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.

Check out the Features that Make Up ResMan’s Virtual Leasing Office

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4 Affordable Housing Software Features That Improve Productivity

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.

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Acquisition to Add Rural Development Functionality Into ResMan Solutions Suite

ResMan Acquires Seattle-based High Tech Solutions

Great news for our clients with rural development assets: Specialized functionality is on tap for ResMan’s property management software, following the closing of a significant acquisition.


Today marked the closing of our acquisition of Seattle-based High Tech Solutions, an innovative provider of technology solutions for rural development properties. (Check out the full press release here!)

This acquisition will enhance our commitment to provide customers with solutions to manage their entire portfolio with one easy-to-use platform regardless of the asset type.

It’s no secret that managing rural development properties requires very particular reports, processes, and workflows. Soon, this functionality will be offered in our property management software.

For our clients with rural development assets or those who plan to add them into their portfolio, stay tuned for more information on this exciting new development!