filing cabinets and paper filing desperately need to be left behind. So why hasn’t everyone moved to electronic document storage and what is the solution? 

Analysis Paralysis 

While it sounds exciting to have technology automatically store documents for you, the thought of moving from paper to electronic can quickly turn that excitement into a state of panic. When you look at your filing cabinets and how much scanning and organizing it would take to transfer them digitally, switching may seem like a time-consuming, no-end-in-sight project. This results in analysis paralysis. 

But there are options you can consider when it comes to adopting technology without having to worry about transferring everything over right away. One of the most common approaches is just starting to use technology to store newly created documents online. Don’t stress about all the documents prior to today. If you start today, then annual reporting in 2023 will be a breeze! But if you continue to wait, it will always feel like there’s no end in sight to the pain of paper-based annual reporting. 

Should you want to tackle all your old files, treat it as a project you can chip away at. Consider hiring an intern or have your staff dedicate one hour each Friday to scanning and organizing files. 

Document Storage Costs Should Not Be A Deterrent 

One concern with switching to paperless documents is the ongoing cost of electronic document storage. Document storage plans are not always free, and when looking at the number of documents you create and file on average, that cost can add up quickly. However, when you consider the cost of the space needed to store and time needed to manage paper documents, you will most likely find that storing documents electronically is actually cheaper.  

As you are looking for an electronic document storage solution, be sure to compare costs. Some software (like ResMan) comes with unlimited document storage as part of your property management platform subscription, while others charge extra based on volume. If you do go with a volume-based plan, to minimize any initial cost impact, you can simply start by uploading new files. Then, over time, old files will reach their retention limits and you’ll be done with paper documents and filing cabinets for good! 

Another benefit of storing documents electronically is being able to move applications and leasing online, which makes operations much smoother for both tenants and for your team. In 2020, HUD approved the use of electronic signatures which cleared the way for Affordable properties and their residents to handle the majority of their paperwork electronically. Electronic signatures eliminate the delay associated with finding a meeting time that works for both the prospective tenant and the onsite team. They reduce the amount of traffic coming into the leasing office, allowing the site staff to focus on other tasks. They have also systematized the application process which produces electronic timestamps to secure positions on waitlists, minimizing the opportunity for discrimination or bias. 

The concept of an electronic signature is sometimes confusing for teams initially because folks assume that signing a paper document and scanning it to store electronically makes it an electronic signature. This is NOT the case. Electronic signatures do not involve paper and pen. Instead, documents such as applications and leases are presented to tenants to be signed online through a phone or computer using software that meets specific security requirements.  

Lean on Your Provider Software to Support Your Transition 

One of the main concerns that arises around switching to online applications, leasing and electronic signatures is getting staff trained and up-to-speed so there aren’t any hiccups. Of course, you want to know your staff are doing things correctly but the idea of training staff for a new tech stack sounds like a feat. 

This is where your software provider should step in. Software providers have been transferring documents into digital and working with electronic applications and payments for years within conventional, student housing and military housing. Affordable housing has just been a late adopter. However, it’s clear software providers are experienced and trustworthy. Ask your software provider for help as they know all the guidelines around electronic signatures and electronic documentation and might even have video tutorials to share more information. 

Technology is Secure, Efficient, and Effective 

Moving your documents, applications, leases, payments and recertifications online will make everything easier for your team and your tenants. Your staff will be well trained with support from your software provider, and should be well-equipped to handle document storage smoothly. Your applicants can apply online and tenants will be able to sign leases for your staff to review much quicker and with little to no hassle, ensuring a more streamlined process. 

Additionally, annual reporting season will be a breeze as software can give specific access to auditors so they may access documents electronically, saving staff time from the digging up of documents and back-and-forth emailing. With technology, auditors can do all their tasks remotely instead of at the leasing office. 

All in all, technology will enable your property to be more efficient, saving both time and money, as well as decreasing disruptions in your overall operations and annual reporting seasons. And if you’re one of the properties stuck in analysis paralysis, consider the ideas and options suggested above to ensure effective and useful adoption along the way.  

Want to stay up to date on the Affordable Housing industry? Like and download our Cocktails & Compliance Podcast.

4 Things to Consider for Affordable Housing in 2022

The New Year is already in full swing and it is going to be a big one for property management companies, specifically in Affordable housing. 2021 was another year of pivoting for the industry as the Great Resignation sparked staffing shortages, we grappled with COVID-related supply chain issues, and we experienced an increase in mental health related incidents at properties. As we enter 2022 these issues are still front and center – plus, it’s now Tax Credit reporting season!  

While there’s a lot we can’t control that will continue to require improvisation, we believe there are four changes that affordable housing property management companies can make to better position themselves for success in 2022 and beyond.  

1. Automate Tax Credit Annual Reporting 

It is annual reporting season for tax credit properties and for many, this comes with a lot of grumbling and moaning. The common denominator for those who are dreading annual reports comes down to how manual the process is for properties who do not have the right software. Tracking down the vast amount of paperwork and reporting all while knowing the smallest oversight could have detrimental effects puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your team. 

By moving to an Affordable housing software now in the new year, you won’t need to put this burden on your team again as the software will create annual reports for you. Keeping all paperwork and reporting within the software and under one roof helps eliminate the chances of human error and reduces manual work around filing and keeping track of important documents. Above all, it saves your team time and stress. You can rest easy throughout the year knowing the next annual reporting season will be more of a breeze. 

2. Improve Operating Efficiency and Reduce Risk With Technology  

When you look at the last couple of decades and the contributions technology has made to everyday life, it’s not difficult to realize how it can also enable properties to be more efficient and deliver greater value to owners and investors. But how exactly does technology contribute to affordable properties and why is it so necessary to have in 2022? 

Some of the immediate benefits revolve around operations. Switching to online leasing and online payments not only helps property managers complete back-office work more efficiently, but also allows residents (who are already proficient in using technology in their everyday lives) to deliver documents and payments with little to no hassle. 

To go alongside that, the Great Resignation has mostly stemmed from Millennials and Gen Z demanding a healthier and happier work environment. Seeing as those two generations grew up using technology and have faster adoption to tech than other generations, adding modern tech to your property’s operations will also help attract and retain staff. 

Technology has continuously given people back their time. Since time is money, using tech has the indirect benefit of lower operational costs and increased efficiency for your property. This only further contributes to your property’s success as your staff can be better focused on more important tasks at hand. 

For example, many Affordable properties are storing documents in filing cabinets, scanning and uploading documents by hand. Having software that creates, stores, and compiles documents frees up time and eliminates the possibility of human errors like losing or misplacing important files. Going paperless with the right technology is actually safer and more secure – and let’s face it, no one loves digging into filing cabinets anymore. 

Technology can’t do everything for your property, but it can help you get more done with the team you have and minimize the risk of human error.  

TRACS 203-A 

For those already using affordable housing property management software or if you’re a software vendor, TRACS 203-A has been an ongoing conversation, and we seem to finally be in the home stretch, with implementation expected to start in the second half of 2022. Currently, software vendors are waiting for further guidance from HUD. One good thing to note is the conversation is picking up speed which is why there is some expectation that implementation will happen soon (“Finally!”). 

Once we have an official date, it will be important for vendors to put a plan in place internally to deliver software updates and train teams on the changes. If this isn’t on your radar now, it should be. Our goal is to set up our users for success by having a plan in place to implement changes smoothly and seamlessly. 

3. Provide Better Mental Health Support 

Mental health has been a hot topic for the Affordable housing industry, as of late. Properties are seeing the effects of the pandemic on their residents and as a result, police calls, domestic violence, gang activity, and suicides have increased noticeably. 

Toward the end of 2021, many properties spoke up about putting training in place for frontline workers, specifically for active-shooters, suicide prevention, and general de-escalation training. It’s unfortunate that this is a problem at all for properties, however, it’s important to consider the best ways to enable your frontline staff to handle and recover from catastrophic occurrences around the property. 

The more your staff is supported, the more your residents can also be supported. Providing resources for your residents and employees can also indirectly contribute to the growth of your property. A happy staff and happy residents create safety and helps residents get past barriers they may be experiencing in life. Consider having local hotlines and getting corporate involved as a sounding board for your residents and staff. Be sure that contact information for available resources is accessible to those who may need it. 

Creating a supportive property will help residents do things like pay their rent in a timely manner and will foster an environment residents can truly call home. 

4. Improve Team Satisfaction and Retention  

As Affordable properties pivot from the Great Resignation, it’s time to consider what they can do to retain employees and prevent further resignations. What matters most is showing a clear investment in your staff and training them well so they can be set up for success and career growth. 

Consider your employees: what skill sets do they have? What are their goals? Use that information to map out individualized career plans to get them where they want to go. Have annual or quarterly check-ins set up between managers and their employees so progress can be evaluated and adjustments can be made accordingly. Employees will stay with you if they are learning and growing. 

Encourage management to give positive feedback and affirmation to employees when they complete tough trainings or projects. Affirmation goes a long way in boosting employee’s overall happiness in the workplace. If all feedback is negative despite their growth and progress, they will burnout and leave quickly. 

Another thing to consider is allowing a place for employees to give feedback. Statistics show that retention rates for employees decrease 16% when they feel like they can’t give feedback to their management. But remember that this also requires those who receive the feedback to be open-minded and to actually consider the feedback given by frontline staff.  

Evaluate your training programs for new employees and recurring training programs for veteran staff. 10% of employees will leave early due to poor onboarding and training experiences.  

To read more about emerging trends in Affordable housing, check out this white paper

ResMan Recaps NMHC’s OPTECH 2021

Last week, the ResMan team headed to National Harbor, Maryland for the first in-person OPTECH event in two years. OPTECH 2021 was hosted at the newly renovated Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just south of Washington D.C. The hotel and convention center made for a large space, covering three floors for sessions and the trade show floor. 

Over 2,000 attendees and vendors eagerly arrived Monday evening, all of them excited to see both old and new faces at this year’s event. The first night was a great networking opportunity both in and outside of the trade show floor.  

Our Booth at OPTECH 2021 

optech 2021

ResMan’s booth featured our dual touch screen demo stations where attendees could experience first-hand how intuitive and easy-to-use our conventional and affordable solutions are, with many taking the lead in demoing the accounting, budgeting, payments, and online leasing capabilities within the comprehensive platform.  

Our favorite points of conversation revolved around both old and new features launched here at ResMan. Our popular Credit Builder feature allows residents to report their on-time rental payments to credit bureaus, ensuring their largest monthly payments are rewarded with credit growth. Along with that, we shared our new payments feature which will help property managers collect rent hassle-free. The other eye-catching solution we shared was ResMan Websites, which offers high conversion features such as interactive site maps, virtual tours, neighborhood explorers, and unit-specific floor plans. The best part? There’s no coding knowledge needed. Teams are allowed to easily edit website content on the fly, including videos, photos and text.  

Sessions 

The sessions this year were the talk of the conference. NMHC did a wonderful job at providing thought-provoking sessions from knowledgeable leaders in the industry. A majority of conversations revolved around data, technology and the impact of COVID-19 on both businesses and people within property management. 

The Keynote speaker, Suneel Gupta, CEO of Rise, concluded Tuesday’s sessions with a particularly insightful conversation around burnout and coping with feelings of failure in the workplace.  

“We’ve been told success is a result of hard work and grit,” Suneel remarked. “And yet, if you look at the definitions of grit – relentlessness, instant responsiveness, being always on, doing whatever it takes to win – those are also the same actions that lead to burnout. It suggests employees to see grit and burnout as the path to success.” 

$500 Travel Voucher Giveaway 

Giveaways and swag are always a fun part of trade shows. We offered a $500 travel voucher giveaway to booth visitors at OPTECH 2021 as a thank you for stopping by. We will be selecting a winner this week and are excited to give out a nice gift that hopefully brings a much-needed chance to disconnect, relax and recharge! If you visited our booth, be sure to check your inbox this week to see if you won!  

Wrapping Up A Great Event 

It was a fun and exciting week at OPTECH 2021 and we cannot wait for next year’s event. Until then, we’ll be working on enhancements that bring even more efficiencies to our customers in 2022. All in all, NMHC’s OPTECH is a great event and we hope attendees and vendors alike appreciated all of the great content and conversations like we did. Hope to see you in 2022! 

If you attended OPTECH and didn’t have the chance to visit our booth or talk to one of our team members, we would love to connect! Simply fill out a form here to chat with one of our experts! 

6 Takeaways from NAHMA’s 2021 Sessions ft. Janel Ganim

Interested in hearing Affordable Housing Market Updates year round? Try joining the National Affordable Housing Market Association (NAHMA) and join us year round for market updates and trade shows. Check out their membership options here.

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: 

  1. Emergency rental assistance plans 
  2. Average Income Test and the IRS’ timeline on final regulations 
  3. Vaccine mandates for government employees/contractors 
  4. Supply chain disruption and staffing shortages 
  5. TRACS 203A update 
  6. 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. 

Vaccine Mandates 

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.  

TRACS 203A 

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. 

How to Stay on Top of Evolving Affordable Housing Regulations and Legislation

Due to the complexity of affordable housing compliance and ever-changing regulations, keeping on-site teams engaged is essential. During the peak of COVID, it became even harder, as the number of updates increased. Industry professionals also couldn’t easily connect at events. In-person conferences and events allowed affordable housing professionals a chance to network and learn from their peers. For newcomers, properties could offer in-person training for their software and other systems.   

Because so many conferences and training sessions have moved online, it’s been hard for on-site staff to stay engaged and connected with the affordable housing community. Not only is this isolating for all of us who miss in-person events, but it can also be difficult to keep up with changing affordable housing compliance regulations. 

Affordable Housing Compliance Tips and Resources 

–  Sign up for as many news email push-alerts as you can. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Council for State Housing Agencies (NCSHA), the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA), the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing (CARH) and others offer this information. You might be hit with the same news more than once, but it’s a sure thing you won’t miss it. 

–  Organizations that focus on affordable housing, such as NAHMA and CARH, updated resources on their websites, and many will deliver daily or weekly newsletters that cover evolving topics, legislation and regulations. These organizations also host timely webinars that feature leading experts in their niche housing markets. 

–  ResMan’s affordable housing team also tracks important news affecting affordable housing and provides timely updates in our Compliance Dashboard to help teams keep up with changing guidance. 

–  There are many qualified HUD trainers. Identify those who address your responsibilities and follow them on social media, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. For me, I find that Mary Ross has a lot of valuable information to share. She provides clients with high-level consultation and advice on how to succeed when managing properties set aside for low-income families. 

–  Join your local apartment association or chapter of a national associations to gain invaluable insights. 

resman-affordable

Affordable Housing Associations to Follow or Join

The National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) is one of the leading voices of affordable housing management and advocates for multifamily affordable housing professionals in the U.S. Joining NAHMA is one of the best ways for professionals in our industry to plug in, network with peers and get access to a variety of educational resources. 

The Council for Affordable and Rural Housing (CARH) is a national non-profit focused on supporting affordable rural housing professionals. They offer a variety of educational resources and industry insights. 

The National Council for State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) is a leading advocate for affordable housing and represents the housing finance agencies of every U.S. state and territory. They provide education and advocacy for housing finance agencies and offer a variety of resources on their website. 

As we all work our way through these evolving and sometime disrupted times, connecting and staying in touch with important resources will make your operations go more smoothly. 

Post Pandemic Technology Trends in Affordable Property Management

One of the fastest growing trends in affordable property management during the pandemic has been an increased adoption of and reliance on technology. 67 percent of polled affordable housing professionals report shifting to greater digital reliance in 2020. 22 percent of those polled place technology within their top three priorities for 2021. 

How Technology Streamlines Affordable Property Management  

Leasing 

Affordable property management professionals are using online applications, managing recertifications online and adopting electronic document storage. Having unlimited electronic document storage is key for Management and Occupancy Review (MOR) preparation. With electronic signatures approved by HUD in April 2020, professionals in the industry expect this trend to grow rapidly. 

Changes are ongoing for HUD guidelines on electronic file protocols. Guidance on communicating compliance with EIV reporting requirements, including web meetings, is still pending, but Housing Notice 2020-04 is now obsolete and has been replaced entirely by HN 2020-10, which includes these two additions: 

– Section II.A – Adds 811 PRA to the applicable Multifamily Housing Programs who may use the instruction in the Notice. 

– Section VII.B.5 – Revises the language regarding access to electronic versions of the tenant file to Independent Public Auditors to specifically not allow access to EIV reports. IPAs must comply with the EIV Rules of Behavior which requires that EIV information be reviewed on site or at the management company office. 

Resident Communication 

SMS/text messaging is preferred by many residents of all ages, and affordable property management professionals are adopting this popular communication channel. Phone calls are time-consuming for staff, especially when they go unanswered. Text messaging is convenient for both staff and residents and preserves a written record of conversations and notifications if integrated with your property management software. 

Self-serve accounts are a baseline expectation for consumers today. Resident portals allow residents to manage all their communications, property notifications, payments, service requests, document uploading, and package delivery preferences in one convenient location. This gives your staff more time to focus on higher priority tasks. 

Rent Collections 

Certain legislation has driven the adoption of increased and expanded online payment options for residents in some states, which could become more widespread. The most recent trends we’ve seen include: 

– ACH 

– Card payments (credit/debit) – New Jersey signed a law in January requiring affordable property management companies to accept credit card payments for rent during the COVID-19 emergency and for one year following the end of the emergency. The legislation states that transaction fees can be passed along to residents, and any amounts reversed by the credit card company due to claims of fraudulent activity would be considered unpaid rent. 

– Cash/wire pay (Greendot/Western Union) 

– Flex pay (twice a month/weekly) 

– Credit bureau reporting – California now requires affordable property management companies to give tenants the option to report rent payments to the credit bureaus. HUD is still considering whether to allow residents to be charged for the service. 

Maintenance 

Maintenance is a major component of affordable property management. More properties are leveraging the power and convenience of software to manage critical maintenance processes, such as work orders and inspections across multiple locations. 

Internal Processes 

Some affordable housing professionals are stepping up their technology usage with online training (software, internal company training) and internal collaboration on shared documents, budgets, policies and procedures. 

multifamily-cta

What’s Next for Affordable Property Management Technology? 

The biggest technology adoption trend to date has been online applications, with online payments currently picking up speed.  

The end of the eviction moratoriums will usher in a backlog of cases, clusters of vacancies, and an Increase in vacancy-related activities. So, it will be more important than ever to leverage technology for greater efficiency and revenue generation. Relevant tools to have in place include: 

– Mobile maintenance solutions for unit inspections, work orders and make-readies

–  Leasing solutions such as electronic waitlists and online applications, which allow you to enact the entire leasing process online from start to finish. 

Technology will continue to offer a competitive edge for property managers, enabling more efficient revenue-generating operations and a better experience for prospects and residents. 

See how ResMan Affordable can help you maintain compliance and maximize efficiency!

3 Key Takeaways from the 2021 CARH Midyear Meeting

ResMan’s Senior Vice President of Product, Janel Ganim, recently attended the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing’s (CARH) 2021 Virtual Midyear Meeting. As an expert in affordable housing, here are her takeaways.

The affordable housing industry is a tight knit community—one I’m pleased to be involved in. My fellow ResMan teammate and friend, Rue Fox, and I attend meetings, conferences and trade shows to meet others in the industry, learn from them and get a better understanding of how we can improve the ResMan’s affordable housing software to better serve their needs.

While we’re only able to attend remote meetings right now, we’re so ready to get back to in-person gatherings and see friendly faces again. Until then, virtual events with associations like CARH and NAHMA have been a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of affordable housing and stay informed.

I recently attended the 2021 CARH Midyear Meeting at the end of January, which was a great opportunity to hear from affordable and rural housing managers and industry experts in the public and private sector.

While the agenda covered everything from regulatory changes and future legislation to industry trends and best practices, here are a few key points from the meeting:

resman-affordable

1. Hybrid Conferences

Due to COVID-19, organizations across industries had to choose whether to cancel events or shift to a virtual environment for all meetings, conferences and training. Though most of us, particularly vendors, are ready to get back to in-person events and trade shows, the shift to virtual events is giving us a glimpse at the new normal: hybrid conferences.

Associations are expecting to move to hybrid conferences as the pandemic winds down and even after it’s over. These hybrid conferences and trade shows will offer both in-person and virtual events to cater to as many industry professionals as possible.

This opens up an opportunity for those who are unable to travel due to distance, cost or work responsibilities. Between hybrid conferences and on-demand webinars, more people will have the opportunity to stay informed of industry news and be involved in the conversation.

2. Expenses Exceeding Income

A major concern for many CARH members centered around the possibility of their operating expenses exceeding their income. Pandemic relief bills, rent caps, minimum wage increases and other government issues and legislation have affordable housing owners concerned with how they will maintain their bottom line.

In regards to the proposed minimum wage increase, owners are concerned about being able to attract top talent. If properties can’t increase rent to offset increased salary requirements, there’s a chance for a talent gap in the workforce. In an industry where every employee already works tirelessly, this has the potential to be a major obstacle.

It’s also important to note the impact an increase in minimum wage could have on tenants. An increase would put many tenants over the income limit, making them ineligible to live at their current site or moving them to market rent. It will also be harder for new tenants to qualify to live at certain properties. Therefore, CARH members are predicting a drop in the income limits to allow tenants to stay in affordable housing.

Affordable housing owners also face a backlog of maintenance tasks. Since the pandemic caused owners to put many tasks on hold for safety and financial reasons, property managers are trying to prioritize maintenance tasks and manage budgeting. Maintenance is often one of the largest ongoing expenses for properties. With so many tasks to complete, repairs can be a huge blow to already tight budgets.

It’s more important than ever for affordable housing owners to effectively manage their budgets and have an easy way to monitor expenses. Leveraging a partner who can provide the tools for accounting, layered funding programs for tax credits, a native payment platform and more can provide peace of mind as they weather the year ahead.

3. Increased Focus on Technology

One topic that continues to come up in CARH and other affordable housing industry meetings is a focus on technology. With more teams working remotely due to the pandemic, PMCs have increased reliance on digital processes.

To maintain efficiency, affordable housing PMCs have begun managing leasing, payments, recertifications and other processes online. Affordable housing PMCs are also seeing the need for mobile maintenance solutions to manage and complete tasks on time.

The need for remote management solutions has allowed PMCs to see the value leveraging software to centralize data and even manage compliance. Using a platform designed for affordable housing PMCs allows property managers to proactively manage their affordable property portfolio and simplify compliance.

The next CARH meeting will be the 2021 Annual Meeting and Legislative Conference from June 28-30. Learn more about CARH here.

Q1 Affordable Housing Market Update: 4 Key Takeaways

In our Q1 Affordable Housing Market Update, we looked at regulatory and industry trend updates for property management companies following the turmoil of 2020 and facing the uncertainty of 2021.  

Post-Pandemic Process Trends 
Eviction Moratoriums and COVID-19 Relief Plans 
E-Signature Updates 
ResMan Affordable Updates 

1. Post-Pandemic Process Trends 

The National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) recently explored the effect COVID-19 has had on how its members manage operations. To no one’s surprise, the pandemic has affected everything from leasing procedures to maintenance and construction processes. It remains to be seen how these and other changes will best be navigated going forward.  

Trends included postponed maintenance that PMCs plan to tackle in 2021, increased emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion and green building and energy efficiencybut the most consistent operational change reported to NAHMA was an increase in technology adoption and reliance. 

Out of necessity, affordable housing PMCs are moving to digital processes for leasing, recertifications, online rent payments, online training, shared documents for budgets, policies and procedures, and more. As regulations continue to evolve, even greater reliance on technology will be required to manage increased compliance complexity. 

To get a detailed look at these affordable housing market updates, watch our on-demand webinar. 

2. Eviction Moratoriums and COVID-19 Relief Plans 

New legislation aimed at providing relief for residents has complicated leasing operations. In addition to longer wait lists and more defaulted payments, PMCs expect the moratorium lift to generate not only a backlog of evictions, clusters of vacancies and the challenges of multiple simultaneous turnovers, but also more complex reporting requirements. Relief legislation to watch: 

COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill 12/27/20  

•  Eviction moratorium was extended (Separate from CARES Act Moratorium)

•  $25 billion in rental assistance (HUD and tax credits) was approved

•  HUD provided guidance on unemployment compensation:
         ○  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits – included as an annual income, projected for 52 weeks. 
         ○  Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Benefits – temporary income, not included in annual. 
         ○  Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Benefits – included as annual income, projected for 52 weeks.
         ○  Currently awaiting guidance from HUD on whether stimulus checks should be included when calculating income. 

  •  

President Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Plans 

Information is fluid. We expect a lot of updates over the next 30-90 days, so it’s important to keep an eye on this new legislation. New relief will provide: Extended eviction moratorium for non-payment of rent. (The end date is currently set for March 2021. We are anticipating this to eventually be extended through 2021.) 

• Additional $25 billion in rental assistance program 
• $5 billion in emergency assistance to help people obtain stable housing 
• $1400 per person in direct payments 
• Extra $400 per week, and expansion of other unemployment benefits 

IRS COVID Guidance 

A moratorium on income recertification and compliance monitoring is set to last through September 2021. 

3. E-Signature Updates 

HUD released guidance that Housing Notice 2020-04, which allowed PMCs to use e-signatures and electronic storage, was replaced by the new Housing Notice 2020-10 in October 2020, with two key differences: 

• Extends notice to include 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) contracts. 
• Disallows Independent Public Auditor (IPA) access to Electronic Income Verification (EIV) reports, ensuring that EIV Rules of Behavior remain compliant. The new language requires EIV reports to be reviewed on site or at a management office. We are waiting on guidance from HUD on whether this can be done via web meetings or other methods, due to COVID. 

4. New ResMan Affordable Product Updates 

Now that HUD is allowing electronic storage, we have been investing heavily in the ResMan Affordable product to level up our Online Affordable Leasing feature to support the pandemic-imposed need for PMCs to move to a virtual environment.  

Key features include: 

• End-to-end online leasing experience 
• Customized HUD online applications 
• E-sign recertification with auto-generated notices to residents and digital document storage 

More product updates are coming in 2021. Be on the lookout for our Q2 affordable housing market update to stay informed about quickly evolving regulations, deadlines and trends. 

Monitoring Affordable Compliance in a Crisis (and Beyond)

In a recent blogpost entitled 4 Tips for Weathering the Storm, our founder and President Elizabeth Francisco wrote in the early days of COVID-19 that her first experiences with property management occurred during a crisis – the Great Recession of 2008. 

It was during this time that what was already difficult became unmanageable with the old methods (namely: stacks and stacks of Excel spreadsheets). Something had to give!

ResMan was birthed out of that refining challenge.

NAVIGATING THIS CURRENT CRISIS

For a crisis such as COVID-19, we’ve certainly seen unprecedented changes. Internally you’ve endured staff reductions, office closures and work-from-home staff, the need for PPE and social distancing, and widespread unemployment that impacted your residents. 

Externally, COVID-19 has heavily disrupted the policies, procedures and deadlines of the Affordable Housing industry. The subsequent CARES Act has demanded massive learning curves for keeping up with a swiftly evolving situation.

But sometimes crisis doesn’t just create new challenges, it puts current bottlenecks, barriers, glitches and inefficient workflows on steroids. It forces us to address problems and issues that were perhaps merely annoying or troublesome before with an openness to consider new ways to provide relief. In other words, we come to a point where something has to give!

3 ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR AFFORDABLE COMPLIANCE

With COVID-19’s physically altered protocols for managing your property, it’s clear that technology is the way through. Ms. Francisco stated that “Reluctance to adopt efficient technology ultimately means you won’t be able to compete.” You’ll also find affordable compliance untenable without these tools.

And if that’s true any given day, it’s even more vital during our current economic disruption. Here’s what you must have:

1. Cloud-based software

With many staff still working from home, residents socially isolating and vendors operating only online, cloud-based software is an absolute must. It’s more important than ever to be able to access your information from anywhere, at any time.

2. Unlimited Document Storage

With electronic forms replacing paper forms due to the need to avoid contact, it’s vital for both you and your residents to be able to easily access all documents. They’ll need to be able to scan forms and upload them. This is something you needed anyway, in today’s consumer-driven quest for convenience.

3. Compliance Guidance

The CARES Act and frequent changes to local and federal policies have turned our industry upside down. 

     -You have questions about stimulus funds (is it a lump sum or recurring? what type of forms/reporting do you need to complete?). 

     -You’re trying to stay abreast of the ever-changing evictions process. 

     -You’ve got to devise a way to keep up with new payment plans. 

And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

The good news is that there is help available!

  • For starters, consider participating in associations such as NAHMA, to share and network ideas and to have a voice with the governing bodies of the programs.
  • Next, we recommend working with compliance experts dedicated to your success. (We have three, with 60 years’ combined experience!) Easy access to affordable housing experts and software that keeps you within intuitive compliance guardrails is game-changing during a crisis. (And pretty awesome the rest of the time.)

 

HOW RESMAN HELPS AFFORDABLE PROPERTY MANAGERS ANYTIME

The reality is that even before the pandemic, Affordable Housing compliance could feel like a crisis on any given day. So, whether it’s 2020’s calamities or business-as-usual, you can put your compliance in ResMan’s hands:

  • Our Affordable comprehensive compliance suite is always up-to-date, automating, ensuring accuracy and helping you avoid costly compliance risks. 
  • Our Affordable experts speak your language!


Request a free demo of ResMan Affordable to see how we’re changing affordable property management software to make your job easier than ever before.

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