Award-Winning Razz Interactive is Back!

Razz is re-launching back into the market at this week’s AIM Conference 

April 25, 2022, Huntington Beach, CA – Today, at the Apartment Innovation & Marketing (AIM) Conference, Razz Interactive makes its official return to the market as a standalone brand serving the website, marketing, and branding needs of large, top-tier multifamily property management companies. With integrations to all the leading property management software solutions such as ResMan, RealPage, and many more; property managers can be confident that their websites will be fully integrated, lead to lease. Read the full press release here.

About Razz Interactive:

Founded in 2012, Razz Interactive, an award-winning digital agency, quickly made a name for itself in the multifamily industry by providing a unique perspective on marketing with well-designed and easily customizable websites and branding for properties. Razz launched thousands of digital experiences and innovative products that fueled growth for progressive companies like Universal Music, Greystar, Sprint, Wood Partners, The Dinerstein Companies, AT&T, Pepsi, and more. In late 2019, Razz was acquired by ResMan®, a leading property management SaaS platform provider. The Razz content management system (CMS) powers ResMan Websites and today ResMan is relaunching Razz as a standalone brand to focus on large, fast-growing property management companies. 

More information on Razz can be found at https://www.myrazz.com/ 

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.

Introducing ResMan Utilities Powered by AMS

This week we’re pleased to announce an even deeper integration with AMS Billing and introduce ResMan Utilities powered by AMS. ResMan Utilities offers property owners and managers much better control over utility spending and can also help increase NOI by properly allocating utility usage for each resident. You can let AMS Billing handle all the paperwork and they can then update the ResMan resident ledger with the utility costs to be paid with their rent. Water is one of the bigger costs and also a cost that can be difficult to recover…costing your property hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost revenue. ResMan Utilities powered by AMS can take care of the guesswork and implement a solution that works best for you and your property, including… 

Utility Billing Services 

RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing System): considers number of residents and square footage 

Wireless sub-meter read: resident is billed for exact usage 

Invoice Processing 

Auto electronic import of any utility bill (water, sewer, trash, gas, etc) 

AMS organizes outstanding bills in the dashboard for management

VUCR (Vacant Unit Cost Recovery) 

AMS compares move-in/move-out info to the electric bill to find cases of new residents not switching utilities to their name in a timely manner 

Also finds cases of residents taking utility out of their name too early 

Included with Invoice Processing 

If you’re looking for a way to better manage your utilities, recover costs, and save time; be sure to check out ResMan Utilities powered by AMS today. 

PropTalk: Celebrating Women’s History Month ft. Anne Sadovsky

Elizabeth Francisco, President of ResMan, sits down with rental housing veteran Anne Sadovsky in honor of Women’s History Month to discuss what being a woman in the industry has looked like over the past 50 years, as well as the general evolution of property management. Anne Sadovsky is a Dallas based professional speaker, providing training, keynotes and counsel to a variety of industries, businesses and associations. She 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. 

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. To book Anne Sadovsky or learn more about her training, check out her website at https://annesadovsky.com/

To learn more about ResMan’s product, book a demo with us.

Follow along here:

Elizabeth Francisco: [00:00:00] Hello again, everyone. Thank you for joining us again for PropTalk, a property management podcast, powered by ResMan. I’m Elizabeth Francisco and I am the President here at ResMan. And I’m your host for today’s episode, Celebrating Women’s History Month with my dear friend, mentor, family by choice, Anne Sadovsky.

And before we jump in, I just want to take a few minutes just to tell you a little bit about Anne. I’m going to blush because I’m just so emotional. So excited about this one. Anne Sadovsky is a professional speaker and consultant. Anne Sadovsky began her professional speaking career in 1981. She has been what were you like three and a half, four (decades)?

Anne Sadovsky: Wishing.

Elizabeth Francisco: (laughter) She has been in the apartment industry for five decades and as a former Vice President of Marketing and Education for Lincoln Property Management. She has earned a Texas real estate license and certified speaking credentials from the National Speaker’s Associations. Anne was named one of the top trainers in the industry by multi-housing news, which I am not surprised because I have attended many a session.

She has been honored with the Legends Award by Multi-Housing Brainstorming and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, our local affiliate shout out to AAGD. She has flown over 5 million miles, sharing her knowledge and wit, and she’s quite witty. And her success story has been featured in many national magazines, including Money, Texas Business, and the Ladies’ Home Journal. Mirabella magazine named her one of the 1000 women of the nineties, along with Oprah and mother Teresa.

That’s impressive. She is a contributing editor and feature writer for a variety of publications and is often quoted in newspaper and magazine articles pertaining to the development of people’s skills. She’s a co author of two books: Mission Possible with Brian Tracy and Stephen Covey, and 101 Thoughts for Becoming the Real You with Alexis Rice, who is also another fabulous woman. Anne is multifaceted, she can speak to many topics, share skills and tools that are life-changing, common sense, fun, but no nonsense. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her favorite husband, Randy and her two funny Chi-weenies, which didn’t even know that was the thing and two very talkative parrots. So welcome to our podcast Anne, we are thrilled to have you.

Anne Sadovsky: You make me blush and thank you, Elizabeth. I am honored and delighted to be here with you today. Every minute I get to spend with you, I love it.

Elizabeth Francisco: Thank you. So I don’t know if you guys can tell yet. We might know one another. (laughter) Yeah, pretty much. Yes. So just to give a little backstory as we get ready to jump in, I am so beholden to Anne because my entire experience on my first day in the industry started with Anne Sadovsky. So talk about being lucky. I started as a leasing temporary with Sadovsky Stars and was fortunate enough to be an Anne’s training class. And literally my first day in the apartment industry, I got that ACE out of the cards right off the bat. And I’m forever grateful. And Anne has been in my corner and helping me through my entire career. It seems it doesn’t sound like it was that long ago, but I guess if I sit and think about it, it’s almost 30 years for me now, which is crazy. So when we were talking about, celebrating women’s history, for me a little selfish, but I also feel like there’s so much great knowledge for Anne to share that you’re the first person and the only person that came to mind for us for this month.

Anne Sadovsky: And again, I’m honored.

Elizabeth Francisco: Well, it is well deserved. And I know I’m not the only one whose lives you have changed and shaped over the years because if I bring you up, I hear about it. And I know that you are not done yet, and you’ve got a lot of other people that you’re going to help and mentor and help shape their future careers. So I am just super [00:04:00] thrilled and just thank you for being you. I know there’s not supposed to be crying on podcasts.

Anne Sadovsky: She makes me blush and I don’t blush readily.

Elizabeth Francisco: I know we’re going to dive into a lot of things, but I just wanted to think about starting right off the bat. Like we were going to talk about, the past, the future and the present.

And I wanted to think of it a little bit differently. I think there’s something to be said for becoming Anne Sadovsky. Like you’ve always been Anne Sadovsky but the brand, what you represent and your presence in the space is really something special.

And you think about, how that career started and what that was like. So I think just as we get started and dive right in, tell me a little bit about becoming Anne Sadovsky and where did it start?

Anne Sadovsky: Wow. It didn’t start out Anne Sadovsky until I married Marvin Sadovsky and he’s gone. (laughter) When I said my favorite husband, people say, “How many have you had?” (laughter) So it’s interesting when I think back on how it got started, and there’s always been some kind of a divine order going on for me with this… I’d never lived in an apartment. I knew nothing about apartments. I started working, I became a single mom a second time. I lived in Richardson, two boys who are about my age now. I said, when people say, “How old are your boys?” They’re my age! (laughter) And they’re older than my husband, so that’s another whole story. But I started when Mary Kay started, I started out with Mary Kay and it was brand new. She actually came and held our little sales meetings and all of that, just looking for something that I could office from home and do that. And I’m not much into multilevel. I love to sell the products, love the makeup. Didn’t want to have to keep trying to recruit all my friends. You wear your friends and family out when you do that. But anyway, I was flipping through the newspaper, had never looked for a job in the newspaper, in my entire life course in my entire life.

I think it was in my early twenties. So I saw an ad and it said apartment developers, seeking personnel recruiter. And I thought that’s what I’ve been trying to do here, but I don’t have to sell them something. I remember what I wore seriously to the interview.

It’s a girl thing. So I had this cute little black with white polka dot with a little flirty skirt. Now you’ve got to remember, this was the sixties. And I went down for the interview and it was IC Deal company and he was a swinging singles apartment developer. And as from fair housing through the years, we couldn’t call it anywhere near that today. That was pre- all the fair housing stuff.

Elizabeth Francisco: So I can only imagine what it was like if we manager to that property, I just, I’m just, I had like unrealized PTSD from what you just said.

Anne Sadovsky: Yeah. It was. But all of his properties were basically Swinging Single. Fun names: Lands Inn, The Snooty Fox… so I went down and I’m just blessed, with the gift of gab and chatted with her and told her I was a single mom, two kids, whatever, and they hired me. And then we wore uniforms back then. So they assigned me my chartreuse green hot pants with a chartreuse green tunic over them and suggested that I get white knee-high boots to go with it. And that was seriously. That’s what we worked in every day.

Elizabeth Francisco: I’ve heard people refer to the go-go boots in the apartment industry, but I always thought they exaggerating.

Anne Sadovsky: Oh, it happened. It happened. Anyway, so I worked for Mr. Deal and recruiting, and it was interesting times, 1968 before most of you were born. My job was to do job fairs and I was practically everywhere. I was looking at people saying, “I wonder if I could hire that person for our properties,” whatever. And I’d been there a year and a half. And I had a secretary Paula, and she came in one day and she said, “People are here to talk to you.”

And I said, [00:08:00] “who?” She said, “they’re from the federal government.” And I said, “really?” So I said it was 2 million. And I said, come in, have a C introduced myself. And I said, what can I do for you? And they said, we are looking at personnel recruiters to be sure that opportunities are being offered to women and to people of color.

And we’d like to know how many people of color you have hired since you’ve been here a year and a half. Now, I wasn’t hiring everybody. My job was the office staff, and I said “honestly, none.” And they said, “why not?” And I said, “Nobody has applied. I certainly… we’re open to that. We’re a progressive company, but nobody’s ever applied.” And he said, literally, “If you haven’t hired some people of color in the next six months, we will bring you some people to hire.” And I said, “okay, but I can’t run an ad that says people of color, please apply?” So it was an interesting beginning from what you remember in 1968, the same year that fair housing started… the fair housing laws went into place. The first one’s race, color, national origin, religion… first ones were put in place. So anyway, I worked for Mr. Deal until he had sold his properties to a company out of New York, WM Capital, Wayne and Malkin and they owned the Empire State Building at the time. And they were interested in moving into real estate in the Texas market. Mr. Deal had sold to them and they decided to take over all the properties that they hit on, that they owned.

Two men walk in again one day and we need to, we’re going to hire you and we were hiring only two people from the corporate staff and this was the accounting manager and me, and I’m going “okay. I’m not sure why this is not like a major job that run the business.” But I ended up I moved my office out in north Dallas and lived on one of the properties. I owned a home in Richardson. I rented that. Anyway, so I really got indoctrinated. I learned a lot about property management, more but it’s interesting that I started there and then ended up doing what I’ve been doing now for the last 50 years, as a speaker trainer in the industry.

And then the way that happened is I went to my boss one day and said, “we’re hiring these, all these good people. But nobody’s telling him what to do or how to do the job. I go out there and they’re floundering.” He said, “okay, you do that.” And I’m like, “me and my big mouth.” So that’s how it started. I started, people asked me, “why are you never nervous?” I started with 10 people in an office sitting around talking about how to do the job. And the audiences grew. And the opportunities grew with the apartment association previously mentioned the first time I went to anything at all that said apartment association, there were like 12 old guys and me

Elizabeth Francisco: I don’t doubt that.

Anne Sadovsky: So remember this is way back, 1970 ish, whatever. I had watched that association grow. Look at that number.

Elizabeth Francisco: Oh, wow. Things have changed dramatically.

Anne Sadovsky: Yeah. And it’s been a great ride. I’m still very involved and still really loved the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas. Anyway, so that’s what started. And then I’d been with Lincoln 10 years and our advertising agency came to me one day and said “we’re working with a developer who’s single family going into multifamily. He is looking to hire.” And by the way, I was the first ever female Vice President at Lincoln Property Company. Wow. Yeah. I saw that shows you how far back we go.

So he said, “I’d like for you to have lunch with him and meet him,” whatever. And I wasn’t terribly fond of him. I’m not going to mention any names. [00:12:00] But he offered me $25,000 more a year than I was making. And remember…

Elizabeth Francisco: That is a substantial amount today.

Anne Sadovsky: It is, but it was really substantial back then. So I gave my notice and very tearfully resigned and went to work for him. I worked for him about two years and he never got into, really got into multifamily and he was extremely difficult. And I won’t go into the gory details, but he was very much a chauvinist.

Elizabeth Francisco: It’s funny, when you just pointed out about Lincoln, one of the questions that is stewing up here in my head right now is just, what was it like for women in the industry at that time? And as you are, in, in the seventies and eighties, and how do you feel about that today?

Anne Sadovsky: Blessed. I don’t know that every woman who walked through the door would make it back then. You had to have some strength and, last night in the middle of the night, I was thinking, “what would I say about why I made it through that?” We talk about mentors. There were no mentors. There was nobody to turn to. I didn’t know another woman in the industry at the time… when I went to work for Lincoln, I went to them, I went to Don Shine who was head of the property management company back then. And I made an appointment and I said, “I know you’re active in the apartment association. That’s where we met. And I’m getting more and more active. And I think the apartment association needs to start doing some training.” So he said “that’s a really great idea” and we talked a little bit and at the end of the conversation, he said, I’d rather for you to come to work for me,” he offered me a job… Marketing and Training director, whatever. I was there 10 years. Wow. Went to work for the other guy, I think it was 13 years, the most miserable months of my life. And when I decided I had enough and he didn’t go into multifamily as he had promised. And that was, that’s my shtick. Obviously I just said, I’m going to move on. And I think I’m going to start my own business. So when I think about that miserable 13 months, I also know that he kicked me out of my nest and made me fly. Cause I don’t know that I would have thought about starting my own business if I had been happy there and kept on there. So that was 1981. And here I am.

Elizabeth Francisco: Oh, that’s interesting, that part of your story. Cause I don’t think I actually knew how Sadovsky Stars started. I just know I benefited from it. I’m also surprised that there, I came up through the industry where there’s only has been education through AAGD, the affiliates and the state and NAA. So I hadn’t even pondered the thought that, when did that start or are people trying to come up through the industry without it? Which does explain a lot, as people are out there just trying to figure things out on their own. But taking that leap of faith for you to jump out there, you had a lot of frustration which, I’m sure I can relate to this, I’m sure a lot of women listening can relate to this as well, where we’re in those positions where we feel like our voice can’t be heard or we’re beating our head up against a brick wall. Somehow sometimes, the more passionate we get about things, there’s also a connotation of a perception about us as being emotional, which, that’s a whole other conversation.

My one point to say on that is I think sometimes our counterparts forget by the time we’re getting to that stage, we’ve probably told you 10 times before that. Now we’re just at that point, at least for my experience, but that leap of faith that you had, that’s something we still talk about today. I’ve been on several panels and been fortunate enough to go out and do some speaking. And this conversation up comes up frequently about risk and our aversion to risk as women. I am curious about like how did you mentally get ready to take on that kind of challenge, especially, being a single mom and having the financial responsibilities you did at the time, what was that like?

Anne Sadovsky: Single mom, no child support. So it was just me, my children’s father was in a horrible automobile accident when they were very young and was permanently disabled. But, I can pretty much put that in a [00:16:00] nutshell. I decided before Randy, that I had been through a few, too many husbands and that I needed to get a little hay off. So I went into therapy for two, two and a half years. Dr. Ward said to me, one day, one of the greatest things about you is that you have zero fear. One of the worst things about you is that you have zero fear, but I don’t know why I wish I knew better why I never felt challenged by making the effort. I saw it. I did it. Thank God I succeeded. And I still am fearless.

Elizabeth Francisco: So I would agree with that. Yeah. There’s a friend who she’s actually I think one of the board members for AAGD right now, Antoinette Williams and she’s precious. I love her. She’s somebody to watch. So anybody listening, to o, she may be someone else’s Anne Sadovsky in the future. But it’s interesting cause when we have our conversations, we talk about… she’s a lot more like you she’s pretty fearless and has had a lot of confidence in herself… whereas when I was coming up, my own personal situation was more about being volun-TOLD and then succeeding, surprising myself and hopefully others. I think that was a pretty consistent pattern, but always made me wonder too, like what was it that used to hold me back? I was so afraid to put myself out there to do something, but the second you asked me to do it, I’m going to do 120% and that was a consistent pattern. I still to this day think about that as there’s women like both you and I out in the world right now. And I think for one thing for me is I didn’t celebrate my successes. I had a tendency to, if I gave 120%, my mind would go to “if you’d given 130, what would you have gotten?” And so I would focus on what else I could have done without even acknowledging that I just did more than anybody else would ever think of doing. And as only in the last couple of years at my age, too, because now I’m over 50 that I finally got to the point of realizing, I think that’s what it was for me, which is crazy, considering all the work that was done in the process. But, I think for you, did you find that you took time to celebrate your successes? Did you take mental stock of them?

Anne Sadovsky: One of the nice things about being a professional speaker is you have regular applause.

Elizabeth Francisco: That’s a good point.

Anne Sadovsky: You have regular applause. When you’re good at what you do, when you do what I do, you get a lot of applause. And so that’s celebratory for me. And of course, making friends all over the United States, I’m not oddly enough and people don’t ever believe me when I say this. I’m not a social person. I’m a non-drinker, which makes me absolutely no fun in that group. No. And I just–

Elizabeth Francisco: You are your own bubbly.

Anne Sadovsky: I am my own bubbly, to the best of my ability. Tony Blake is the sunshine of our industry. You talk about outgoing and a huge personality and making friends all over the United States. And we would be working a conference together and sharing a room and I would have dinner and go in the room and read and whatever. And Tony’s out dancing and drinking champagne and making friends. So my personal friends in the industry are people more like you, I met on a business basis, we’ve had lunch, we’ve had dinner, but I’m not a party girl and people don’t always… when you’re outgoing and outspoken. Yeah.

Elizabeth Francisco: I think that would surprise a lot of people about you.

Anne Sadovsky: Not a party girl. So anyway, and of course, now that I’m up in years, I’m definitely not a party girl party. Partying for me is staying up past nine o’clock.

Elizabeth Francisco: People who say that, never finished that sentence by saying what time you get up. There’s a difference there for sure. I’m thinking about, I know what word I think of, but it makes me curious if there was one word you would think of to describe you, describe yourself. What would that one word be?

Anne Sadovsky: I think tenacious. I’m pretty much a stick with it person. Again, with the one 13 months and I didn’t stick with it, [00:20:00] but it was… when I tell you it was bad and how I had to handle it… so I’m going to give you a quick example just for everybody’s entertainment. He was putting us all on a private jet to go to Las Vegas for the NAHB conference. I was the only female on staff level there, as usual as it has been all my life up until these modern times. Anyway. So we’re sitting in the staff meeting. He said, “now Sadovsky just because you’re a damn woman. Doesn’t mean you’re going to get your own hotel room. You’ll have to share a room with one of the guys.” Cause he always was trying me, always trying me…

Elizabeth Francisco: pushing the buttons.

Anne Sadovsky: I sat there and I said, “do I get to pick which one?” And of course all the guys laughed and he said, “no, I’m serious about this.” I said, “that’s fine. As long as their wives know that they’re sharing a room with a woman, it’s fine with me.” I just, he was always trying to push my buttons. So we arrive in Las Vegas and go to check-in and I’m in a suite on the top floor by myself. He just had to test me… had to test me. So learning to handle that kind of situation and it’s obviously it’s my personality… I didn’t study. I didn’t learn it. I didn’t take a class. It was natural for me. One other quick instance is I was walking by his office and we’d been to a grand opening of something and now said, “I met your wife, she’s just darling.” And he said, would you sleep with me if I didn’t have her? And I looked at him, I said, “no, sir, I wouldn’t he’s why am I not your type?” I said, “this is a ridiculous conversation. I’ll be in my office.” And from then on, he tried to try me every day to make me yield. It wasn’t about sex. It was about power, all about power. So if it happened today, a woman would sue for that. And I wanted to pitch him a quarter and say, “call somebody, that’s interested in talking to you. I’m not.” That was when we had a payphone for a court.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. It’s interesting there. Cause we’re having a real conversation. I think a lot of people in our audience can probably relate. I hope it’s less now for people that are in their twenties and thirties. I have a perception that it is, I think they’re more empowered and they know they’re not alone. And there’s more women like us that have talked about our experiences and also are helping hopefully to lift other women up and say, “stand your ground.” I remember being at a very large conference that happens every year and January and it’s predominantly men.

And I mean out of 5,000, maybe depending on the year, between four to 8% of the attendees would be women. And this was right when you know #MeToo was front and center like 2018. We’re at this conference and I’m out in the lobby area of this hotel. And I’m sitting in is, I’ve taken stock. I participated in the women’s event the day before, and that’s how we knew how many of us were there.

And I couldn’t believe it, this man that I was talking to, he just spaced out in his head and he forgot I was standing there talking. And so his out loud voice came out and he just looked around this giant lobby area and there was, it was also, it’s all Navy blue and black suits, all men. And I noticed there’s hardly any women in the room and he literally says out loud, “man, there’s a lot of chicks here this year.” That’s not that long ago. That’s 2018. And I was just talking to me and I remember thinking in the moment and my, and my inside voice I’m like, “did he forget where he was at? Did he forget? I’m standing here for, so how could he forget I’m staying here?” And I took one for the team for all women and all I could think to do in my moment was to mirror his exact body language. So I did, I crossed my arms. I did the exact stance he did. I bumped him. So he would see me and I looked around the room, nodding my head, just like he had done to watching him react to me calling him out for saying, there’s a lot of chicks here and me saying wait a minute, my perception was there was almost all men here.

Anne Sadovsky: This is what’s changed in my career time… is that women were not, back [00:24:00] in the day, weren’t educated about standing up for ourselves and then we didn’t have to take that. And I, again, I don’t know that it even happened to me today, if I were in your age group is still working that I would sue somebody, but I would speak up and not with hostility, not crying, not hateful. Mine is just a little sharp retort, so yeah. I have a long time friend in the industry, we just lost her not long ago. She and her husband were up together and property management and they hired a new young receptionist. And this was 40 years ago, whatever 30 years ago, maybe. And he walked out and patted her on the shoulder one day and said, “you’re doing a really great job. We’re so glad to have you.” And she filed a complaint that he touched her and was sexually harassing her. We’re smarter today. And nobody should feel free to put their hands on each other, but a pat on the shoulder or a hug like you and I do when we first see each other gee, when you read the laws, we’re not supposed to be doing that.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. It’s a tough, and it’s a tough to navigate when this sincere, they intent is important also. I thought about this cause I have a dear friend that I used to work for. The they’re based out of Florida. One of the things that he had asked me in from his perspective, and he’s an advocate,

he wants to stay in shoulder by shoulders… a lot of women in top leadership positions in their company help support me as I was coming up through the ranks. And actually I had to file a complaint within that company because of a general contractor, the GM of a project that we were doing who was same thing you experienced was pushing every button I had trying to, and really took it to the extreme. And they a hundred percent supported me. And his question to me was “My perception is things are getting better, but after hearing the session and the panel, now I sit back and I wonder, are we making as much progress as I thought?” And I thought that was a really interesting question. One, I keep asking people as we go out and we talk around the country, because there has been a lot of advancements. Like I said, more women in leadership positions. But do we see enough women like yourself that started your own business? Do we see enough of women reaching up into partnership levels and owning that space so that the rest of us coming up behind them, see that and go, oh, I can aspire to be that too.

Because when I traveled around and I asked people where do you aspire to be in the future? Where do you’re in, multi-family been in it for 10 years, what do you think? It looks like long-term what are you trying to get to? What will you look back and think is your measure of success?

And it’s interesting because of, thank goodness with resumes. I get to travel around and meet a lot of different people. And I never hear people tell me it was specifically women and women of color as well, or even multicultural women. There’s no combat yet to getting them and say, I want to own my own company. I want to own one management company. I want to be an investor in multi-family like, I don’t hear that. I’d say middle managers in down. And it really started to make me question, why is that? And then when you look around, you can see why that might be because they don’t see people like themselves in those roles. And so I just, I think about as our industry, how do we go about making that kind of change? You’ve been through, we said five decades. I still don’t think that’s possible, but we’ll say five decades.

Anne Sadovsky: This is my 53rd year in the industry.

Elizabeth Francisco: She’s doing something right. But this thinking about how much you’ve seen, how much change you’ve witnessed, what do you think will help us get to that next level, to where we’ll have more women and minorities coming up through multifamily that, will take that leap of faith, starting their own business, or at least the thinking and aspiring to do?

Anne Sadovsky: When I see the difference today than in 30, 40 years ago, how many female vice presidents and presidents of companies presidents and vice presidents, et cetera, on boards for the apartment associations, we have come a very long way. And [00:28:00] so I think we’re creating more role models. I’m sure we’ve created more role models for women and people ask me a lot. Who are your mentors? Who mentored you? There was nobody. Yeah. I do want to back up and tell you that when I started my business, I called Don Schein who had been my boss at Lincoln and said, I’m leaving here. I’m not asking you to come back because I want to do something different. I want to start my own company and I’m going to do training and education. Then I ended up with the employment agency, which we called it back then, terminology changes. And I said, but I’m unsure financially, whatever. And he’s the nicest man in the world. Never a personal friendship, never had lunch with him, never had dinner with him, just my boss, my big boss. And he said, “I’m going to give me your account number and we’ll put $3,000 in your checking account. And that was a lot of money, 1980-81. And he said, and you can pay me back as you can.” And I was stunned and it just gave me more confidence that I was going to be able to make my house payment, and as I was getting started and I think back on, on that, the kindness and his faith in me that I would be able to do something. So I spent part of the money on a typewriter. Anybody remember typewriters that’s how long ago it was.

Elizabeth Francisco: Our audience has seen those in movies.

Anne Sadovsky: And, there was no technology, when we got our first fax machine, I thought we were going to the moon. We were so with it. But anyway, in six months or less, I had paid him back completely. And I owe him that, I don’t know that he’s still around. I had lost track of him, but he was high up in Lincoln at the time. So it wasn’t so much a mentor as somebody that had faith in me does not just sit, I would be successful without giving him his money back, so I think we’ve come so far that it’s hard for me to even think about back then.

Elizabeth Francisco: That’s a great testament though.

Anne Sadovsky: Moving forward.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, it doesn’t mean we don’t still have. Some space to go. And it makes me think too, and I’m learning from our conversations. I always do. How do we maybe start forums or conversations about what it takes to start a company.

Anne Sadovsky: Great idea.

Elizabeth Francisco: See what’s coming out of these by the way for the audience, this is what happens when I talked to her.

Anne Sadovsky: We’ve done this a few times.

Elizabeth Francisco: Including, even for the ResMan journey, your complete support, belief… and at times, helping me stay the course when I doubted and wondered if I was a crazy person. So in running your businesses, was there what was the most difficult aspect of running the business after you got started? Because you hadn’t done it before so I imagine there’s quite a few things you didn’t anticipate, but looking back, what would you say was the hardest part that you had to deal with?

Anne Sadovsky: I’ll start with the smartest thing. And that was to know that I couldn’t do it all by myself. And my best friend was at Lincoln, which by the way is a quick fun story. When Don hired me, he gave me a list of five people that were going to hate me for getting the job five names on the list. He said, these people would like to have had the training, marketing director job, and they’ve been here a long time. And so they’re going to hate you. So I called each one and made an appointment and took my yellow pad and went and sat down with them and ask them for input on how they would like to see the training school change. And would they be willing to participate? And I don’t know, I look back and I’m going, damn. I was smart. But one of those was my friend Janel and she was in marketing. And that person who was on the “she’ll hate you” less became my best friend and was for 47 years until we lost her a couple of years ago. But I hired her to run the business so that I could travel and speak and support the business as we were getting started and we’d [00:32:00] brainstorm. And we got the idea to do the temp agency. So brainstorming with other words, And I don’t remember turning back to any guys. We were perfectly capable and we made it happen. So we were full service marketing for a good while. We had an interior designer. We had a creative guy that did ads and all, we were stepping up there in the early eighties and there’ve been a lot of knockoff businesses, are same businesses. They saw that we could do it and more power to them. They did it too.

 I might’ve been a little bit of a game changer for the apartment industry now that I think of it.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. I would agree with that. And I think people look at you that way. And for those people that are listening to this that haven’t had the good fortune to get to know you or to know your story… coming up here and especially in the Sunbelt states in Texas… Even getting ready for this podcast, telling people while we were at advocate last week in the NAA assembly of delegates, all I have to say is, “oh yeah, next week I’m doing a podcast with Anne Sadovsky!” They’re like, “oh, it’s Anne Sadovsky!” You have groupies. (laughter) but you’re right though, because you were a game changer. And thank God you were, because I don’t know that I would be where I’m at without… more than just seeing what you had accomplished and knowing who you are… it was how you supported myself, how you supported me and other women in the industry. And I think it’s interesting because that is, unfortunately, there are still times and I dealt with it out on our properties and it seems like in every company I’ve been at, sometimes women can be our own worst critics. Worse than that, we can be even harder on other women.

And that’s a challenge for me because I don’t know that thought doesn’t occur to me. Even when I had people I was competing with, my thought was we worked for the same company… if you do well and I do well, we all do well. Hopefully we get paid for that point and we all rise together. I’ve had my work ethic. I’ve had people literally approach me about, “you’re just trying to show me up” and I’m like, “I have no concept of what that.” That thought doesn’t even enter in my head. I’m competitive with myself. So have you ever dealt with any challenges with other women?

Anne Sadovsky: I sit here and listen to you and this thought keeps coming to my mind and men eternally from the beginning of time that I know about… abuse of power has been huge. And we see it today. We see it in Putin. We see it in our own presidents. We see it in major corporations, and I think women, when we first started getting some power, our only role model was the abuse of power guys. I hope that I never did it. I don’t remember doing it. It’s not in my mindset, but other people can see you that way. Just because you’re the boss or your name is on the door, whatever. I think other women sometimes might think, but I was really quick to give promotions and titles and equal opportunity. Because I wanted them to stay with me.

Elizabeth Francisco: Did you ever feel like you had to overcome that with another woman, either in your company or out in the space where you were competing for business?

Anne Sadovsky: I don’t, I know that sounds ridiculous but remember I didn’t work for other women. I became the boss. So I didn’t have that in between time where a woman would have an opportunity. Not in the associations, not in companies. And I guess again, one more time. I was a first, so.

Elizabeth Francisco: You have a lot of first yeah.

Anne Sadovsky: A lot of firsts.

Elizabeth Francisco: I think we could do a whole episode of firsts. You were reflecting on some of them. Is there a couple firsts that would like to share with us that we haven’t already talked to?

Anne Sadovsky: As mentioned, I was the first ever female VP at Lincoln and I was due to be the first female president of [00:36:00] AAGD I was on the board and that was coming up for me when I left Lincoln.

So it took me out of the, cause I went into single family. And he wasn’t yet in multifamily. So I think that’s been a non-issue for me. And I do see it as I, as a consultant and I work with companies and I see what’s going on. I see more competitiveness and snarkiness between the female leadership and team members than I do.

Rental Housing Recruiting: Filling Job Vacancies for the Long Run in a Turnover-Heavy Industry 

The rental housing industry is already familiar with a high turnover rate for their frontline employees. But the Great Resignation has exacerbated the problem even more, causing properties to struggle when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. There are many reasons for this increase in resignations, however, Millennials and Gen Z seem to be leading the way with asks of better work-life balance, higher pay, and feeling more valued in their work. 

The cost of turnover is already an expensive one. So, to have turnover increase while job vacancies stay open for long periods of time must mean it’s also time for the rental housing industry to take a hard look at their recruiting practices to fill these losses. However, with job vacancies still open, the focus is on finding and recruiting the right hires. The solutions aren’t cut and dry, but there are adjustments that can help do a better job of hiring the right people as well as being a great employer for your teams. 

Employer Brand 

Your employer brand matters. All things considered in the current job market, people are looking for an employer who is active, who cares for their employees, and who will set them up for success in their career. With that in mind, it’s important to display those qualities online and in your business.  

From a digital standpoint, focus on the places these candidates will visit first. Your website, for example, is a great start for you to exemplify who you are as an employer. Whether this be on the “About Us” page or the “Careers” page, there should be more than just features of your leadership team. Showcase the people at the company supporting that leadership to give potential employees the chance to envision themselves at properties, too. 

The Careers page is also a great spot to display the perks or benefits of working for your company. These can be both quantitative and qualitative perks, from 401(k) and health insurance plans to flexible PTO or paid-for lunches. 

LinkedIn is another platform highly recommended for finding and connecting with potential employees and employers. With banners in profiles saying #LookingForWork and easy job postings, finding candidates can be a lot smoother on LinkedIn.  

However, there are many companies, especially in property management, who haven’t touched their LinkedIn company pages since LinkedIn first launched – and it shows. Yet, LinkedIn is one of the main sources for job hirings to date. LinkedIn’s company pages highlight who the company is as a whole, who works there to date and their roles, as well as hosted job descriptions and openings for anyone to see. 

It’s also a simple way to check out your candidates, whether through a recruiter or own your own. You can instantly see their resume, recommendations by colleagues, accomplishments, and lists of their hard and soft skills. 

Glassdoor is another great way to keep up your employee brand. While it has it’s bad rap of being a venting session for former and current employees, responding to those reviews with the facts and a response that validates their experience (“I hear you, we are looking into how to do better”) gives the appeal to future employees that you listen and care about their problems in every day work life. And yes, most candidates read Glassdoor reviews. 

Retention-Centered Recruiting 

If you’re looking to recruit someone top talent who will also stay long term at your company, there are two kinds of lenses to put on: the employee and the employer. Putting on the employee lens, remember what motivates people and inspires them to work somewhere. What other things do people look for in a job besides benefits and paychecks? 

Relationship-building During Recruiting 

People want to feel as if they are connected and have purpose and value at their job. So one of the best ways to establish that is creating a relationship during the hiring process. At ResMan, we’ve seen remarkable success in having our recruiter follow up with candidates between interviews, asking how the interviews went, answering questions, and giving validation for hesitations or excitement about a position. This goes for candidates who don’t end up being hired and onboarded, as well.  

This relationship helps people feel valued and considered as they’re making career decisions and ultimately, that same validation instills confidence in candidates about how well they will be supported if they come to work for you. Not to mention, even if a candidate is not the right fit, that great first impression will be a motivation to refer others in their network. 

It’s also important to check in with the diversity at your property. Are there pathways for minorities to move up and does that reflect in your offices? You’re interviewing with all kinds of top talent who also have all kinds of backgrounds, and this requires embodying a business that supports the growth of all people at your company. Candidates are more likely to feel confident about you as an employer when they can envision themselves working hard and moving up in the company, just like their peers. Make sure your level of diversity at the property will welcome all candidates. You will see more applications and talent show up. 

Hiring the right fit 

As you are recruiting talent across the board, you want to hire a candidate who has drive, skills, and talent and will be able to support you as the employer. A bad hire can cost much more overall. So how do you figure out the difference during the hiring process? 

We recommend having a hiring committee created by you as the employer. This hiring committee could be diverse positions in the company that might work closely with this role on a day-to-day basis. Consider creating a collaborative scorecard, listing must-have skills and desired skills. List out soft skills that would potentially be a positive contribution in these positions. 

Creating a scorecard to make note of both critical skills and intangibles with personal notes from interviews can be a wonderful way for the hiring committee to come together and compare before offering a position to the candidate. This helps lower the risk of missing any overlooked qualities that could impact their performance or ability to work at the property. It can also validate and establish consistency for any positive qualities seen by multiple committee members in a candidate. 

It’s also great to consider multi-stage interviews to gather the necessary information in the hiring process. Your first interviews can be done by the hiring committee where you focus more on the qualification of the candidates critical skills, but we encourage taking a different approach for a final interview. 

At ResMan, we include a final stage interview with HR, where we ask questions about the candidate as a person and their character. You might ask questions like, “When was a time in your previous roles where you delighted a customer?” or “Where was a time you and your team had a problem and you contributed to a solution?” to better understand their how they would handle common situations at your property. 

End the interview by asking what they’re passionate about, as this also can give you insight as to what motivates these candidates outside of their job. You’d be surprised at how those answers can connect back to their potential role at your property. 

All in all, recruiting isn’t a process to be taken lightly, especially now. Even with leasing season ahead, be thorough and tactical about how your approach to filling open positions. That investment will come back to you in time and money saved from constant turnover. 

PropTalk: How Management Companies Can Recruit and Retain Talent During the Great Resignation Part 2

Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Amanda Mabrey, Director of People & Culture at ResMan and Gregory Knight, People & Culture Generalist at ResMan to discuss today’s challenge of trying to retain talent. With the Great Resignation, more and more properties are struggling to keep employees long term. Gregory and Amanda share their insights as to how properties can more effectively decrease their turnover and give employees a long-lasting career at their properties.

To learn more about ResMan’s product, book a demo with us.

PropTalk: How Management Companies Can Recruit and Retain Talent During the Great Resignation Part 1

Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Amanda Mabrey, Director of People & Culture at ResMan and Gregory Knight, People & Culture Generalist at ResMan to discuss today’s challenge of trying to recruit talent. With the Great Resignation, more and more properties are struggling to fill job vacancies as they head into leasing season. Gregory and Amanda share their insights as to how properties can more effectively recruit without compromising quality in the hiring process.

To learn more about ResMan’s product, book a demo with us.

PropTalk: Advocacy and Government Affairs: Shouldn’t We be in Every Conversation about Rental Housing?

ResMan’s President Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Jason Simon, Director of Government Affairs at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas (AAGD) to discuss NAA’s Advocate where several members head to Capitol Hill to speak with legislators about pressing issues in the rental housing industry. Hear about the main legislative issues associations are focusing on, how you can get involved at Advocate as well as advice for first timers and those looking to be more involved overall in the rental housing industry.

To learn more about ResMan’s product, book a demo with us.

Follow along here:

Elizabeth Francisco: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. And thank you for joining PropTalk, a property management podcast, powered by ResMan. I’m Elizabeth Francisco, the President here at ResMan and I’m your host for today’s episode: Advocacy and Government Affairs: Shouldn’t We be in Every Conversation about Rental Housing? Today, I am happy to welcome Jason Simon Director of Government Affairs at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas (AAGD). Thank you for joining us.

Jason Simon: Thank you for having me really honored to be here today.

Elizabeth Francisco: Thank you. And I know your time is valuable, especially the time of year we’re in and we’re getting ready for Advocate so I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

Jason Simon: This is really important stuff. So really appreciate the opportunity I look forward to it.

Elizabeth Francisco: And I’m going to tell you guys in advance because we’ve already talked. That we make this really exciting stuff because it is. Buckle your seat belts because we’re going to get through some important issues facing our industry. We’re going to talk about what we can and should be doing about it, and you’re going to enjoy the conversation along the way.

Alrighty, so as I said, super thrilled that you agreed to join us. This is an important conversation because we are fast approaching Advocate that takes place up in DC. So I don’t think our conversations could be better well timed. I want to take a step back and talk about why we’re doing this podcast and why it’s so personal to me. For our audience, hopefully you’ve heard before, but I came up through the ranks in the industry. I started as a leasing agent and I worked my way up. Eventually as we embarked on taking ResMan to the market, that’s when I started to become more familiarized with what was just Capitol Hill Day back then. I’d heard the word PAC, but honestly, I was not as engaged as I could have been or should have been for a majority of my career. Now that I have so much more appreciation for all the efforts and everything that everybody does on behalf of the industry, including our members, but our non-members [00:02:00] because they benefit, as well.

That’s really where my eyes started opening up and I’ve wanted to think about what could have been done different in my own career that would have helped me get involved sooner or maybe provided better education. Were there any fears and anxieties I had about getting involved? There probably were some. But this is important and, especially for us at ResMan, we’re not just here to sell to the industry. We’re part of the industry. So understanding the issues that are facing us all is important for us as well. So this podcast, isn’t just for the members, it’s also for all our supplier partners out there because we’re all in this together. It’s a really important conversation for me from that perspective.

Jason Simon: Thanks for sharing that. I think it’s really important. Just like you said, it’s a great point of benefits. This benefits you, whether you’re a member of an association, not a member of an association, this is across the industry.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah it’s important and you have some good commentary that you’re gonna provide today.

So I know when we were talking about getting ready for this conversation one of the other things that you and I discussed was our engagement with the NMHC Rent Tracker Project. I had a lot of familiarity with the space, but then I also became even more aware of some of the challenges we face as an industry from the general public because of that engagement. Because one of the early concerns from the pandemic was legitimately people might not be able to pay their rent and how’s that gonna impact our industry?

But then there was also this bubbling up happening about rent strike groups and how vocal they were being and were they going to impact our renters and our units to not pay rent? Those that could and were obligated and should pay rent. I even went so far as joining a couple of Facebook groups (laughter) that had very strong opinions about landlords and was collecting rent. Yes, it was very eyeopening to me. I think in reality, that was my big wake up call, not just about how important what you guys do and everything that goes on in the industry, but that was my first glimpse from the outside looking in as far as the other side and the general public’s perception of our industry and the people in it. Their lack of understanding about how [00:04:00] business works and how much goes into running an apartment community and what that’s all about.

So as I think about it educating myself on our issues and understanding to how to have those conversations is something that is a little bit daunting. I understand the need for us to get real about affordable housing. When you’re in those groups, you can easily see, yes, there’s real people in real need that may not and cannot meet their rental obligations, obviously through the pandemic.

Some of it is no fault of their own. Maybe everyone didn’t get to take full advantage of that. And maybe there’s still things that need to be done. But now we have a lot of issues contributing to the affordable housing issue in America. Supply and demand is a basic premise for this.

Jason Simon: It’s a lot of what drives it.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. That’s where I want to take our conversation too, which I know is a big deep part of the conversation right off the bat.

Jason Simon: Start off with the easy question.

Elizabeth Francisco: We get that one out of the way. But I think it’s important because how do we get involved? How do we help shape the conversation? How do we help legislators? So one of the things that I learned from being in the Facebook groups, which by the way makes you bite your tongue a lot, big time is just thinking about how many of those people in those organizations and people that are seeing those social posts or being vocal with their representatives.

And I could see how they wouldn’t really have a balanced perception or even real understanding about what that’s like. So I think my first question for us to talk about today is what does advocating for legislation that we believe will help overcome affordable housing, what does it look like? Let’s talk through some of those issues. And maybe even think about how do we overcome some of these perceptions?

Jason Simon: Yeah. That’s a lot to think about and talk about, but these are really all very important points. And those rent strike groups, those tenant advocate groups, those advocacy groups on the other side are really everywhere. There’s national groups, there are state groups, there’s local groups, there’s big groups here in Dallas, there’s Dallas eviction groups that are super active.

[00:06:00] And they’re looking at some pretty extreme policies in terms of rent control and eviction moratorium that would just extend the eviction process indefinitely, which really doesn’t solve the problem. We’ve got a lot of different forces pushing against us. And I would say that the affordability issue is pretty complicated. It’s got a lot to do with supply and demand. It’s got a lot to do with development. In this area in north Texas, we’re one of the hottest areas in the country in terms of number of apartments under construction, the demand, supply trying to come online and lots of pressures.

People are moving to Texas every day. I think I read somewhere where it’s like somebody moves to Texas every five minutes or something. It’s really incredible.

Elizabeth Francisco: I think we picked up last numbers… well over half a million people and that was data through like early parts of 2021, if I’m not mistaken.

Jason Simon: It’s really accelerated and it’s because we’ve got such a great place to do business. The economy is strong, no state income tax. There’s a lot of drivers. The regulatory climate is pretty, pretty low, it’s pretty friendly.

Elizabeth Francisco: Hopefully we have everyone from our front lines all the way up to our executives and even our investors and thinking about how they can get involved. There’s some high level talking points about what we can do about affordable housing. And I always hear it come back to being a little over simplified. It is about supply and demand. When you have an excess of supply, that’s going to impact demand and that impacts pricing. And so what are the biggest hurdles with supply? Coming out of the pandemic, I know we had slow downs. I know right now they’re saying we have 600,000 units is projected to come online in 2022. But there’s also a big survey that came out from a construction survey from NMHC that reflected over 93% of the people surveyed were having delays from what you’re balancing out for the deal and how the deal’s got to pencil out. And do you have to go back and get, raise more money, which hopefully you don’t or what are you cutting? So what are some of the hurdles?

Jason Simon: It’s a lot of that. It’s also, from our perspective at a local level, we’re seeing a lot of NIMBYism so “not in my backyard” pushback from the [00:08:00] community. “We don’t want those type of people, so to speak. We don’t want that type of housing, apartments increase traffic. They increased crime. They’re a burden on the local schools.” All of these things that you hear… a lot of them are myths. So we have to overcome perceptions from the community, but they’re particularly strong. They could be a very small group in a given city, but they are typically people who are longtime residents of the city that are very vocal. They’ll call their city council member. They’ll go down to the council and speak out against an apartment project. They will really work the council and some of these councils, even though they know their better judgment tells them we need to increase the supply of housing in order to keep up with demand, they’re getting so many resident pressures from the “not in my backyard” folks. We call them the CAVE people, citizens against virtually everything. So really, it’s knee-jerk opposition. There are some concerns that are real concerns from the community, but they’re getting such pushback that I do think it hampers development.

You’ve got people that are looking to do projects in some of our suburban cities surrounding Dallas that are just like, “We’re not going to do it in this area.” And it’s unfortunate because they’re building somewhere else when we really need it in north Texas.

Elizabeth Francisco: It’s interesting. So I live up in Salina and there’s a lot going on up there. But you know what there’s not a lot going on of?

Jason Simon: Apartments.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yes. It’s interesting, I was talking to the store manager of a McDonald’s up there in Salina, and not on the border between Salina and Prosper. And they have assigned job postings starting at $15 an hour, up to $20 an hour, you have 10 open positions. I actually took a picture of it because I plan on showing everyone I know that’s looking to build apartments because he looked really frazzled. So I just talked to him for a minute and he said that the biggest challenge they had was with gas prices and everything being what they are and the affordability, there’s no affordable housing in Salina, as much as it’s exploding right now. So they’re having to market to people that are further into Prosper or Frisco, but the gas prices are high enough by the time they make the commute, it’s not worth it. I don’t know when that’s going to change. So after that conversation, I was out driving around it and [00:10:00] there really isn’t any apartment supply in Salina. And it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the country right now.

Jason Simon: Yeah, true. But I do think that those local barriers to development are a big part of it. You look at all the studies, the NMHC study, the NAA study, local studies here in the DFW area and that’s one of the big contributors. And one of the things that we’ll talk about is for Advocate, going to Washington in a few weeks, one of the issues we’ll be advocating on is something called the “Yes In My Back Yard” Act, the YIMBY Act so there’s NIMBY and there’s YIMBY. But it would basically incentivize the local governments to drop some of these barriers to development, to increase that supply and kind of holds the local the cities and counties accountable for development because those are the real barriers at the local level. The federal government can only do so much. This YIMBY Act would help address some of it, but it really has to be addressed at the local level. Part of what we do with our advocacy efforts is education.

Elizabeth Francisco: How have you overcome this? Because we have in the past… This is decades ago, but it seems like Frankford and Midway area, there was a lot of pushback initially. I was in the late nineties when they were really bringing apartment communities into that area. We had the same issue.

Jason Simon: It takes a lot, it’s not something that happens overnight. It has to be a sustained campaign. And it’s really a lot of education. A lot of what I do on a daily basis is meet with elected officials, the people that are making decisions that impact our industry, and bringing our members to those meetings because our members are the experts. You guys are the experts on the industry on what it takes, how do you make something pencil out? What are the costs involved? What kind of policies are impacting our industry and then the kind of impact we have on the economy. I mean, in any given city, our members are some of the largest taxpayers to the city and what they pay in property taxes for their apartment buildings.

It’s a ton, it’s tens of millions of dollars per property, potentially in any given city. And when you sit down and tell that to a mayor or city council member, you see their eyes [00:12:00] get wide. They really hadn’t thought about it until we bring that information to them and talk about how much our industry contributes to their local economy.

Nationally, we’re a three, I think it’s like $3.6 trillion industry and that’s a heck of an impact.

Elizabeth Francisco: There’s a lot of people we employ, as well as, house.

Jason Simon: Of course. It’s having those conversations, though, with the policy makers and it’s not a one and done, you have to continue to advocate. Because we have a meeting and we’re presenting our information. As soon as we leave, they’ve got a meeting right behind us where they may have, John Q citizen saying, “No more apartments. I can’t have apartments.” So they’re constantly hearing from the other side and there’s a lot of pushback. So we’ve really got to do what we can to try to break through some of that. Then some cities are easier to work with than others, but some still have that mentality where it’s just “we don’t want apartments and we’re gonna fight it as long as we can.” And it really hurts the community. It hurts the economy. On that development issue, that’s something that we’re constantly battling.

Elizabeth Francisco: So two thoughts that came out of what you were just saying, one is: I would imagine that you keep saying education, which I completely agree, and I can only imagine how that conversation plays out when you are explaining to them how much we contribute to their city budgets. But I’m guessing that the average voter for that same representative doesn’t know that. I guess this is where it’s really us coming together as an industry to understand: how do we not just educate those that are sitting on the councils and our elected representatives? How do we help educate the general population about what apartment living is really? Especially because there’s a lot of, people that are retiring that are going into apartments by choice. So apartment living, I feel like sometimes there’s a misconception about what the environment is period. But that’s expensive.

Jason Simon: It is and a lot of this is is really public relations campaigns and really getting out there and educating the general public.

I saw commercial this week. A National Realtors Association commercial that was talking about the real estate industry, talking about how [00:14:00] realtors are helping disabled vets, coming into a home and a wheelchair couldn’t fit through the door and the realtor was trying to figure out ways to help this vet, but it showed that connection. I think if the apartment industry could show, whether it’s our onsite teams or our maintenance teams, that we’re really impacting people’s lives in a positive way to push back against that stereotype of the rich landlord, the monopoly money guy, that’s just sitting on bags of money. Because that’s the stereotype, is “we’re just looking to get rich and we don’t really care if we have to evict somebody, too bad, it’s just dollars and cents.” So we’re constantly pushing back on that, but I think it’s, I think we still come around to education. Whether educating the elected officials or we’re educating the citizens, any given community, we’ve gotta be reaching out and talking about our industry.

Elizabeth Francisco: Thinking about it in the apartment industry, being a former operator and property manager, there’s also a captured audience of people who actually like living in apartments or maybe they’re apartments by choice. We don’t really arm them with any education either. Who are they talking to at work or at home that are voters that they are own? Renters might be able to help us with this if we approached it. Maybe something at the local levels, we can start talking about those conversations or invite people in to come in and talk with our renters.

Jason Simon: I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s something where we’ve done to a limited degree in the past, but I think it’s something we’re constantly looking to improve, to inform those residents because you’re right, you do have renters by choice. You have people that live at it may live in an apartment community for 10 years or more. So the stereotype of a transient person that rents for a few months and then doesn’t really contribute to the community. I think that’s still the stereotype and it’s stuck in a lot of people’s heads where these city council members, these local governments can dismiss our industry sometimes because they think, “Look, people who live in apartments don’t really vote. They’re not fully committed to the community because they’re not out, they’re not homeowners. They’re just renters. So they’re not totally vested in the community.”

Elizabeth Francisco: They don’t understand renting in America today. Yeah, [00:16:00] exactly.

Jason Simon: Yeah. They don’t, they really don’t. So it still goes back to education and talking to them. Things have changed. It’s not just a bunch of college kids living in apartments, now. These apartments are beautiful product. Their monthly rent is more than my mortgage payment. You talk to them about these things and you start to see some of them nod their heads and say, “yeah, I guess you’re right.”

Elizabeth Francisco: Even in the affordable space where there’s new product that’s coming into the market that is part of affordable housing program.

Jason Simon: And we talk a lot about that with the affordable stuff. We talk about workforce housing and affordability, and where are your teachers going to live, where are your fire firefighters going to live, where are your police officer’s gonna live? If you’re a Dallas cop, it’s too expensive to live in Dallas… are you going somewhere else? You’d rather have a Dallas police officer living in Dallas.

Elizabeth Francisco: And it’s funny you say that because in my early career, I worked in a lot of Class A assets, new construction, lease ups, things like that. But I have to say my workforce housing communities were actually the best because they seem to be more loyal and they were more vested in their apartment communities. Several of them are self appointed community association managers, which we didn’t have. But they are self appointed. (laughter)

Jason Simon: Block captains. (laughter)

Elizabeth Francisco: But no, but it’s a good thing when people are invested.

And if I had anybody that’s ever worked with me before and I shout out the name, “Miss Hoops,” they know exactly who I’m talking about. (laughter)

But the other side of it, is there any other legislation that impacts the affordable housing that we should be aware of? It’s my perception is we have a push for continually increasing our fees and different types of regulation that impact people coming into the market or deals being able to pencil out. Is that an accurate statement?

Jason Simon: That’s a great statement, it’s absolutely true. We see, again, a lot of this comes from the local level or local apartment association. So we’re dealing with cities 80% of the time probably. And in what I do, and we see it over and over again, and it’s really prevalent in north Texas, for whatever reason. We’ve seen Bedford, we’ve seen Garland, we’ve seen Lewisville, we’ve seen [00:18:00] Denton… we’ve seen a lot of cities steadily increasing fees on apartments. Inspection fees, licensure, and all those things add to the cost of operations and are passed onto the residents in higher rents and year over year, rents are up as much as 20 to 25% in north Texas in any given city.

So you’re adding not only 20 to 25%, natural market supply and demand increase, you’re adding a new fee increase that’s being passed on. So again, it comes back to education. We’ve got the city of Lewisville that wants to dramatically increase their inspection fees on apartments, and they want to do it by the end of this month or early next month.

Elizabeth Francisco: What are they doing it from? What is it today?

Jason Simon: Today, the increase in Lewisville has to do with the way that they’re inspecting. So probably since they started their inspection program, they’ve inspected apartments by building, so if you just have a few buildings, it’s maybe one unit per building there. They’re changing that from per building to per door. So you can just extrapolate that out. We had one member that said, “My license fees on my line item is going to increase like 400%.” And that’s unsustainable.

Elizabeth Francisco: Oh, I remember. You just brought this back. When the city of Plano first initiated their inspection phase, they didn’t have it. And of course they rolled this out after our budgets were already complete. So we had several properties and I came out of the gates at I think $15 a door. In time, it was a lot and it wasn’t budgeted. Given that it was unbudgeted, in the great recession… things were tight to begin with. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but what does that do? Where could that money be going back into the property? Or if the property is not breaking even, every penny counts. I think they made up almost the majority of their budget deficit because of the number of apartment doors in the city of Plano. That was a real awakening for me to understand how that worked and we need to do our part to participate in the city, but then we also get hit with those property taxes.

Jason Simon: Yeah. It’s one thing after another. So that issue you’re talking about… it’s happening.

Elizabeth Francisco: And this is years ago. So I can only imagine what that’s like now.

Jason Simon: However long ago that was, we’re talking about the exact same thing basically [00:20:00] happening in Lewisville. No notification, unbudgeted, the city’s pass their city budget about the same time it seems like our industry folks are doing their budgets and are finishing them up. But what happens is the city will pass a budget that may be, if it’s a large city, a thousand pages, 1500 page budget and on page 22 of the 1000 pages is a little fee schedule where they’ve increased the fees and they don’t take a separate vote on that. The city council votes to adopt the entire thousand page budget. But page 22 is the one that really kills us and we get no notification about it until after it’s done. Then the city will send a letter out to all the properties and say, “Hey, guess what? Even though you haven’t budgeted for it, you’ve got about two weeks before your fees are going to increase by 80%, 90%.”

We had one case in the city of Bedford several years ago where the Apartment Association of Tarrant county actually sued the city over fees because they couldn’t come to an agreement with the city.

Elizabeth Francisco: I remember that.

Jason Simon: And it was a big industry push. We contributed to that lawsuit financially, the Texas Apartment Association contributed to that effort. It took about two years to settle that and it costs our members about a quarter of a million dollars in that lawsuit. But we felt like it was the right thing to do because we felt like if we stand up and fight this fight now, maybe other cities will see and say, “let’s not mess with the apartment association.” Unfortunately, it’s happened a few times since then, so cities are still doing that.

Elizabeth Francisco: Early in my career, I heard somebody said, “When things get tough, you can always count on our local governments and our governments to come after smokers, alcohol industry and multifamily.” (laughter) So far, I hate to say it, but that’s pretty much what I’ve seen. And I don’t know how we got grouped in with those other types.

Jason Simon: But it’s whatever you want to call it, low hanging fruit. I don’t know. But I think it does go back to, you’re dealing with elected officials, politicians, people that get voted into office every couple of years and I think they do take our industry for [00:22:00] granted to this day. They look at, “Hey, what’s going, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?”

Elizabeth Francisco: When you say taking for granted, I think you’re exactly right. I think back to the days where we would hire residents at our properties, we would bring them in… and it became a running joke. So much so, it became part of our new hire and our leasing seminars that we did because they inevitably come in and they’re immediately a resident rights activist on everything. Resident is 15 days late on rent? They have a good reason.” And you try to do your coaching and help them understand the business and actually how tight our margins are, which the general public doesn’t really know. All they see is they take their rent in their minds, and they multiply it by however many units and they think that there’s no concept of expenses.

And one of the things we used to do is we would have our new team members, this is the old days where people coded bills, but they would start coding bills. It was actually really effective for our company. It changed quickly because the first time they saw the common area water bills, the first time they saw our electric bills for the properties, the first time they saw our mortgage interest and taxes, then they started recognizing when we have 15% of our residents that don’t pay rent on time, the first of the month, we now have put ourselves in a position where we may not be able to pay. There are certain things that come out automatically, so that next set of bills that we have that all have a sense of urgency and have pretty hefty, late fees attached to them, particularly the utilities. If we can’t make those, then we’re incurring expense and that’s a fine line and oftentimes we get caught in between that. So it’s always really eyeopening and you could watch the transformation because the same team members people would have to go above to push back on whatever they were trying to advocate for themselves because they weren’t able to meet the obligations of earliest contracts, all of a sudden those would stop. Because now my front lines were vested in and understood how the properties actually work and understand how much goes into supporting and financing those properties. And people wouldn’t get past them anymore because they could stand their ground and because they believed in it and understood it. It wasn’t just the big, bad [00:24:00] landlord.

Jason Simon: A few members of ours have talked about this in the past, and we keep coming back to education, but educating the renters, the residents, would it help to educate them to show them “This is where your rent dollar is going, right? This is a property tax portion.” I don’t know if it resonate with them or not, but it’s going back to the slim margins that we operate on. That 10 cents of the rent dollar is profit. All the rest of that rent dollar goes to all your other expenses.

I think it’s NAA, if I remember correctly, that did a really great infographic about every dollar of rent.

Yes, we used it. I don’t know how many times I emailed that to legislators during the pandemic. It’s awesome. It really is a great resource and we quote it all the time. We were having a conversation the other day with a candidate who’s running for state representative about property taxes and whatever percentage it was, I think it was the biggest percent of the rent dollar that goes to property taxes. The property taxes and insurance are a huge strain on our members, right? It’s a huge strain.

Elizabeth Francisco: So I just got off on Friday talking to one of our customers, fairly large, over 30,000 units that are predominantly here in Texas. They were saying the property taxes… they knew they were going to be pretty hefty this year, but it’s more than they expected. They said between that and the cost of insurance. So those are things that come back into our budgets.

Jason Simon: I mean, we regularly hear a hundred percent increase on just your Texas property taxes. So a lot of Texas born and raised here, great state, but our property taxes are unfortunately some of the highest in the country. We don’t have a state income tax, but our property taxes are really tough.

Elizabeth Francisco: And we want to be attractive for people who want to come here and build apartments.

Jason Simon: I think people hear that though. I think when they’re looking at Texas, there’s so many positive things. But they do look at property taxes. I wonder if they say maybe Texas, maybe we go to Florida, or I don’t know, a friendlie r climate in terms of property tax.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, but if there’s a long-term… That’s the thing we’ve got to remember. These are funded by investors and money comes into our space that maybe isn’t in [00:26:00] 401ks and these are people’s retirements. I think that’s the hardest point. We are not in non-profit housing.

Jason Simon: Bu t, that’s the perception on the other side, though. We’re talking about tenants rights groups, these fights that we’re battling now… the other side is talking about housing as a human right, which means you can’t profit off of housing, which is not sustainable obviously.

Elizabeth Francisco: No. Fundamentally that changes the quality of that housing.

Jason Simon: Yeah, of course.

Elizabeth Francisco: And that’s what’s interesting. So we were a 1031 exchange when we had our management company and we had a lot of investors from California and sometimes that seemed to be my biggest challenges. They were my biggest challenges, mostly because when it came down to approving the budgets, they didn’t understand our competitive landscape here.

It would get really frustrating because of our agreements. We really shouldn’t have had to push back, but we did. It was eyeopening to me when I got to go to California and go to see some of them. Instead of doing this over phones, it was like, “Let’s go meet and let’s get to know each other and have this better relationship.”

And the first hour, one thing I took away was the physical condition of the exterior of these buildings then the quality inside. And they had rent caps. It finally clicked with me. If they don’t want to spend any money, which is why they push back on anything I’m trying to do to have a competitive product, what I saw was a degrading condition. If you look at the government housing I’m aware of, they’re not the most ideal places to live. They don’t seem like they’re focusing on the same things. Whereas in our industry, we’ve seen what that looks like and that’s not a great condition either. So somewhere in between is some answers. I think this is why we’re getting ready to go into Advocate… Rent control is coming up fast and heavy.

Jason Simon: Yeah, you hear about a lot. A lot of states, a lot of cities are looking at it and unfortunately it’s supply and demand. But the bottom line is when you see rents increasing 20 plus percent, the other side is going to come back with rent control. And these increases are unsustainable is the thinking, so rent control has to be the solution is what the other side says.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And I still have to wonder because it’s kinda like the Great Recession. We came out of the Great Recession, our rent growth was incredible. But nobody stopped to appreciate what we [00:28:00] had been through. Where those properties were financially, how much capital had been fused into them because they weren’t able to meet their basic budgets. I wonder, even though we were able to collect the majority of our rents throughout the pandemic and, thank goodness we did have some government stimulus to help renters in need when they needed it, but I can also tell you from our own data that we saw our customers waiving fees like crazy. Their year over year revenue growth wasn’t the same. We know rent growth was stagnant, but those ancillary fees are there because they need that revenue. Without them there, they won’t be able to meet their budgetary needs.

Jason Simon: That’s the untold story because you don’t really hear that.

Elizabeth Francisco: It’s because we did have a lot to celebrate for. We kept people in their homes and we have rental assistance that’s there to help those that are facing eviction processes.

Jason Simon: Yeah, there was a lifeline and the rental assistance really was, yeah.

Elizabeth Francisco: But there is another side of that reality, we saw it in our data. We talked about it on the Rent Tracker Project, that’s what we were seeing is the average revenue per unit went down. So, there is somewhat of a loss that they absorbed.

Jason Simon: Was it pretty dramatic?

Elizabeth Francisco: It depended on the month. Some months were worse than others, but year over year the revenue growth… Rent growth came back around like 3 or 4%, but that’s just rent. That’s not everything else that was being waived.

Jason Simon: We heard all kinds of stories… It was just over and over again. Waiving and rent forgiveness… We had members that just forgave rent. “Hey, I’ll catch you on the flip side. Just don’t worry about it. This is a once in a hundred year pandemic. I want to keep you safe. I want to keep you healthy.”

Elizabeth Francisco: Tens of millions, if not a hundred million of rent forgiveness.

Jason Simon: That story’s just not told.

Elizabeth Francisco: And there are bad landlords out there. That’s the hard part, too. There are some. But from my personal experience, professionally managed assets, which is what we represent, house the majority of renters in apartments. So it’s a different conversation when you think about rent control. I think that’s coming up hot and heavy. I just read something where there was a hearing that took place talking about solutions for the affordable housing [00:30:00] and we were not engaged in that conversation, meaning NMHC and NAA, and the point of the letter coming out to members was, “we missed a great opportunity” which is where the naming convention for this session came up, our episode. When you’re talking about rental housing and how we house a majority of the apartment renters, why would we not be engaged in the conversation?

Jason Simon: And we should be. It should always be. We’re the experts. The legislators will tell you that we meet with legislators and elected officials. A good legislator that we would consider a friend of the industry would be someone who, hopefully, would agree with us on issues. They don’t always have to but somebody that’s always open to meeting with us and to listening to our concerns. Somebody who will actually reach out to us and say, “Have we heard from the apartment association before they take a vote?” and we look for that.

Well, and

Elizabeth Francisco: that’s where I was going to say, it was the “Senate banking committee holds a hearing on the role of institutional landlords.”

Jason Simon: Okay. It doesn’t sound good. It doesn’t sound like a friendly hearing to me. When they say institutional, there’s usually a bias there.

Elizabeth Francisco: And unfortunately where’s our representatives in that conversation and our trade associations who represent them? So this is the reason for this session. What do you think?

Jason Simon: We should be involved there. And I know in the past we’ve had good representation at the national level. But certainly at the state level with the Texas apartment association at the local level with AAGD, we regularly participate in committee meetings and hearings. We should be involved in every housing discussion. Dallas is an example. Dallas is a majority renter city, our members house the majority of Dallas residents. Anytime there’s a discussion about housing, we house the majority of your residents. We provide X amount of jobs in your particular council district or city. We should have a seat at the table.

So we’re constantly looking for those opportunities, building relationships with policymakers [00:32:00] through our political action committee and other efforts to make sure we are at that table. At a hearing like that in DC, we really should be there at all levels, every level. Because every level has an impact.

Elizabeth Francisco: So one of the things I learned from prepping for our conversation was just how much has been done on AAGD’s website. You guys have some great information about getting involved, locally, understanding the issues at hand, but going up to Texas Apartment Association and the National Apartment Association. I was really impressed because when I was coming through the industry, I don’t even know if they had a website when I started. Probably not.

Jason Simon: They all have a magazine and we still have a magazine. Everybody has a monthly magazine.

Elizabeth Francisco: No, but the tools that have been built in for the members to utilize and even helping you understand where we need advocacy, and if you agree, the tools are there to help you facilitate the conversation with your state and representatives and your senators and Congressmen. I was just really impressed with that and I can tell there’s been a lot of work on all three fronts from AAGD all the way up to TAA and NAA. I actually sat back diving into it further than I should have, because I can only vote one place. But I thought all the tools were really there. Including the advocacy kit that you can download, it’s available through NAA. Do you guys have something like that on your side as well?

Jason Simon: We don’t have an advocacy kit. We probably should have one. We do have resources on our site where it probably needs some updating, but we do have some local issue pages that we regularly update on what’s happening in Dallas, what’s happening in Plano, what’s happening in Farmer’s Branch, what’s happening in Irving. At the county level, we do county updates. So we try to keep everyone in our region updated as much as we can, as timely as we can. Things happen very fast in our industry and certainly when it comes to legislation and government affairs and advocacy, it’s very dynamic. It doesn’t stay the same. Everything’s a new day. I get a phone call from a member. One day I talk to somebody about emotional support animals. The next day I talk about eviction moratorium [00:34:00] and the next day I talk about a fair housing issue, crime ordinances. It’s a lot of calls from onsite people, “what do I do with this resident?” So we’re pretty busy. We wear a lot of different hats, but we try to keep those resources updated as much as we can and, of course, we use the NAA tools and TAA.

Elizabeth Francisco: I was going to say specifically, as you were calling out those particular issues, there’s literally a landing page at the NAA website that has icons for those exact issues. It’s super easy to it, to help understand where we stand as an industry. What legally you’re obligated to do and not, where we have room for improvement.

We’re going to come back and talk in more detail about getting involved and what we need to know as members and voting citizens in our communities. But going back to talking about rent control, because I think that’s the one that is obviously going to gain the most steam… You live this every day and I’ve watched you and others at NAA and TAA and the lobbying efforts that we do. How urgent is it that we get out in front of the conversation? Whether it’s a toolkit specifically, there is data now showing the change in investments into areas with rent control. I believe it might’ve been about Oregon. The context of the article was “when rent control is imposed, investment dollars leave.” What familiarity I have had with true government housing, it’s a different quality of living for renters. I was a single mom, I grew up in apartments. My mom has lived in an apartment since I was in seventh grade and I just moved her into her first house three months ago. So I have a lot of emotional concern about this, as well. I’m emotionally invested in the living conditions that we put our renters in, our family members, our seniors. I just I worry about what that means. I remember being at a conference, probably Advocate, where the city of Portland had some legislation that had just changed and it was putting some caps on where rent could go and the whole theme of that conference literally out in the audience was nobody had plans to go invest there. They were pulling back their investments. And it was quite the buzz if I remember correctly and it’s [00:36:00] been a couple of years, but how important is it that we get out in front of this? Because I think people think it’s just a California issue is just a New York issue. Minneapolis, I think, has also passed legislation and in Seattle, Washington and Oregon.

Jason Simon: Yeah. It’s a huge issue. For our industry, it would be a do or die issue if it ever came to Texas. I do think that we’re fortunate. I don’t think we should take our eyes off the ball on rent control, but of course rent control is prohibited by state law, at least for now in Texas.

But if you look at the city of Austin, you look at the city of Dallas, even very progressive cities, very focused on, unfortunately, a lack of balance between the property owner side and the tenant side. It’s much more heavy on the tenant side and what can we do to help tenants during this time and really not taking into consideration the other side of the equation.

But you could see that start to happen in cities. I think that’s where it would start, in your cities. You’ve seen it, I think Colorado had something that maybe started in Denver and eventually became a state issue.

Elizabeth Francisco: But that’s a good example though, because if I’m not mistaken, it was the Denver Metro Apartment Associations came together, working collaboratively with both sides of bipartisan and the members of their apartment association came together and put together a plan that was pretty effective. There was a certain number of units designated in each of the communities and there was buy-in. I guess we’ll see longterm, but before the pandemic, I knew that it was getting a lot of buzz and it seemed like it was a really positive thing for all involved.

Jason Simon: Yeah. I remember part of that and I know that they did the local association, the state association did a really good job working together and they came together with the tenant advocacy groups and it was a compromise, but it certainly could have been a lot worse than it was.

Elizabeth Francisco: So far the experience, from what I recall, was pretty overall positive for the communities that participated, for the residents in those communities, for the residents that benefited from those units. So I don’t know if this is the end all be all, but it’s a starting point. I would love to have conversations like that instead [00:38:00] of capping and reducing investment. Because if that happened…

Jason Simon: It would be a disaster. If you look at all these places we’ve talked about, Minneapolis…. I think there are already big regrets about that one. That’s one of the most aggressive control schemes in the country. Very aggressive. It applies to even new development, which typically, I don’t believe rent control typically does. But it’s a very sweeping rent control that was passed at the city level. It was passed by that proposition when people went and voted. Vote “yes” for rent control, vote “no” for rent control. And unfortunately it passed the vote.

Elizabeth Francisco: Well that’s because on the surface, without the context, people who don’t understand the issue because who doesn’t want rent control? It sounds great. I would like property tax control. (laughter)

Jason Simon: Yeah. There’s talk about, “Hey, why are we paying property taxes? Let’s just abolish property tax.” Which sounds great. Of course, if it’s on a billboard, but it’s not realistic.

Elizabeth Francisco: There’s more to it.

Jason Simon: Yeah. The devil’s in the details and there’s no free lunch. But I think everywhere you look it’s failed. Everywhere they’ve tried rent control long-term, it’s been detrimental to the housing ecosystem. New York City, that’s where the whole thing started back in WW2 era, when they thought that was the thing to do at that time to address some of their economic issues. Of course, it’s all over the place in California, but we I’ve talked to a lot of members that have invested in Texas and they’re like, “Thank God, this is not California because in California, you’ve got rent control, attendance bill of rights that you have to follow, you’ve got just cause evictions.” You have to have specific reasons to evict somebody. That’s the last resort, but this just cause eviction stuff… People can be basically committing crimes and you can’t evict them in your property. So when they come to Texas, they’re like, “This is great. This is a great place to be, great place to invest and to operate rental housing.” But you’ve got a lot of forces, you could see some big changes in Texas. That’s why we have to stay.

Elizabeth Francisco: Who better to fix the housing crisis other than people who build housing for a living? I think that’s the difference, right? [00:40:00] That’s the conversation is how do we make this a process or a program and get the support at all levels to help us expedite and move barriers to just flat out building. Even if it’s in the short term, put more units out there and people will fill them. That tends to change things. I’ve lived through it four times now, where you have different cycles in the industry and the rents will swell. We can get people come and start building, and then once the units are available, we have some leveling out. I think we’re behind 218,000 units nationally speaking over the last two years. We already had a gap that was carried, so that just added to it, so we got to get back to that.

Advocate – Focused Issues for Rental Housing

Elizabeth Francisco: So because Advocate is coming up and we’re going to talk about what that means because it’s not just about going up to DC… when you look at the website for NAA, there’s 14 high priority issues. Which to me, it seems like that’s more than usual.

Jason Simon: It’s a lot. (laughter)

Elizabeth Francisco: I don’t remember there being quite that many in the past.

Jason Simon: Yeah it’s very ambitious, but I will say with Advocate and our annual trip to DC, at least the time I’ve been going the last six years, they’ve got that big list of issues that NMHC and NAA partner together. It’s a wishlist of all these different issues that we want to address at different points throughout the year. Because, like you said, Advocate is not just one day, right? It’s a 24/7/365. We should always be advocating for our industry when we have opportunities to, whether it’s in DC or in Dallas or wherever.

They’ve always got that long list. And I’m like, “oh my God how could you cover all this?” But thankfully, they’ve got it narrowed down to three issues this time. So we’ll be really focused on three priority issues when we go to the Capitol.

Elizabeth Francisco: And can you leak out with those are? I was trying to memorize everything about all 14.

The YIMBY Act

 (laughter)

Jason Simon: Don’t do that. That’s for a later time. So it’s manageable with just a few issues but this year we’re focused on the YIMBY Act we talked about which is lowering barriers to development. We want supply of rental housing to [00:42:00] increase at all price points and this legislation would help that process. That’s bipartisan. So you’ve got Republicans, you’ve got Democrats that have supported it. The House of Representatives has supported it. The Senate has supported it. It just hasn’t gone all the way through the process yet. It’s gotten close, it’s gotten through both sides

Elizabeth Francisco: Is there any obstacles with that one in particular?

Jason Simon: It doesn’t seem like that one has a lot of obstacles. You can’t take it for granted. Unfortunately what happens in an election year, November is the general election, so everybody in the House is up for reelection. All 435 members are all running for reelection and then about half of the Senate is running. So what happens is they go back home to campaign, right? They’ve got to get reelected. So any chance of passing legislation the further you get into this year… so once you get past the spring, once you get into the summer… the chances for something like the YIMBY Act passing Congress this year, the window starts to narrow, it becomes more of a challenge. So there’s not one particular group or anything that’s opposed to it. I think it’s just a challenge to get a lot done in Washington period right now, which is unfortunate.

It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of Congress.

Elizabeth Francisco: The sooner, the better they can get something done.

Section 8 Voucher Program

Jason Simon: So that’s a great bill. We’ve tried to tackle this one before, but it’s really an ongoing issue is reform of the Section 8 Program, the housing choice voucher program that is a voluntary program. Some of our members participate in it. Some don’t. It’s really a business decision on whether to participate in it. As long as there’s not any discrimination or anything going on, you don’t have to accept or participate in the housing choice voucher program. What this legislation would do is incentivize more landlords to use the program. So to make the program more user-friendly. To cut back some of the red tape and the regulatory stuff because members that we talk to, they may want to use it, they may think, [00:44:00] “Hey, this is a good program. This could help people.” But NAA put together a really cool chart and I’ll have to share it with you but it basically shows your standard leasing process, so it’s like a flow chart. The standard leasing process, as you can imagine, somebody comes in to rent an apartment–

Elizabeth Francisco: I make software for this process. I know it well. (laughter)

Jason Simon: You got it. So it’s really simple, but the Section 8 process, the side-by-side process, takes up about this much of a legal size piece of paper where the traditional part takes about this much.

So it’s a great side-by-side visual to show a legislator, “Look how complicated this Section 8 process is. We could use more of these vouchers if that leasing process looked more like the conventional leasing process, it could be streamlined.”

It’s same thing we have in affordable housing and our tenants in common.

Elizabeth Francisco: The tenant certifications for affordable housing. It’s a beast of a process. Oh my goodness. We have a whole other workflow that we’ve had to do inside ResMan just to accommodate that. It’s burdensome on us and burdensome on the frontline teams, the back office compliance and it’s burdensome on the renters themselves. So that’s a piece of it. Is there anything else with the revamping of the Section 8 voucher program? Like what other things would incentivize a property owner?

Jason Simon: I don’t have all the details. I haven’t looked at the legislation recently, but I know there’s talking points and more detail about about that on the website, but, basically it would be some financial incentives built in, as well. It would establish a kind of a landlord navigator position within the process. So you would have a landlord friendly liaison to work with you through the Section 8 process. Which, to my understanding is that doesn’t exist right now. That would be something that would be created by this legislation, to have a landlord navigator, somebody to help you from the landlord side, steer through that process.

Elizabeth Francisco: Because that’s intimidating, especially because like I said, we have all sizes in our audience from five units all the way up to [00:46:00] tens of thousands of units. That can be a little bit intimidating for people who maybe do want to get involved or participate. So that’s great.

Jason Simon: So I think the bottom line is… it’s cutting through some of the red tape, breaking down some of the barriers and, hopefully through some of those kinds of things, it would incentivize people to use the program more. Because I think it benefits. It’s a good program. It just needs to be fixed and reworked and modernized, make it user-friendly.

Elizabeth Francisco: I was going to say, in my language we call that “user-friendly.” (laughter)

Jason Simon: Yeah because this was passed back in the seventies, but it hasn’t been really touched since that time. So any law, you shouldn’t wait 40 years to look at it again.

Eviction Moratorium and the Effects on Rental Housing

Elizabeth Francisco: And so what’s the third one?

Jason Simon: So the third one is probably the heaviest lift where I think we may get some opposites. Right when the pandemic started, March of 2020, when the CARES Act was passed, it was passed Republicans, Democrats. I think there may have been like one vote against it through the whole Congress. Everybody voted for it. We needed the money. This is a pandemic. Businesses are going to collapse. The economy is going to collapse. We’ve got to support all these different industries. So it was a rush of money. All kinds of programs, PPP program, all of those programs were in the CARES Act. It was a big piece of legislation. In the CARES Act was a 120 day eviction moratorium. So most everybody’s familiar with that. It was like, “Hey, we know we’ve got to, we’re going to try to keep everybody housed. This is a temporary measure. This was never meant to be permanent. It’s 120 days. Once we get past that, we’re in the clear.” Of course, it got extended. The CDC got involved and made it apply to every rental house, all rental housing across the country. The states got into it. The cities got into it. The city of Dallas still has an ordinance that extends the eviction process. Two years later, we’re still dealing with this stuff. Unfortunately, in the CARES Act, they did the 120 day eviction moratorium, it came and went. But they also included in there if you are a covered property under the [00:48:00] CARES Act, so if you’re a Fannie, Freddie, if you have any loans, any of that, when you give a notice to vacate for an eviction, you have to give a 30 day notice, when in Texas it’s normally a three-day notice.

So if you are covered under the CARES Act, you’re required to give that 30 day notice. The reality of it is, if you don’t give that notice and you go into JP court, file your eviction, you’re before the judge, the judge is going to ask you, “Are you covered under the CARES Act?” There’s going to be some paperwork that you have to fill out. If you say I’m not covered and you are covered, your case could be dismissed. So that’s the end result of it. The problem is that 30 day notice to vacate our position is that should’ve expired with the 120 day eviction moratorium. It was temporary, it was “Let’s get through the pandemic, until we have vaccines and rental assistance and get rid of it.” But the 30 day notice to vacate is still in place and there’s no end date. So it will not end. Every member who is federally backed, is covered by the CARES Act will have to provide a 30 day notice to vacate for an eviction until we can bring it to an end. So we still have members that are dealing with this two years later. They’ll call AAGD and they’ll say, “Do we still have to do the 30 day notice?” Yes, it’s required under the CARES Act. If you’re a federally backed property, you’re covered. And if you have a voucher holder on your property, it applies to that voucher holder. Thankfully it doesn’t apply to the whole property. But it would apply to that one unit where you have your voucher holder. You would have to give that voucher holder a 30 day notice where you could give all your other residents only a three-day notice.

So what we’re asking Congress to do of course, is to sunset that, put an end date on it. Because we feel like it was never intended to be permanent policy.

Elizabeth Francisco: Well, and if you look at our unemployment rates now across the country, getting back to business as usual for a lot of us different sectors, makes sense and [00:50:00] has made sense for some time now. So this would be a perfect example of that.

It was interesting. We had some guests coming in for our podcast last week and I was really surprised to hear about their struggles. They’re still having with renters who are one, two years now behind on rent. I joined a hearing Just to listen in over the summer. It was talking about landlords, not doing enough to get in contact with their residents. I think there was somebody up north that was working with their representative and they all went out on site and they got people signed up that day. I think we have to be careful. Society, in general, right now seems to be painting everything with broad strokes.

And the reality is, they are doing things like that. They are hosting site events, “come on down and talk to us.” it’s a lot of money. But I was surprised that there are renters in units that are two years behind on rent now. They are not cooperating to get the rental assistance.

Jason Simon: They have to cooperate.

Elizabeth Francisco: And because the court system is so far behind, they know they’re not going anywhere. It’s such an odd thing to me because there’s, I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want to. The other thing that they were sharing with me is how much fraud that the industry is dealing with now. So we have this other cost that, that is impacting our bottom lines and a lot of risk and a lot of lost rent or uncollectable rent we can’t recover because they got through the system and it’s fake identities. But I was really surprised by that, too. So on top of having these pockets of people at each property that now have upwards of two years of back owed rent, which is insane. They know they’re working the system. Now, that’s not everybody there’s really good renters out there. And of course, we got to clarify that because that is the truth.

Jason Simon: But I think our concern is all of this was around COVID. This is a once in a hundred year, we’ve got to take this action. This is unprecedented action. The federal government, the CDC. But what does the CDC have to do with eviction? Why is the government getting this involved? But, they said, “We’re going to do whatever we can to keep our residents housed. Evictions are a last resort. This is not something that we want to do and intend to [00:52:00] do. We’ll do everything we can to keep our residents in place during the pandemic.”

But we are two years away from March 2020 and we’ve got widely available, highly effective vaccines, whatever you think about the vaccines, they’re readily available. The rental assistance dollars, tens of millions of rental assistance dollars that are available, that are still available. In Dallas, you could have up to 18 months rent paid if you qualify for the Dallas rental assistance program and they still have anywhere from 15 to $50 million available. The residents have to cooperate. We can’t do it on our own. We’ve advocated as an industry with the Treasure Department because the Treasure Department is the ones who sent the money out, they came up with the legs for rental assistance. NAA’s had numerous conversations, we’ve had conversations with the Treasury Department that says, “If you have an uncooperative resident that will not communicate with you, that refuses to answer the door, can we apply for that assistance on their behalf without their cooperation?”

And the Treasury Department has said, “No, you have to have their consent.” Even though we know some of them are willfully ignoring and they owe tens of thousands of dollars, $50,000 in back rent, in some cases.

Elizabeth Francisco: This goes back to what we were talking about when you look at the realities of running a property, right? You’ve got the perception of all this cashflow without expenses, but there’s also damages we incur and that’s being carried over month by month. So it’ll be interesting to see when this is all said and done. What was the actual damage across the board to our members and non-members, in general? And if you’re a small mom and pop you’re done. If you only have a duplex or four-plex or maybe a couple of rental homes and they’re not paying and they can’t be evicted, then you’re taking out the property owner, as well.

Jason Simon: The AAGD, the local apartments association, our association is almost 50 independent rental owners, so people with less than 50 units make up about half of our [00:54:00] membership. Wow. So they were hit particularly hard and they were not picked up in the rent tracker. But those untold stories, and I know for a fact because I’ve reached out to a few of them on other issues and they completely went out of business. One company had been around in the city of Denton for probably 30, 35 years, they went under and it was just non-payment of rent and they had so much delinquency on their property, but they’re out of business.

Elizabeth Francisco: Wow. When you’re a small operator, one month’s rent is a huge amount. Then you start accumulating that for a solid year… There’s a material impact to your ability to pay other things taxes, mortgage…

Jason Simon: We would hear, over and over again, these nonpayment of rent are really impacting the lower income, and these people are living paycheck to paycheck… we’ve got small owners that are living paycheck to paycheck. What about them? What about those small owners that may just be completely dependent on that rent coming in and coming in timely? They’re just not able to do any deferred maintenance, they’re not able to pay. Some of them it’s like, “How do I pay my property taxes when I have so much delinquency? There’s a gap between what I own property taxes and all this delinquency across my portfolio. I can’t even really pay my property taxes on time. I have to make payments.”

Elizabeth Francisco: This is where the reality doesn’t meet the intent. I saw this back in my early days. I got to the point where every time we would do our three-day notice to vacate and those who would end up facing eviction didn’t understand the process. You would see people starting to pack up on the third or fourth or fifth and so we would go through the property in our golf cart and we all had a theme at my property about this awareness… we saw somebody and said “Stop! You can still pay. You just need to know that this is for people who don’t end up paying. So don’t panic. Come talk to me. Just don’t assume.” But you put that out with smaller operators who don’t have an office out on site, how many rent renters just bailed because they didn’t understand? And unfortunately, even the rental assistance program didn’t get the media coverage that it should have because there was too many other things being focused on at the time, when, in reality, we all should have [00:56:00] focused on this. Cause I think a lot of it also has to do with just people not knowing true. It wasn’t popular on Twitter cause I never saw a tweet about it.

Jason Simon: Yeah, we did a lot. The apartment association, I feel like, did a lot to try to connect, to create awareness. But I honestly feel like the local governments, the cities could have done their own PR campaign. The counties could have done their own PR campaign, could have put up billboards. They could have done radio ads, they could have done TV. What we were most concerned about was connecting our members because our members are in the best position to know who’s behind on rent on their property. So they could go to unit number one, unit number five, unit number 10… they could get their rent, they could pull their rent roll and say, “These people need help. I’m going to go target them. I’m going to put something on their door. I’m going to give them a call.”

Elizabeth Francisco: You guys did a great job of that.

Jason Simon: And we did probably half a dozen or more webinars with the city of Dallas, city of Denton, Collin County… saying this money is available, do what you can to connect with your residents. And I think a lot of people were helped, but you still had some…

Elizabeth Francisco: Or those people, if you think about the ones that just moved out, there’s no recourse now for the property owners, they’re left holding the bag because you had to get their participation and signature. So while we’re talking about advocacy and yes, we remember y’all are still there, but this also just turned into why you should be a member of your local apartment association.

Jason Simon: We do so much for you. We care so much about the industry and there’s just so many great people and it’s such a great industry to advocate for. It’s really a pleasure for me to do what I do. I enjoy it.

Advice for New Attendees at NAA’s Advocate

Elizabeth Francisco: Yes. So I think then that brings me back to talking about Advocate in particular, because I know you have a presence there and are definitely an instrumental part in this two weeks from now conference. I remember the very first time. I admit it is pretty intimidating and if it hadn’t been for one Char McCurdy, I don’t know what I would have done. She took me under her wing and God bless her. But it’s a lot to take in, especially if you’ve never been politically active before. Everything seems like such a heavy topic.

For people who are attending, cause you can still sign up, there’s still time and there’s still room [00:58:00] for you to go participate in this year’s Advocate, the organized event. What would you say? What does somebody who’s going for the first time need to know about this event?

Jason Simon: Find your Char McCurdy.

Elizabeth Francisco: Now we just overloaded Char. (laughter)

Jason Simon: No, really, there’s so many leaders in our industry who have gone and will go again to Advocate, year after year. You can learn a lot by just watching them, asking questions, observing, shadowing them.

Elizabeth Francisco: And they’re all really giving of their time. If I remember correctly, day one where we talk about the issues, they do have tables that are by region. So when you can look up on and understand… I think going in there and just raising your hand and say, “This is my first time,” introducing yourself… and just knowing this is, even as a supplier at our company, I make sure that we talk about our presence at this event. It’s probably hard for my sales leader to hear this, but I repeatedly say we’re not there to sell. That’s not what this is about. This is really about being hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with our customers and we’re part of the communities that we live in. This matters to us as well to basically do our part which I think is a really important aspect of this.

It’s exciting to watch people learn for the first time, too, because so many other companies where this wasn’t a priority, didn’t have the same commitment and empathy, because I’m an operator at heart, we’ve grown our footprint across the country, I also realized how many of my own customers are not part of our associations, especially as we get out of the Sunbelt states. I’m trying to bring them in because I see all these advantages and especially in trying times. But definitely search someone out.

Jason Simon: And don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s a cliche, but there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Ask questions, ask about, “Hey, we’re going to meet this Congressman or Congresswoman at the Capitol? Are they friendly to us? What’s their position on our issues? Are they influential in the Capitol? Are they respected by other members? Ask those kinds of questions because that stuff does help you get a better feel for [01:00:00] the people that you’re meeting with and just getting a little bit of background. We like to provide all of our members that are going to the Capitol visits with some background about each member. I think it’s interesting to see all the different biographies. Everybody’s got a very different background. You have a lot of veterans in Congress, a lot of small business owners, teachers, lawyers, doctors, everybody’s got an interesting background. And we do have several members that are actual rental property owners and owned stuff in the past or own stuff now and they can definitely relate to our issues. Just to know a little bit about their biographies and their backgrounds helps.

Elizabeth Francisco: What about this? I’m just going to flat out admit it and it won’t be a surprise to Char cause I’m pretty sure she knew it, but all I remember… trying to absorb everything and this pressure I put on myself that was unnecessary. I kept thinking as we went to the Capitol is “Please, God, don’t ask me a question.” (laughter) And not because I didn’t know, because you guys do a great job. You get a printed material, so you don’t have to feel like you have to know everything about every issue. You’re there to learn too, and just share your experiences. But without ever being to the Capitol, they invited me, I’m like, great. And then I got nervous as hell because I’m like what if I say something wrong that hurts the entire industry? (laughter)

Jason Simon: You’re putting so much pressure on yourself. (laughter)

Elizabeth Francisco: It’s not that way, people, I’m just telling you. So tell us a little bit about what the Capitol visits are like. Cause I love them now.

Jason Simon: Yeah, it is pretty cool. Especially if you’ve never been to the Capitol, it’s just a neat place. And of course, a lot of history and beautiful building and just really neat to walk around and be a part of it. You get to these offices and they’re not super glamorous. They’re pretty small. The staff cubicles, in most offices, you may have one door that closes, like a closed door office, that’s the member of Congress. But the staff, they’re in an open environment and it’s not real fancy. It’s not real big. We used to take 10 or 12 people up to these meetings and you had to stand out in the hall because the office, you couldn’t fit that many people in the office. You think you’re walking into this majestic [01:02:00] building and it’s marble, all these cool statues and then you walk into this office and you’re like, this is all it is?

Elizabeth Francisco: Like those 1970s blinds. (laughter)

Jason Simon: Yeah. It’s like this hospital environment now, so that part you’re a little bit intimidated, but then when you walk in, and it’s like, “Okay, this is just like a normal office.”

Elizabeth Francisco: Tell the audience, too, about working with the aides.

Jason Simon: I used to be one. I was a staffer for a member of Congress and I was here locally in the district office. I didn’t spend much time in DC. Working with the staffers for the members of Congress, it could be just as important as actually meeting with the member of Congress. Because a lot of times when I would meet with different groups that would come through the office and I would take those meetings as the member of Congress was doing a million other things, I would take notes, I would ask questions and then he would ask me how the meeting went and he would ask me my opinion. And he would take basically my feedback and run with it because he trusted me. He knew that I was in the meeting, I was engaged. I studied the materials ahead of time, whatever. So the interactions you have with staff are very important because of this. The members of Congress rely heavily on the staff’s opinion. So don’t ever take a meeting with a staff member for granted cause those are super valuable

Elizabeth Francisco: They’re gatekeepers.

Jason Simon: Absolutely and they’re very influential. So it really matters. Of course, we love to meet with the member of Congress and get the big root picture and tell NAA that we met with all of our members. But NAA, we’ll tell you the same thing. It’s like meeting with the staff, engaging with the staff there, they are your gatekeeper, they’re your first and last point of contact. It’s really important to try to nurture those relationships and build those relationships. I will say, DC’s a kind of a young person’s town. Everything moves pretty fast. So the staffers at the Capitol may only last a few years in that office. There’s quite a bit of turnover. Here, locally, because every member of Congress has the Capitol office in DC and then they have a local office wherever their district is.

Elizabeth Francisco: So do they have two staffers, then?

Jason Simon: They have many more. So in the DC office, you may have as many as four or five [01:04:00] staffers. Then in the local office, you may have the same amount depending on the area. But every member, if they’ve got an office in DC, they’re going to have an office in Plano or an office in Irving or Carrollton. They’re going to have that local office. I would say those local interactions with the local office, Advocate is very important. Get up there to Advocate. It’s definitely worth your time. You learn a lot, it’s a great experience, but keep in touch with your home office. And we do that a lot here.

ResMan Gets Ready for NAA Advocate 2022

On March 8-9th, 2022, the National Apartment Association (NAA) will be hosting their annual NAA Advocate conference, which gives members of NAA a chance to vocalize key issues within property management and the rental housing industry with legislators.  

When we started ResMan, I wanted to make sure that everyone in our company understood that we are part of the housing industry, what impacts our customers, their investors and their renters impacts us as well. As part of doing our part, ResMan team members will be joining other NAA members throughout the country in meeting with their Congressmen and women to address rental housing concerns where legislation could be of help.  

Conversations will be focused around the fourteen key issues that NAA lists on their website. This affords members and frontline workers to share their story at the national level to better advocate for themselves and their residents on both micro and macro levels.   

The conference features keynote speakers, Q and A sessions, educational discussions on emerging policy issues and a briefing on what to address during visits with Congress.  

To better understand priorities for Advocate 2022, we sat down with Jason Simon, Director of Government Affairs at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas. In our discussion with Jason, we found 3 key issues stood out for members and others in the property management industry. We’ve listed some details so you can better prepare for your conversations. 

YIMBY Act  

The “Yes In My Back Yard” Act legislation would remove barriers to housing development and help address the nation’s housing affordability crisis. Specifically, it would encourage localities to eliminate discriminatory land use policies and remove barriers that prevent needed housing from being built around the country by requiring Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients to report periodically on the extent to which they are removing discriminatory land use policies and implementing inclusive and affordable housing options.  Reducing regulations and administrative barriers present in local jurisdictions could dramatically boost housing affordability in the U.S. Lawmakers need to push YIMBY through.  

Despite bipartisan support for the YIMBY Act, lawmakers have delayed moving this forward. The NIMBY Act (Not In My Back Yard) has created limited supply and an overwhelming demand in rental housing. Most who back the NIMBY Act have complete misconceptions of the rental housing industry and see apartment building as a threat to their cities. With inflation and rising gas prices, metropolitan cities are suffering on the outskirts as there is lack of affordable rental housing and commutes are now considered just as expensive as renting. 

Section 8 Housing Voucher Program 

The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program is a voluntary program NAA has long supported. While it is one of the most successful rental subsidy programs, many members are asking for changes and reforms to the fifty-year-old program. The program itself could use a face lift and aim toward a more user-friendly benefit for landlords. There is legislation which would essentially incentivize more landlords to use the program and cut back the red tape on regulations.  

NAA has a great chart for their members showing the standard leasing process versus the Section 8 process. The most noticeable difference is how much more streamlined conventional leasing is compared to affordable. This is where effective legislative changes could drastically improve the use of the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program across the country. The composed legislation suggests changes and reforms such as: 

  • Awarding incentive payments to housing providers that are new participants or operate in high-volume areas  
  • A mitigation fund so owners can better manage repairs and damages  
  • Establishing inspection reciprocity to allow owners and operators already subject to other inspection protocols to satisfy HCV (Housing Choice Voucher) requirements 
  • A landlord liaison to support landlords during the Section 8 process 

Eviction Moratoriums  

Members of NAA are speaking up to lawmakers regarding the CARES Act and Eviction Moratoriums. Though the CARES Act was passed with bipartisan support in March 2020, many saw this as a temporary solution to prevent an unprecedented economic disaster during COVID-19. Two years later, the eviction moratorium was extended and properties covered under the CARES Act are still required to give 30-day notices for evictions. This can cause problems for properties upon arriving in court. 

As Jason Simon explains, “The reality of it is, if you don’t give that notice and you go into JP court, file your eviction, you’re before the judge, the judge is going to ask you, ‘Are you covered under the CARES Act?’ If you say you’re not covered and you are covered, your case could be dismissed and that’s the end result. The problem is that [30-day notice requirement] should have expired with the 120-day eviction moratorium. It was temporary, it was ‘Let’s get through the pandemic, until we have vaccines and rental assistance and get rid of it.’ But the 30-day notice to vacate is still in place and there’s no end date. So, it will not end until legislators end it.”  

NAA members are asking lawmakers to sunset the federal eviction moratorium to halt the destabilization of the rental housing market. The moratorium has restricted property owners’ ability to pay mortgages, salaries, property taxes, maintenance and utilities, ultimately putting many properties into jeopardy and out of business. Small businesses have been especially hard hit. But the answer isn’t just to end the moratorium, since the moratorium has led some renters to accumulate debt that they will be unable to pay when the moratorium ends. Instead, NAA members will be advocating for a clear end date to the moratorium AND for Congress  to offer increased rental assistance to allow renters that have been unable to pay some or all of their rent during the moratorium to catch up on rent payments and remain in their homes. 

For more information on the NAA’s advocacy, visit the policy section of the NAA website, check out the federal legislative tracker or find information about active legislation in your state through the state legislative tracker

See you on Capitol Hill! 

PropTalk: Don’t DIY Your DEI: The Quest for Equity and Inclusion in Multifamily ft. Antoinette Williams and Lissi Daniels

Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Antoinette Williams of CARROLL and Lissi Daniels at Madera Residential to talk about the challenges faced by minorities in Multifamily and how DEI and the support of executive leadership can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable industry. They’ll also discuss how legislation is supporting DEI efforts on a macro and micro level.

To listen to more episodes of PropTalk, visit https://learn.myresman.com/proptalk/.

Follow along here:

Elizabeth Francisco: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. Thank you for joining PropTalk, a property management podcast powered by ResMan. I’m Elizabeth Francisco. I’m the president here at ResMan and I am your host for today’s episode. “Don’t DIY Your DEI: The Quest for Equity and Inclusion in Multifamily. Today, we will be hearing from two very incredible professionals in the multifamily industry, as they share their perspectives as black women on their quest to be included, to be heard and to achieve equity.

And we’re going to be jumping just right on in, because this is an important topic. First I am delighted to welcome Antoinette back. Antoinette Williams is the Regional Vice President of CARROLL Property Management. And she has joined me before for another DEI topic about owning your career and trailblazing your way to the table.

So if you have not checked it out, I truly I’m asking, begging, go check it out. It was fantastic. And thank you again for that. We had great response from it. You could have two careers if you wanted them.

Antoinette Williams: What? (laughter )

Elizabeth Francisco: So to start us off Antoinette, can you just remind our listeners a little bit about, your career in property management and maybe also talk about, what are the things that you really love about this industry? And maybe if there’s anything that frustrates you about this industry?

Antoinette Williams: So thank you for having me back. It’s great. This is fun last time. I’m sure it’ll be a fun episode this time. So I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and I worked my way up from leasing consultant to now Regional Vice President. I’ve worked all the positions in between and I’ve been with my current company, CARROLL for seven and a half years and currently support the Georgia and Western markets.

And one of my proudest titles is that I’m an executive sponsor of our diversity and inclusion council. So I have I have the responsibility [00:02:00] of helping to just move things along, help provide feedback and ensure that our D&I counsel achieves what it sets out to achieve. First what I didn’t like about this industry when I first got into at you already know it’s leasing. What I didn’t like about leasing though, was I felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. So being at the bottom of the totem pole was not fun for me. I wanted more responsibility. And there was just a consistent cycle of doing the same thing over and over answering the phone, doing a tours, entering guest cards and sending those handwritten thank you notes.

It was mentally exhausting for me because I’m a creative and I wanted to do something more. But what I loved about it was really the endless possibilities that I could do whatever I really wanted to do within this this industry. I loved that there were so many opportunities in this industry and I could, go down accounting. I could be in marketing, I could do whatever I wanted. I really liked the possibilities, yeah.

Elizabeth Francisco: So I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m the executive champion of our D&I committee. And interestingly enough, I think as we go through this conversation, I’m anxious to hear what you’re going to share and see what I can learn from it and what I can do to take that forward too. Cause I have a feeling that the two different committees may have different perspectives and ours in all honesty, we’ve struggled with it. I look forward to having some conversation and seeing what I can learn from this. I also want to welcome today a newcomer to the prop talk podcast Lissi Daniels of Madera Residential.

And can you help us, share with our listeners a little bit about your career in multi-family and what do you really love about it? And what are things that might be frustrating to you?

Lissi Daniels: Yes. Thank you for having me. I am the Director of Sales and Leasing with Madera Residential. I’ve been in multifamily for over 15, 16 years, and just like everyone else started off as leasing, but to be the opposite of Ms. Antoinette, I loved [00:04:00] leasing. And that’s only because I love sales and I worked my way up to where I’m currently at right now. And I would say I love multifamily because of the endless opportunities and just the growth, but it’s also for the connecting and lasting friendships that you make in this industry, you can never not say, “Oh, I met you a long time ago or met you with a different company.”

So definitely that is one thing that I really love, you got to love multifamily. And as far as something I don’t like of that, being when I started off as a leasing agent and being to where we’re at now, it’s not seeing that representation of minorities and not seeing them in those leadership and executive roles to where I could say, wow, I want to be where she is at or I have room to grow. And I have an opportunity to be in that position and work my way up. How do I get there? And where’s that mentor or that person for me at that? So those would probably be the cons of it with that.

Elizabeth Francisco: Oh, I couldn’t have asked you to set this up any better, but what a great segue into the into our topics today and, as you’re talking it, resonates with me about the lack of representation, because back in early 2019, I was working to submit a session submission to the NAA’s Apartmentalize, and it was a diversity and inclusion and equity topic.

And what I had planned to do and what I tried to do was I wanted to put together a really diverse panel of women that had achieved equity, the ultimate equity, they were partners in their businesses. And as I worked on the topics, what we’re going to talk about, I had to start looking and I had no idea when I came up with this idea what I was going to experience, which was, I’m not kidding, I think we talked about this back before when we were prepping for FAA in our panel. But I went through, I’m not kidding, 75 websites because that’s where I started. I was just looking right. And I couldn’t find any of that representation in the, the managing partners or the founders. And then that [00:06:00] led to a bunch of really awkward conversations because I’m having to ask people, by the way, do you happen to know anyone that’s a minority and a woman, that’s a partner in that role.

And that really stuck with me about how unfortunate that is. And that’s really what led me into, how can I just do more than want to support DEI in my own company, but how do we go back into the industry and how do we give back and how do we help fix that? So I want to hopefully be a champion of change for that. Like I said to say that minority women were lacking representation might be the understatement of the year. And I think this is a good forum and we get to start those conversations. And like you said, how does that impact your aspirational goals when you don’t see people like you? And that was the whole point of why I was trying to do that.

I wanted to help, I wanted to give people hope and figure how we get there. So during today’s episode, we’re going to have, and continue to have a pretty open conversation about the realities of career progression for people of color in our industry or other marginally represented groups. And also how it can look very different from their white counterparts. Again, I’m very excited to have you two here, and I appreciate your commitment to the conversation and the transparency because you two are both on your way to navigating your way to, no doubt, top level executive positions. But also I’m sure along your journeys, you’ve probably encountered and faced some things yourself on your own on that journey.

So it’s funny, I was, we were prepping for this, we have a lot of PropTalk sessions and we start with our marketing team and we plan these out for a whole year. And we also have different topics outside of property management and operations and things like that. But we also have our DEI initiatives.

And so when we were looking at it and we were starting talking about it, I think I shared with Antoinette, I had no doubt I could reach out to you and you would participate because you’re just awesome like that. And I love you, but I also felt conflicted. Like really conflicted. Like you don’t even know.

I waited a whole week because in my head, I know that this Black History Month is an important month and it’s, and I understand why it would, it brings the conversation [00:08:00] forward and it keeps it relevant and it keeps it going. But then I also thought isn’t that part of the problem, because this is not a February month problem. It’s an every day problem. And so I was conflicted. And you’re going to blush, hopefully you blush in a second. But when I think of Antoinette, I obviously can tell you’re a black woman. I can see you. But I don’t think about that. Like the first thing that comes to mind is everything else, which is all how amazing your ability is your skillset as a leader, your expertise in the domain, and those are the things that come top of mind to me. You’re a rising star, not out of the pool of black women coming up through the ranks in this industry, but out of the pool of talent period, in fact, CARROLL better be damn glad I don’t have a management company or y’all would be in trouble.

 (laughter from Antoinette and Lissi)

Elizabeth Francisco: And I mean that for our audience, I certainly hope that you guys will join us for PropTalk in the future where we are going to hear more about probably why her portfolios are beaten you. (laughter) But also, like I said for Lissi too, I’ve been getting to know you and I really excited and together, hopefully we can all help navigate our careers because I have my own set of challenges that are, similar but different. And we can learn from one in each other and help each other.

Lissi Daniels: That’s what change is all about. That’s right. Yup.

Elizabeth Francisco: And it comes back to you, like you said, there is a definite lack of representation in the industry today. So I was looking on that panel in 2019. It’s not like it’s changed that much if at all. There’s a disparity that anyone with pair of eyeballs can see at any trade association conference. As I mentioned on company websites in the makeup of ownership of management companies, in supplier companies, and even among investors. Truly to help are our peers coming up behind us, we need to help this conversation move forward so that they do see those people so that they know they can do it, too.

And hopefully through this conversation, Give them the hope and support to do it, even if they have to do it on their own to get there and to be the first in their markets or in their areas. But you guys were sitting here as examples of we can move forward, but doesn’t need [00:10:00] to be as hard. Yeah.

So the quest for inclusivity and equity starts with understanding the reality of others. I think we were talking about it. We need to understand what the experience is like for people of color in our companies that are trying to work their way up in the industry and in our businesses. And I’d say right now more than ever, given the fight for talent and the Great Resignation, right? You can’t afford to have this unfortunate level of thinking and devaluing of your talent. And it makes no sense. So we want to put it together, environments where people can flourish and achieve their career aspirations. We’re going to dive right in. This is a question for both of you.

I am curious because I don’t walk in your shoes. What do you think are the challenges today that black men and women are facing in our industry right now?

Lissi Daniels: Yeah, I can go ahead. I definitely can say, and I can only speak from my own perspective, but in my own experiences, I think the challenges we face is not being heard, not being listened to. (The goal is) being at the level to where we are just as good as our peers.

And I think that’s where one of the biggest issues evolved and I’ve experienced that. And just having that level: ” I’m just as good as the next person.” Just because of my color or who I am, even as a woman too, that doesn’t mean I should be discredited, and I think in our industry, we see that. We are being compared because “You don’t look a certain way, you don’t act a certain way. Your hair is not a certain way.” And in that to me, that’s where it causes more challenging issues and problems.

Antoinette Williams: I think in that’s right. I think I would say basically the same thing. I would sum it up as cultural misunderstandings and cultural misrepresentation. Even before I get into that, I was always the only black girl or black child in my classes growing up. And so once I got into the workforce and I was the only one, I don’t think that I recognized I always [00:12:00] wanted to have more of a connection culturally.

But it is just the way it is. And so when I really started to pay attention to some of the differences in the way that I was treated and some of my counterparts, my non POC (person of color) counterparts were treated, I realized there’s just a real misunderstanding and misrepresentation of my culture.

So we often hear people say in our industry and other industries that people are not a culture fit. And really it’s that people who are in power positions don’t understand the culture. And because we haven’t assimilated to the dominant culture, we are now viewed as not being a “culture fit” in that the way that we speak, maybe you speak with an accent, maybe you’re from somewhere in the South and you’re black.

Now, all of a sudden you are seen as an educated or inarticulate. Or maybe we like bright colors or maybe we just don’t do things the way the dominant culture does things. And so then we’re viewed as not a ” culture fit.” and I think the other thing is that there are some people who feel like they completely understand who we are and what we are.

And when I get into some situations with people, I hear, “Hey girl.” And I know the difference between: “I say, “Hey girl” all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, brown, whatever.” And someone saying “I’m going to behave this way with my white coworkers. But when I see Antoinette come in, “Hey girl.”” It has happened so many times where I’m like, “How did you just turn that on?” and don’t, “Hey girl” me. (laughter) If you didn’t “Hey girl” them, don’t “Hey girl” me because you’re assuming. It’s an assumption that that’s the way that I speak or that I am more “down” or whatever it may be. And it’s a misunderstanding. I am in a professional environment as professional as every other person who’s in that.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. It’s interesting what you were saying. I think back to when when Katrina hit and I don’t know if you guys were, how many years have you been in the industry?

Antoinette Williams: No, 15 years, I was not in the industry at that time.. [00:14:00]

Elizabeth Francisco: Okay. So you guys came in right after that then. So when Katrina happened, we had evacuees coming in to the state of Texas. And at the time I negotiated with the city of Plano instead of FEMA, because, you know, FEMA can’t get their act together. So I went straight to city of Plano and we opened up our Class A asset to evacuees and I brought in 53 families of a brand new Class A asset. I think we were the only Class A asset even on the list.

Wow. Actually, I don’t think I’ve said this to anybody. At one point I almost left the industry because I had a predominantly white demographic at this particular asset and watching the interactions and the assumptions and the judgements was so hard and disheartening that it was the one time out of my whole career. I almost walked away because I was getting to me and watching them try to look for jobs and how they were going to get out, stay here for good. But what was that interview process? And just, luckily for me, I learned a lot in that process because people came back and they shared their experiences and it was very eye-opening to me.

Antoinette Williams: Absolutely.

Lissi Daniels: Yeah.

Elizabeth Francisco: Hopefully I’m a better person. I feel like I am because of it, but doesn’t mean I understand completely, but I think I got a really intimate detail about that, so much so that I did risk my job just so you all know I’m probably gonna get in trouble. So I do not, I don’t recommend anyone do this ever.

I had somebody just really upset about this perception of somebody they knew nothing about in their unit next to them and luckily for me, I approved all the applications. So I knew that two different credits. And I might have, again, I don’t recommend this, you will get fired. I went ahead and I had enough of this bigotry, this awful conversation. And so I went and got the two files because back then we had folder files. I don’t know if y’all ever saw those, but they’re big manilla envelopes. And I got both of them out and is this person’s going on and on, I knew that I had bent on their credit score, which is down in the five hundreds and the lovely couple that live next to them had an 820. I didn’t even have an 820 and as they were ranting and raving, that’s one of the things that, like I said, I had [00:16:00] I just opened them up and I looked, I was like, oh my gosh, your credit scores are 500 versus 820. I wonder how they’re gonna feel about living next to you. Yeah. And then I called my company and said, you’re gonna fire me. But I joke about, not to bring levity to it, but it was I saw it. And I was, I had no idea. It was like that. I really didn’t. I was sheltered, I guess I was oblivious.

Antoinette Williams: I think that what I’ve come to understand as a professional is that in America, especially there’s been a system built around ensuring that people believed those things about us. Especially in Hollywood, if you look in the thirties, forties, fifties we were drug dealers, we were Stepin Fetchit. We were mammies. We were Jezebels. And that was all they would show us as and as you go into the eighties and the crack epidemic, it was the “black drug epidemic.” And so if you’re in the dominant culture and you have power, even if your credit score is 500 something, you’re still above a black person with an 800 credit score because of the perception. And so as a professional in in this industry and just in America. I understand that when I walk into a room that I’m starting on the bottom and I have to prove myself my work has to speak for me and I have to speak for myself. And I speak the way that I speak because I’m from California. Not for any other reason, not because I’m trying to assimilate to anything else, but I understand that I’m going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far. I understand it because that’s the way that our system was set up.

Lissi Daniels: I was just going to echo, I can definitely agree with you on that, and you have to, work, like she said 10 times harder, but at the same time, you have to prove yourself. And they have to see that. So it’s not like we can just walk in and be like, “Hey, this is my resume.” No. No, it’s, “What is really your background? What is it that you really done? What has, what is it that you really achieved to be on that level?”

Antoinette Williams: And just to add to that, I think early in my career, I just wanted to prove myself and I just wanted to be good enough. [00:18:00] And so there were a lot of things that I did for no money. There were a lot of things that I did and I thought, “Man if they see how good I am, it’ll be fine.” So I was making $38,000 when I knew that other people in similar assets were not making that (little), and I just brushed it off and I moved forward. I kept my head down and I did the work and I proved it out. There were a lot of years of doing that type of thing knowing that I was worth more and now I feel like I’m established enough that my resume can speak for itself. But we’ve absolutely been put in those positions.

Elizabeth Francisco: We were talking about that perception and thinking about the weight. One of the things that I learned from a coworker and, she knows who she is, if she’s listening to this, I thank her for it because she continues to help educate me. And one of the things that she shed light on for me was this concept of, and she’s been in multifamily before she became part of our company for years, but it was this conscious decision to try and act white.

And I never really thought about it from her perspective and as she shaped it, and I don’t want to give away too much about where she’s from, but there are certain, like you said, maybe where you grow up, what the culture is, because it’s not like every black community has the same exact culture either. I would think it’s your family, it’s your community, it’s what’s unique to that region. And so that was her natural way of communicating and talking and actually it wasn’t makes her awesome, but she hid it. Like she consciously made this effort to think before she spoke or how she walked or what she wore or her nail color or her hair color.

And I wonder is that something that you guys have experienced yourselves as you were coming up or do you know other people that have shared that?

Lissi Daniels: I know I have experienced that because I speak very articulate. I’ve always got the, Oh, you’re articulate, oh, you sound proper.” Or “you’re not trying to be who you are.” And in reality, this is me. This is who I am. This is how [00:20:00] I was raised. And to go through those battles and try to say, “No, I’m just trying to pave a way of Lissi. This is what Lissi is all about” was very difficult because at the same time I was trying to make sure I’m mirrored a certain way to be able to fit in and fit in those molds. Because if not, then I will be looked upon as differently. And yeah, it’s very hard struggles. And even to this day, I’m dealing with that.

Elizabeth Francisco: You, that makes me think when Lissi, I think you were saying this about as you’re coming up through the ranks and having to navigate different situations, I guess if I imagine there’s gotta be a lot of weight to that, like it, and I say that just because we have a gentleman in our company, a black gentleman that shared with me and he’s phenomenal. But he said that he was showing me the weight. He said, “When I went to a different company out in California, when I walked up there and I saw I was literally the only person on the entire floor that looked like me, the thought that I had almost instantly was, I can’t screw this up because then people can’t follow me. I have to outperform.” And so thinking about your individual careers and your achievements, and I think about “Man, that’s gotta be exhausting. That weight of not only am I trying to find my own way, not only am I trying to face some adversity coming directly at me, you also feel the weight of having to represent a whole group of people?”

Antoinette Williams: Oh, a hundred percent. I’ve had a lot of behind closed door conversations with black and brown people, especially, about how we have to move in this space. We can’t do the things that other people do. We just don’t have that. We don’t have the space to do that. We don’t have the space to stand our ground in a certain way. Even if we want to argue a point and we know that we are right about a point, there’s a certain way that we have to interact. Whereas we, I have white counterparts who it seems they don’t have to think twice about it because some of the things that I’ve heard people say in this industry… there’s no way, there is [00:22:00] no way that I could, or a Hispanic person could say the same thing and be viewed as a professional. And be viewed as someone who could lead a a group of people. So it’s almost like we have to have spotless careers and we can’t be the people at NAA who are acting crazy drunk on the floor. We can not be that because it’ll follow us forever and ever and ever. And although there may be a funny story about somebody who did those things, they’re still excelling in their career. I can’t be confident that I would.

Lissi Daniels: No, definitely it’s like you always having double the work of watching yourself. And making sure you’re very mindful of everything you say in everything you do, because the fear of “what would they think, what would they just mark on you or against you?” and yeah, definitely challenging.

Elizabeth Francisco: No, it’s unfortunate and I’m sorry that you do have to carry that weight. Because that is a lot, but I also, too, I just want to compliment you both because I know I think your achievements are amazing, but I don’t know if you’re getting full credit for them because you have this extra challenge. It’s not like it ain’t hard enough to begin with! So having the extra challenge, I think, makes your achievements even that much more impressive.

Lissi Daniels: Thank you!

Elizabeth Francisco: You’re welcome. So I was going to say, I wanted to come back to this. Do you feel like black men and women in this space, do they have the same challenges or is it different? And you obviously can only speak from your perspective, from conversations or family that shares, but is it different?

Antoinette Williams: So I think culture and ethnicity play a big part to the answer to that question. So white men are treated vastly different than black women. And black men are also viewed and treated vastly different than black women. So in some cases, Black men have more of an advantage to excel. And in other cases and in other ways they have less of an advantage. They’re at a greater disadvantage and some of those ways are black men are still men. And so they walk into [00:24:00] a room with their masculinity and they have that going for them.

On the other hand, similar to what I was explaining earlier about the perception of black people, especially in America that has been portrayed in Hollywood and beyond in the media, is that black men are aggressive and black men are criminals and black men are not great fathers and black men are all these negative things.

And so there’s also that perspective, in our industry and beyond, of black men just not quite being good enough or being too aggressive. And in some ways I’d rather have a black woman who is perceived as softer than this angry black man who could just go off the rails at any moment. So I think we are treated differently. There are some advantages and some disadvantages to both.

Lissi Daniels: Yeah. But then I also felt like within that situation, even as black women, we have to still come a certain way and present ourself a certain way and not be aggressive and not sit there and voice our thoughts and our opinions, because then we are labeled the angry black woman. And that situation has its disadvantages in both ways. So how are we supposed to perceive ourselves and move?

Antoinette Williams: One of the disappointments to not having great representation is that If we had better representation and someone paving the way to say, “We can voice our opinions, we can do this, but here’s how we do it” and then skirt that misrepresentation or that misunderstanding of who we are because one of the reasons that I think that I have made it to where I am is by speaking up and having conversations and being able to articulate what my thoughts are and lay it out. But I have to go the extra mile to not be viewed as this angry black woman. When I’m passionate about something that I’m speaking about.

Lissi Daniels: Yeah. When you are speaking what you feel and what you love and it’s, we are very passionate and it does come back as you’re upset and you’re like, “No, I’m just passionate and that’s just who I [00:26:00] am.” And that’s the things that I wish it was just a change of that whole thought process of that.

Elizabeth Francisco: I agree with that. I don’t get accused of being an angry black woman, but I do get accused of being overemotional because I’m extremely passionate, too. I don’t think that would surprise anyone, but I also think it’s frustrating because I don’t think when our male counterparts always understand. By the time I’m coming off across emotional is because I’ve gotten there. It’s not like it happened just from this one incident. By the time we’re expressing our passion, the way that we are, we’re getting to that point. It’s because something’s gotten us to that point, and probably for me, at least I could say it builds when I’m not heard. And I’m even trying to do the right things by the company, or just in my past and maybe even on my ResMan journey. When you were passionate about doing the right thing, even for your company and something about you individually is being downplayed or pacified.. it’ s maddening. So I can’t imagine, but it’s very unfortunate.

Obviously we all have our LinkedIn networks and we know so many people in the industry, you don’t necessarily have to talk about companies or individuals or anything like that, but, is there anything that you would want to share with the audience about your own journey and if you faced the adversity that maybe has held you back directly in your career?

Antoinette Williams: I’ll say that I’ve definitely been blessed in my journey and I’ve been able to walk hand in hand with one or two allies from the time that I was a leasing consultant to my current position. So it was less about being discriminated or being held back from my career growth because I did move up pretty quickly. So I went from leasing to regional manager in about five years. So it’s not a typical journey. And I don’t think that the discrimination has held me back necessarily in that way, but I have had to figure out how to navigate some of the biases of my peers and other influential detractors.

And what we were just saying, trying to navigate being viewed as an angry black woman. It seemed like often in my career there would be at least one person who was singing my praises and another who was waiting for the opportunity to cut me down to size. [00:28:00] It’s ongoing. There will always be someone who’s singing your praises and always someone who just doesn’t get what’s so hot about you. I just don’t get it.

Elizabeth Francisco: I’m guessing with you, they were threatened. Something tells me you were out performing somebody. (laughter)

Antoinette Williams: And I am confident enough in that and I have been confident enough in that, in the latter part of my career. Not that I’ve been in the industry for 30 years, no, but probably the last half of my career, I’ve been far more confident in the fact that I know that I know what I’m doing and I know that I know how good I am at whatever it is I’m doing. So when I’ve had those people, it was more about them than it was about me and I just had to stay the course. But there was definitely a time where I was like, “What’s up with it? What is happening? What have I done?” But I get it. I see you.

So I I made a decision earlier, early on in my career that I was really just going to have to stand firm on my beliefs and work hard and address those people head on while trying not to be seen as that angry black woman. Now, I address those people head on and we might just have to go a little bit more toe-to-toe because I feel as Regional Vice President, I am in a better position to do those things then maybe as an assistant manager at a property. So yeah, absolutely.

Lissi Daniels: My journey I have experienced it and in that time, when I did experience being looked upon because I didn’t fit a certain persona of what they wanted, it really hurt me in my career. It was one of those pivotal moments where my love changed for our industry.

And at that time, I realized, I can either take this and grow with it and learn from it and not be stopped as far as my focus and my perseverance. And I did that and I always say two folds, right? Things always come back to situations like that. So then there was a light at the end of the tunnel of opening my eyes to that situation. So I feel like I have experienced that more when it came [00:30:00] to more of the corporate level and it’s been very challenging, but at the same time, it’s been very more I’m more motivated. Like I can do this and I belong here and I’m just as worthy as anyone next to me. So I think if I didn’t go through those challenges at the beginning of my career, I don’t think I would be able to sit here and talk about it. So I always felt like there’s always a great story behind everything that you learn and it’s still challenging every single day.

Antoinette Williams: Amen to that.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience because hopefully we’ve got people in our audience who need to hear that right now.

Antoinette Williams: Can I just make a point real quick? So I think I just want to further explain the shame of it all, in our industry in particular, where it comes to diversity. So we’re in an industry where friends hire friends. So if your friend group doesn’t look like me…

Elizabeth Francisco: Most people hire people they’re comfortable with.

Antoinette Williams: And people hang out with people that they’re comfortable with culturally. So it’s more likely that we all have people in our friend groups who look like us, far fewer people will look like me than will look like you. And so one, we have fewer people who know about our industry, fewer diverse people who know about our industry and are brought into our industry. So we finally get some people into our industry and then they have to face these things.

Lissi Daniels: Exactly.

Antoinette Williams: Then it becomes like, “What’s the point?”

Lissi Daniels: Yeah. They don’t see that there’s another level. It goes back to the first question, the representation. And so I think it creates a (limited) circle where I’m thinking, ” If you just stop and just learn and just understand and go educate and just connect, you will learn so much more. And I think that will open the doors in so many different directions.

Elizabeth Francisco: That’s right. What can we do about that? Like how can we change that? Because this can be a great career, period, for anyone. You don’t have to necessarily have a college degree. It doesn’t matter where you came from. Where I lived, I was the only person who looked like me, everybody else was brown or black in my neighborhood. So seeing the differences and just thinking about the challenges they face from not having the same access to capital and financial means [00:32:00] to maybe they do great in high school, cause I know some people that were really strong in academics in high school, start college, but then they don’t finish college. That, sadly, was because they didn’t have access to the same financial means someone that looks like me would have, so we’re gonna come back to that one.

Because that also makes me think about what I call Antoinette’s “drop the mic moments.” We were talking about where does the responsibility lie for fostering an inclusive and an equitable environment. And Antoinette, you said something that really struck me. You said discrimination is not a problem for minorities to solve. It’s a very simple statement, but it’s a very powerful statement. And I never really heard it said quite like that. You were very passionate when you said that to me, I embraced it.

But you’re a hundred percent right. And that moment was not only a “drop the mic moment” in our conversation, it’s had an profound impact on me since then. Because it’s not the responsibility of oppressed people to solve the oppression, especially when they’re not the ones in control. They don’t have a seat at the table, they can’t solve this problem for themselves. So I was wondering if you guys wanted to take a minute to expand on that just a little bit.

Antoinette Williams: So BIPOC people… BIPOC means Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. So BIPOC people can share our experiences. But we can’t resolve the issues without the help of allies and without the help of allies in the dominant culture taking the lead to make the changes…

Say for instance, you have a black female leasing consultant who communicates that our property manager referred to her hair as a “nappy lion’s mane” and tells her that she looks unprofessional and she needs to go home and fix her hair. So now what? Now it’s the responsibility of the organization to resolve the situation and educate the broader employee base on why this is a problem and set the standard that this type of discrimination is unacceptable and has no place within the organization.

The one leasing [00:34:00] consultant herself cannot resolve this issue, right? So that’s just an example of someone who has been discriminated against not being able to solve the problem. And I use that specific example because it’s happened and it continues to happen in our industry and beyond. And no matter how many times we as black men and women share our experiences around how our hair is perceived in particular in the workplace, we can’t fix the issue without the support of our allies. So the Crown Act began as an initiative in 2019 in California to protect against race-based hairstyles and hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and schools.

So we have a little video that I’d like the audience to take a look at to further explain what the Crown Act is.

Check out the commercial here: https://www.thecrownact.com/home/#film

Elizabeth Francisco: Well, first off, thank you for sharing the Crown Act with me and I’ve signed the petition. I think that was a great way you can go and get involved and I’ve been learning a lot about the legislation and the different efforts in the different states. First of all, I just want to say thank you for introducing me to that. I literally had no idea when both of you shared with me that you have faced either personally or known someone directly that has had comments or even directives in this industry about how they can or can’t wear their hair. Just blew my mind.

Antoinette Williams: Oh, it’s so prevalent.

Elizabeth Francisco: I don’t even know what to say. To me, I’m just very disappointed about that. But we can bring awareness to it and we can hopefully help change that. Thinking about our individual roles in different association groups and national association groups and the diversity and inclusion committee at NAA, I think these are conversations to have and I’m sure they’re having those conversations, but maybe we can do more to help bring awareness to this because there’s a lot of things nobody should have to face too. I mean talk about, that’s just who you are, it’s your natural look.

Antoinette Williams: Right, it’s the way that my hair grows out on my head…

Elizabeth Francisco: It’s like asking me to be six feet tall.

Lissi Daniels: That’s right. (laughter)

Antoinette Williams: It’s [00:36:00] like, why do you even care what my hair looks like? If I choose to wear it in braids, which is a generations-old tradition and one of few that was brought from Africa to America. It’s just absurd that it’s even a conversation.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, I completely agree. I still was shocked about that. And then I thought, there’s many great videos on this website, kids not being allowed in school. There’s another one that shows this little girl,, her and her father are going up and they both have braids. The teacher doesn’t allow them to come in because it violates the school’s hair policy. She’s five or six years old. What kind of messages that send that poor little girl? And her values?

So God bless you for sharing it with me. I was going to say too, that there is a legislative effort that has been going on since 2018. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Antoinette Williams: Yeah, absolutely. 14 states have adapted this as law. And many other local jurisdictions in 14 additional states have also adapted it as law. So we’re making some headway. We’re not there yet. If you add that up, that’s only 28 places that have started to move in the right direction. It’s better than nothing, but this is how we move the needle to make the change. We have to do it through legislation in some cases, which again, it’s unfortunate, but I’m glad that we are making some headway.

Elizabeth Francisco: And the, one of the things I learned from understanding the maps where legislation is active, we’re in Texas but I’ve been in Florida, both of those states right now have legislation pending. I know at least in Texas, it’s in the Senate, it timed out. But this is a time to go be heard. So if you’re listening to us right now, this is a great opportunity to get involved in those petitions, but also to make your voice heard to your local legislators, this is a, no-brainer like, let’s just get this passed.

And thank you. First of all, most thank you for being so open and transparent and sharing with me and the audience. It’s important, like I said, the more we understand the more we can help do. But now I want to switch a little bit more to talking about what solutions look like. I’m a champion of our EEC committee and our DEI initiatives, but we’ve had some missteps along the [00:38:00] way.

I find it disappointing we have fallen short. The intention is there, genuinely, it is. But that part’s been hard for me to understand what we need to do. And I think, remember what we were talking about your “drop the mic moment” and where does the responsibility really lie… I think one of the things I’ve learned that the expectations of leaning on the people who have suffered these discrimination and biases and have been oppressed… leaning on them to help solve the problem, it’s not their problem to solve.

But then I also on the flip side though, it’s hard because I also don’t have all the answers. So understanding how to navigate that situation, I’d be open and interested in hearing what kinds of policies or practices or behaviors have you maybe seen in your current companies or even a company that’s really hitting it out of the park? Some of us are in progress, we’re a work-in-progress to be more inclusive and have more equity.

Antoinette Williams: So everything started last year. June 2020 was a pivotal year in our country. And all of these things were happening and had been happening for several months and it was leading up to this this point, it was a boiling point where companies all over the country just realized we need to do something. We don’t know what we need to do, but we need to do something. And I don’t think that my leadership will be upset with me saying because they’re very forward-thinking but I had not heard anything from anybody in my organization around what was happening. It felt like there was no consideration that I, as a black woman and mother and wife of a black man, could potentially be suffering and not just me, but many people in my organization. So I sent an email to a couple of leaders in my organization and I received some very honest feedback, said, “We knew that we needed to do something, but we just didn’t know what to do. So we didn’t do anything at all. And we’re so glad that you reached out because we didn’t know how to move forward.” And so that kind of started conversations and we developed our diversity and inclusion council. [00:40:00] What that did the first year that we had the council was bring different voices to the table.

So I think that’s the first thing is if your leadership group is not very diverse and y’all are the only ones making decisions and listening to each other talk, you’re probably not doing it. And so first, bring more voices to the table.

We were also really trying to figure out: what’s the purpose of this DEI council? What are we doing? We spent a lot of time building our mission. We did ensure that our language is the same. Every year at the beginning of our session, we start our new DEIcouncil year in November so with every new council, we ensure that we understand what we’re talking about. What microaggressions are, what implicit explicit biases, what allyship is… we talk about a lot of D&I topics to ensure that everybody knows what the issues are and as we’re having these discussions, you know what they mean.

It was very sweet. I was discussing what microaggressions are with my new counsel. Someone pulled me aside afterward and said, “I’ve always told you that you’re articulate, but I never meant it in any kind of way.” And I said “I know that you didn’t, but that’s a part of learning and growing. And so just because you didn’t mean to doesn’t mean that it didn’t affect, but that’s a part of learning and growing.”

So I think understanding even what the language is, what the issues are and talking about it… if you don’t talk about it, it will never be resolved. And something that I’m really proud of that we’re doing this year… We’ve got three big goals for this year. One is to understand and assess our hiring practices. We’ve been really good about hiring great people, but from pretty much the same types of places. My company is based in Atlanta where we have HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities, so if we’re not even seeking talent from the Mecca of diversity, what are we doing? We have since become an approved employer with Moorehouse College and we’ll be able to recruit there, in [00:42:00] addition to where we’ve recruited for many years at UGA. So we’re hoping to assess our our hiring practices.

We also want to understand our company’s diversity. It’s really easy for companies or for leaders to stand on their ivory tower and go, “Yeah, no, it looks pretty diverse.” But where’s your diversity? What level? What level is your diversity? How diverse are you? What’s the ratio of men to women? How many black people do you have? How many people do you have that identify as LGBTQ? How many people are biracial? And I identify as biracial, they don’t identify as black or whatever else they are. So we have a goal to understand our diversity better.

And the third goal that we have this year is to implement leadership diversity training. We’ve done a really good job at training our on-site employees. Because they engage with our customers so frequently and what we found is that we have left our leadership group out. They need to be educated as well, if not even more. That is what our DEI council has done at least within CARROLL.

Lissi Daniels: On the flip side of that, you have those companies that are still at the beginning stages, trying to implement diversity and inclusion and program into their company. With that, I believe it does start with those conversations and learning. It could be myself, but it also could be someone who’s willing to be open-minded and willing to have that change and it does start with those leaders. And I think, if that voice is my voice or if that’s another voice, that’s what’s going to make those changes. But there’s a lot of companies out there that are not at that level and not ready to have those conversations, because like you said, they look at it as “Everything looks good. So why do we need to make a change?” And in reality, that’s where we do need to make changes.

Elizabeth Francisco: Absolutely agree. If I think back to some of our challenges, do you think that an effective the EEI council or committee, can it be led by somebody who’s [00:44:00] not in those minorities?

Antoinette Williams: I think it can be… so one of the other executive sponsors who was with our company for a long time and has taken a new role was not a minority. But she led the charge and she did a lot of self-education on diversity, equity and inclusion. So I think that absolutely. It is possible, but I do think that it’s important for people who are diverse to take those leadership roles and lead. Because I think the perception can be, here we go again, just another, whatever it may be leading this group.

Elizabeth Francisco: It’s a checkbox group.

Antoinette Williams: It’s a checkbox group.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And that kinda leads me to my other question. So I know one of the things that we saw in our own group, I’m still struggling to understand this, but the participation… it seemed like we struggled to hear what we needed to hear. It felt like everything was trying to keep the conversation going. It felt like everything was my idea, but I’m not the one that should… I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure if I have the answer. I don’t know if you’ve ever been part of a group that’s had that challenge on.

So many of these groups are, newly formed. It was interesting because. A lot of engagement in our employee engagement committee, but then when we broke this out, it was volunteer only. And I know you don’t know if there’s a different type of commitment, getting people consistently to be at the meetings.

Also understanding what change would look like, we tried to have what a realistic agenda items. We don’t want to over promise and under deliver, which I feel like we did anyway. Structuring it to get that buy-in, do you see that struggle or when it was first starting or in a company that’s starting it now, did you see any of that?

Lissi Daniels: As our company, now, it hasn’t even hit the peak of that yet. So we haven’t even had the conversations to say, “Hey, let’s have these conversations.” We’re very ground level, it still needs those conversations. And so I really couldn’t attest to that on that end, more or less. Antoinette may be able to, but I would hope that if we [00:46:00] do have those conversations and start to have that buy in, that we make it very informative to where people are comfortable enough to say, I want to be a part of this. I want to learn more about this. I want to make that change as well.

Antoinette Williams: Yeah, so we made a commitment to not have too large a DEI council. In our first year, I think we had 98 people, which I thought was amazing, apply. And we only accepted 17. And so we really went through all the applications, that were very thoughtful applications, and we ensure that we had a very diverse council. We had representation from different age groups. I think we had from about 25 to 65 years old, we had black, white, Hispanic, Asian. We had LGBTQ, we had some of everybody. We had different positions. So we had maintenance technicians. We had maintenance supervisors all the way up to regional managers at the time.

And now our VP of Operations is on the council. But so one week we kept it on the smaller side. So it was a little bit easier to manage and two, we realized that not everybody would be able to make all of the meetings. Once a month is the commitment for the meetings. But we kept them engaged. The people who were not selected to be on the council were selected as ambassadors or asked if they wanted to be ambassadors. So we kept the engagement through email. We would always update the people who couldn’t make it to the meeting via email. And then we would reach out to our ambassadors to help to continue whatever initiative or effort it was. So we’ve had really good engagement.

This year, we have implemented sub committees. So we have an outreach committee, we have an education committee, and we have a planning committee and it’s really just the people who are on the council who are running it all. They get together one additional time per month. Then they put our meetings together. They determine what our initiatives should be and we also talk to our executive leadership to ensure that the company’s goals aligned with the council’s goals. [00:48:00] So I feel like we are still a fledgling council, but we’ve made some really good headway.

Elizabeth Francisco: No, and what I’m thinking about too is we have another podcast episode where we’re talking about retention and some of the challenges right now with The Great Resignation and, on the surface, it seems very monetarily driven, but I really don’t believe that is all that it is. I think there’s a lot more and people want to feel valued. As companies are out there thinking about how they can invest and provide different opportunities for their employees beyond their normal role, right? Beyond that role… there’s a value to experiences and growing your career and being in a group like what you guys have done, which I think is fantastic.

What an opportunity to, for them to have visibility in the company, for them to learn from one another, to think about strategy. That may be, if you’re looking to start your fledgling DEI council or committee, I think those were some great suggestions and that’s the kind of thing I think employees right now, if they’re on the fence because, look what’s happening they see the news, it’s constantly in the news, they’ve gotta be thinking, “Wow, am I the crazy one from sticking around?”

So this could be a really good way to get, to ensure their engagement and retention.

Antoinette Williams: A hundred percent. Yeah.

Elizabeth Francisco: That was a great, great suggestions. So I think too, if we think about from executive leadership, what do you think a good, an effective, not good, but an effective executive champion? Or I don’t know if champions is the right word, hopefully we’re all champions, but what is the effective executive leader look like that helps move their company forward?

Antoinette Williams: They drive conversations. So they don’t hide from the conversations. I genuinely have to say I’m blessed with a great leader. My COO, David Perez, is just very open-minded. He wants to learn and he wants to ensure that we’re doing the right things for our people. And so I’ve been fortunate to be in a position where I can have those conversations. I can present those conversations to him and it’s not just him checking a box. He listens to what you have to say so [00:50:00] you can move on. He genuinely soaks it up and he wants to know more and he wants to know how we can utilize whatever initiative I’ve come up with or whatever we can do to make our company stronger as a whole. So I think, and I think that he agrees, I know that he agrees that this DEI council is not just an initiative. It’s a part of the fabric of our culture and it has to be. It’s interwoven in everything that we do. And we’ve just hired an ESG manager. Environmental, social and governance is huge right now. Our partners are asking about it. Other companies are doing it. It’s just the thing that we have someone who’s–

Elizabeth Francisco: And apparently it’s coming down the pipe that it’s becoming a requirement, more and more lenders are looking to see that when you refinance or if you’re going to purchase a property.

Antoinette Williams: Yep. That’s right. So we have someone who’s solely focused on that. And so the S part of ESG is, we do a lot of social things, but one of them is the D&I council. It’s just a part of who we are as an organization. I would say that executive who is open to having conversations and open to changing things and just trying new things out.

Lissi Daniels: Everything, every day is evolving and I think in companies they’re always evolving for change. I think going back to what I said earlier is it starts with one voice. You have companies who are like Antoinette’s company that are very progressive, where they’re at now. Then you have companies who are not there quite yet, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be there quite yet. It does just take those conversations and implementing those ideas and having that executive leadership that’s going to want to listen with that open mind and be willing for change. I also know, it’s a process. It’s something that doesn’t happen overnight.

Elizabeth Francisco: Fair point.

Lissi Daniels: With that, there’s always a beginning to be able to get to that end.

Elizabeth Francisco: That’s right. That’s a great point. And I imagine sometimes it’s hard to get that conversation started because we’re like “Everything’s going fine.” Well, maybe for you. I was thinking about that because, we had our own [00:52:00] conversations, I’m in a tech space, which does not have the diversity you might expect, and thinking about how we would tackle this and basically you’ve got to take a look in the mirror. I’ll just say what it is. You have to be willing to take the look in the mirror. I’m a big believer in the surveys. I think sometimes people who don’t see the problem early, they don’t see it cause they don’t understand it and, some, who don’t see it because they don’t want to see it. I have learned over the course of my career, data says a lot. For those companies out that they’re looking at starting something, another good way to maybe get that conversation going is to really think about how you’re going to do your annual surveys for your company.

We love Gallup at ResMan. We use it a lot. But when you are surveying your employees, you can design questions to reinforce what you think or you can be bold and go out there and really put questions out there that may have some answers that you don’t like. And the data points you can look at… you can look about just the diversity, in general. Not that that should be the only requirement because everyone I know who’s passionate and wants to be heard and wants to have a voice doesn’t want to be given anything either. But it is important to understand what the diversity looks like in your company, but not just your company, also the levels. There’s definitely diversity out amongst our frontline teams, but then as you go up, it changes same thing. And a lot of our tech companies and a lot of other companies out there… how do you use that data?

If you’re seeing that you have this lack of diversity, as you continue up in your, let’s say your middle management, I think the conversation has to go around to why is that? Look in the mirror and ask yourself, have we really invested? And maybe it goes back to some of this unconscious bias. Are we investing in our employees that are marginally represented or minorities? Do we invest in them the same way? Do we give them the same coaching opportunities? Do we respond to their mistakes the same way? And I think that’s the key, if you have tenured employees, but they’re not moving up at the same rate as their white counterparts? Hopefully, that’s a really good place for us to have a real conversation internally. And I can tell you for us, [00:54:00] we started to see that and we were looking at it and whether it’s age or gender or whatever, we looked at those, but we had to ask the questions, too. So I think those are really important.

Antoinette Williams: Absolutely. When you said that, it just reminded me that, a lot of those people aren’t a “culture fit.” That’s why they’re not moving up. That’s what we tell ourselves or some people tell themselves. ” We tried to train them. We tried to help them, but they just weren’t a culture fit” and they had to move on. So these tenured employees who have worked so hard as an assistant manager or property manager, they can never make it to that next level because of the cultural misunderstandings and misrepresentations.

Elizabeth Francisco: In my past and even in my way back past, when we have wanted to utilize surveys to ask tough questions about ourselves, because you can’t bury your head in the sand and really for an organization to be at its best, you need everyone to be at their best, you need to provide that opportunity. I’ve heard from people in the industry, sometimes there’s pushback from the very top leadership. Sometimes it’s as simple as fear. “We want to do this. It’s coming up. We don’t have time to think through this. So we’re going to put this off until next year.”

I would say to those of you that want to advocate for this and maybe take another look, you already should be surveying your employees, just like you should be surveying your residents, by the way, but maybe remind the rest of your peers that it’s really not their place to put it off because they’re not the ones living the experience. Be open and transparent. We’ve made some mistakes, but we also came back out to our company publicly and said on our company stand-up, “Look, this was a mistake. Our intentions were good. We understand this came across tone deaf. We need to grow from it. We are going to own this, but we’re learning and we’re going to not make that mistake again.” So what can companies do to avoid having the execution take them two steps back because it comes off tone deaf.

Antoinette Williams: I think ensure that you are talking to the right people. If you don’t have the right people within your organization, seek peers who are outside of your organization, who you can consult with to ensure [00:56:00] that they’re double-checking the work,

Lissi Daniels: Definitely.

Antoinette Williams: That’s right. What do you think?

Lissi Daniels: Definitely make sure you have someone that’s on that team that is going to help you not go back two steps and is going to be able to give you the right guidance and direction on that and go from there.

Elizabeth Francisco: There’s another podcast that I’ve been listening to trying to educate myself. It’s called the inclusion, the element of inclusion podcast with Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey. I wrote down from one of his podcasts that said, “Employee resource groups are like websites in the year 2000. Everyone thinks they know what they are but very few of them are using them correctly.” And it made me wonder, for other infinity groups and not that we necessarily represent them all here in this room today, but have you participated, do you have those in your companies?

Antoinette Williams: We don’t. I had never heard of employee resource groups or affinity groups or any of these types of things because I’ve been in multifamily for a long time.

Elizabeth Francisco: We’re a little late to the game.

Antoinette Williams: We’re a little late to the game. I have a very good friend who is in the tech space and when we were talking through some of our workplace challenges she told me that in her organization, they have an ERG called BEAMs, black employees and mentors is what the acronym stands for. She said, ” Maybe you can suggest that you all have something similar to this BEAMs group.” So this was our very first ERG and that’s how it was developed, but no we don’t have any other ERG. I presume that at some point in the future, especially as we grow.. We’re at about an 800 or so employees, it will make sense to have more specified ERG, but we don’t have any,

Elizabeth Francisco: We’re talking about solutions and getting involved and thinking about representation. I think one of the things I would think about if I was a property manager today, is how do I get more of my team members visible in the affiliates, the local affiliates, state affiliates, and the national level? I know there’s a sincere [00:58:00] desire by our national trade associations to continue to move the industry forward in this regard. But if you attend events, we’ve got long way to go, right? And this is not the trade show events, I’m talking our larger committee meetings, the boards, different things like that in the industry.

So maybe one of the things is think about investing in our frontline team members that are marginally representative minorities or people of color and fund them to go to these things, help them become part of the solution because it keeps it in here talking. It keeps coming back to: Will we have the right people in the room to help lead that conversation?

I can tell you there’s a few that are but they are leaned on heavily by everyone else as I keep seeing that. So maybe a great starting point for us would be… You’re members of the associations, if you’re using any of their forms, you better be. You’re paying for that membership… utilize that because you never know who you’re standing next to. You never know who you can influence through your conversations and just by people getting to know each other that later becomes an advocate that maybe wasn’t in the beginning. It’s really a minimal investment to have your team take off, go sit in and what a great education about the industry to be involved.

But I tend to focus more at the national level these days. We have teams that go to the local events. Maybe you guys can speak to that, but it makes me wonder if I go back to 20 years ago when I went to some of my first local affiliate meetings, is it changing? Does what I see in my level still resonate down below for the most part?

Antoinette Williams: Yeah.

Lissi Daniels: We still have some room to grow. Being on our local affiliate level and being heavily involved and seeing it, definitely some room to grow. I definitely can see they’re trying, but I do feel like there’s got to be more. There has to be more that can be done because I look at it like this: when you have a lot of teams, even team members you’re sending to these events and you see [01:00:00] who’s representing again and these conferences and these committee meetings or just board meetings, all of that. They’re going to look at that and they’re going to say, “Why do I want to be a part of that? Why should I have an interest of that? Because I’m not going to gain anything from that.” How is that going to impact me as someone being black or brown? And in that level is where I think we’re aiming for but we have a long haul.

Antoinette Williams: I keep talking about how a lot of people are aging out of the industry. There’s a lot of people who’ve been in the industry a long time and they don’t want to be in the industry too much longer because the time is coming. We are getting to a point where people really aren’t falling into this industry anymore. It’s less and less of “I don’t know how I got into it. I just wound up here.” The younger generation is very focused on what they want to do and where they want to go so we need to be recruiting and grooming like crazy. One of the ways to keep people engaged is to support them and ensure they’re going to these apartment association events and even higher. I would love to see a world where leasing consultants could go to the statewide education conference. I know it’s a financial strain, but those are the things that we have to be focused on and conscious of is recruiting on a more diverse level and being focused on that.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, I think you just reminded me of something, but it’s not that much of an expense. So let’s be honest, we did have good rent growth last year. We didn’t take the hit the rest of the other industries did. There is going to be cashflow this next coming year. So I think the expense is nominal. Luckily I was being hired at a high enough level position where I could fight for it within the company. But I had to convince the investors. We did carve out money and we took our managers and regionals to the state and national event. I looked at it as an investment in their education. And I think I shared with you, my entire team was diverse back 11 years ago.

That’s where I really started to realize, the real problem we have. I started to see how they interacted and how their body language [01:02:00] would change and how they would be really comfortable back at home. But when we got out into the world, they’d cling together more and they were pretty confident, I don’t wanna take too much away from them cause they go boldly. But I can tell you what I saw from the investment that we put into them, the number one, they start to understand the breadth of this industry and what’s possible. There’s education there to help them grow. We benefit from all of that as business owners and when you talk about leasing agents, you may not be able to afford to send every single leasing agent, but you can run some leasing contests and renewal contests… you can do some NOI contests where whoever’s contributing the most, basically effectively pays their way by achieving this and they can go open up, go have that experience. I think based on what we’ve talked about today, I think what I would do different now is start by having the conversation and not have them be surprised that they’re going to walk in there and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s nobody here that looks like me. There’s very few people that look like me.” Because you’re right, I can understand well, why? It’s not their problem to solve, but this goes back to the two sides of the coin, which is hard because if we can bring more and more diversity into our associations, we can help make that change. We can have, a minority is chairman or chairwoman of NAA.

Antoinette Williams: And you’re a hundred percent right. The value far outweighs the expense.

Elizabeth Francisco: Yup. I would argue we tend to look at our assets and multifamily as the buildings themselves, but I would argue our people are the greatest asset. You lose sleep at night worrying about the big asset. That’s brick and mortar. You shouldn’t lose sleep about your other asset, which is your people.

And third, I would argue that your technology should be an asset. Stop thinking of it as an expense, as an asset, you need to invest in it.

All right, ladies. Wow. Our time is up. It went by so fast. So I look forward to continuing the conversation and by God, one of these days, we’re going to talk about imposter syndrome. Yes, because we keep running out of time for imposter syndrome [01:04:00] and, that’s one of my favorite topics. We’re just going to come back together for just one, dedicate the whole hour to imposter syndrome.

But I look forward, I really do, I hope both of you will come back and join me and let’s talk and show them what we know about running this business, pave the way for everyone behind us. With that said thank you again, you’ve been fantastic guests. I hope the audience really enjoyed the conversation and really appreciate the transparency because that’s brave, too. So thank you for that.

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