Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Multifamily trailblazer and Director of Strategic Operations and Support for INDIO Management, Kelli Dowdney to discuss the importance of preparedness during leasing season and what she thinks sets a company up for success.
Kelli Dowdney has been a leader, trainer, mentor, and passionate speaker for the Multi-Family Industry for over 25 years, starting her career as a PT Leasing consultant while she attended Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.
After graduating with a double BA in Marketing and Management, with a minor in Finance, Kelli quickly moved through all onsite positions and into a variety of corporate positions. These included National Training Specialist, Regional Manager, Regional Vice President, VP of Marketing, and Vice President of Operations. Kelli’s strategic approach to operations focuses on effectively communicating target KPIs, providing the training and resources needed, empowering teams to execute their business plans and then measuring/adjusting. She has a unique skillset to push platforms and workflows to their highest efficiencies and is grounded by her process driven solutions. Kelli is passionate about collaboration, leadership development and vision casting. She is considered to be a powerful source of inspiration, taking every opportunity to impact the hearts and careers of those around her.
Kelli currently lives in Allen, Tx. Kelli is blessed with 2 children, Brayden and Bradleigh, through adoption and is very active in several adoption ministries and in her church. She is an avid Western Equestrian, having started competing at the young age of 3, and still owns several Quarter Horses and rides often. She is also a trained classical pianist and modern vocalist, with a history in musical theater. Connect with her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellidowdney/
About ResMan: ResMan delivers the property management industry’s most innovative technology platform, making property investments and operations more profitable and easier to manage. ResMan’s platform unlocks a new path to growth for property management companies that deliver consistent NOI improvement and brilliant resident experiences easier than ever before. To learn more about our platform, visit https://learn.myresman.com/proptalk/.
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.
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.”
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 beingfined 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The ongoing and somewhat unpredictable changes in the national eviction moratorium during the past year has created a confusing – if not economically painful – experience for apartment operators and their residents.
Greg Brown, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, at the National Apartment Association, addressed the current situation, what might be coming soon, and also how we got here in the first place during the webinar “The Eviction Moratorium: Where Things Stand and How to Have an Impact,” presented by ResMan.
He helps us to understand some of the partisan, bi-partisan and legal implications, as well as the advocacy efforts that NAA has helped our industry take in response to a situation that, according to estimates by the Urban Institute, has 10.25 million renters falling behind on $57.3 billion in rent by January 2021. The average amount of past-due rent per person is $6,000.
CDC Evictions Order Invalidated
On Sept. 4, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) issued a new order about five weeks after the CARES Act’s national eviction moratorium expired. The difference is that the CARES Act moratorium applied to federally backed properties only and the CDC order applies to all residents of rental properties who make less than $99,000 per year for individuals and $198,000 per couple.
On May 5, a federal judge invalidated that moratorium, ruling that the CDC exceeded its authority on Sept. 4 with its ban of resident evictions. The CDC argued that its rule was to safeguard the country against the pandemic.
Hours later, the same judge placed her decision on hold to allow time for the appeals process to take place, putting the industry, and the country, back where it was in March of 2020 when the temporary hold on evictions was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
With each eviction moratorium decision, as many as five federal agencies have been involved in fine-tuning and clarifying of its positions. The current appeals could go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown says.
One important aspect is that every court ruling to this point only applied to their individual plaintiffs, and did not have nationwide implications, as some have inferred.
“As for the District court ruling from Alabama, that judge actually vacated the CDC order nationwide,” Brown says. “however, as it is stayed, we’re basically stuck right where it was when the CDC put it in.” Property management professionals are urged to speak to their legal counsel to get a greater understanding of the CDC eviction order and how they appropriately comply.
Mounting Counter-Opinion Could Have Clout
NAA was the first national association to file a lawsuit challenging the CDC’s order, others included National Association of Home Builders and National Association of Realtors. Once it was put into effect, NAA met with its contacts in the White House and they were receptive.
“Supportive rulings in the multifamily industry’s favor are building; however, a final resolution will take time,” Brown says.
Brown says that since the CDC order is an Administrative action, Congress does not have direct impact on its extension. However, industry members can make a difference by speaking with their members of Congress and delivering real-life, on-the-ground stories about how these rulings have affected their businesses and their residents. The intent is for Congress to take those stories to the Administration and advocate for letting the CDC order expire on June 30.
NAA has an active grassroots campaign for industry professionals so that they can share their stories with Congress in a unified way.
“The templates include fill-in-the-blanks so that our members can provide details and other specifics about what’s happening to them, and those emails can be targeted directly to their members of Congress,” he says.
In addition to the grassroots campaigns to encourage member outreach, NAA has created a Key Contact Program, where it has reach out to ask members if they have any personal relationships with members of Congress, so they potentially could help to open doors to direct lines of communication to the Senate and House of Representatives.
The federal government also has created an Emergency Renter Assistance Program, which includes $50 billion in support funds that have been distributed to the states. ResMan wrote about this program in its blog, and this entry includes links to each state’s application.
Each state’s administration of the program differs, and states are having various degrees of success with this rollout. Brown says that Virginia and Colorado are states with strong rollouts so far. Texas has improved dramatically, and Pennsylvania has done reasonably well. The jury is out on other state programs.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many questions surrounding the Emergency Rental Assistance program, the eviction moratorium, relief packages and other aid. Multiple industry associations and government entities have put out resources for both landlords and renters to better understand different types of aid, who qualifies and how to receive funds.
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions surrounding the Emergency Rental Assistance program. To see a list of resources, click here.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury allocated $25 billion to the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program to aid households unable to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2021, Congress allocated another $27.4 billion to the ERA program.
Who is eligible to receive Emergency Rental Assistance?
To qualify for emergency rental assistance, one must be considered an “eligible rental household” and meet the following criteria:
– one or more individuals within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income or experienced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak, whether directly or indirectly
– one or more individuals within the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing housing instability or homelessness
– the household has a household income less than or equal to 80% of area median income
How should a grantee document the eligibility of a household?
Applicants must prove in writing that they have experiences financial hardship and meet the above criteria. Due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the Department of the Treasury is allowing some flexibility in documentation, including permitting photocopies or digital photographs of documents and/or attestations from landlords, employers, caseworkers or others with knowledge of the household’s circumstances.
How much aid can grantees expect to receive?
Grantees can receive up to 12 months of back rent and utility bills. Assistance is awarded in three-month increments, at which point an eligible household must reapply for funds.
How can renters apply? Can a property apply on behalf of its renters?
According to federal law, if your resident does not apply for the ERA program directly and is behind on their rent, housing providers may apply on their behalf and receive funds directly.
To do this, you must have the resident’s signed permission and provide all necessary documentation for said resident. That said, this particular issue may be determined based on jurisdiction. Refer to your state’s ERA program website to ensure they will distribute federal funds to you on behalf of the resident.
It should be noted that properties do not have to participate in the ERA program. Residents can apply on their own, receive funds, and pay them directly to the property.
Will the aid be paid directly to property managers or renters?
Funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance program are paid directly to property managers or utility companies.
According to the National Multifamily Housing Association (NMHC), some jurisdictions are requiring property owners to forgive or erase partial back-owed rent and forgo their ability to evict non-paying residents when receiving ERA funds. If this causes your company to not participate in the program, the NMHC says that the “resident can apply on their own and will be directed to deliver any relief they receive to their housing provider. Enforcement of this requirement is undetermined at this point.”
How has the Treasury Department allocated funds for localities?
A distributing entity provided rental payment on a resident’s behalf under the ERA program. Should I include this in my gross income?
Yes. Under Section 501 Emergency Rental Assistance of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, whether you receive payment from your resident or a distributing entity on their behalf, you must include these funds into your gross income.
Where can I get information on the eviction moratorium and tips on how to communicate with residents?
On March 8, 2021, the National Apartment Association (NAA) hosted their annual NAA Advocate conference, which gives members a chance to raise key issues in the rental housing industry with legislators. While in past years, NAA Advocate has been hosted in person in Washington D.C., this year’s event was virtual. That said, in no way was it any less impactful.
Through March 13th, many NAA affiliates will meet with their members of Congress in Virtual Hill Visits to address concerns. This gives a chance for members to share their story at the national level and advocate for themselves, their team, their peers and the industry at large.
The conference features keynote speakers, Q and A sessions, educational discussions on emerging policy issues and a briefing on what to address in Virtual Hill Visits.
Here are the key issues the NAA is advocating for and why they should matter to professionals in the property management industry.
The Housing Crisis Caused by COVID-19
National rental debt grew to tens of billions of dollars in 2020 due to the pandemic. This has had crippling effects on the property management industry, and if eviction moratoriums continue, it could result in an even more damaging housing crisis.
To avoid further financial instability and negative impacts to housing supply, NAA members will be communicating to lawmakers the need to provide increased rental assistance and an end the federal eviction moratorium.
NAA members are asking lawmakers to sunset federal eviction moratoriums to halt the destabilization of the rental housing market. The moratoriums have restricted property owners’ ability to pay mortgages, salaries, property taxes, maintenance and utilities, ultimately putting many properties into jeopardy. This also will negatively impact renters. Once the moratoriums are lifted, many will be unable to afford to pay their debts, causing them to lose their homes. Members of the NAA will be asking for a clear end date to the moratoriums and for Congress instead to offer increased rental assistance.
The $25 billion in emergency rental assistance that Congress has provided thus far, as well as stimulus checks and unemployment funds, has prevented mass amounts of evictions and provided stability to residents who have been greatly impacted by the pandemic.
That said, to close the rental debt gap and prevent additional arrears, NAA members will be asking for additional assistance dollars. Members will also be requesting that these payments are given directly to landlords to streamline payments and ensure they can continue to operate their properties. Some state-level NAA affiliates have advocated for this with positive results, and this will quickly address the stress of both landlords and renters.
In addition to the effects of COVID-19, the industry has an overarching issues surrounding housing affordability.
Section 8 Voucher Reform
The NAA has long supported the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. While it is one of the most successful rental subsidy programs, members are asking for reforms to eliminate regulatory burdens and increase provider participation. Studies have shown that almost three-quarters of rental property owners that once accepted voucher holders now refuse them. This is resulting in a massive affordable housing issue. NAA members are supporting improvements to the HCV program, including:
– 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 satisfy HCV requirements
Senator Chris Coons is currently drafting reform legislation that will steady Section 8 funding and encourage participation by private housing providers. A companion House bill is expected, and NAA members are asking lawmakers to cosponsor legislation once introduced.
The Yes in My Backyard Act
On a local level, development barriers are increasing the cost of housing across the board. Reducing regulatory and administrative barriers present in individual jurisdictions is one of the most impactful strategies to address housing affordability in the U.S. In cities across the nation, the “Not in My Backyard” mindset is causing a limited supply and increasing demand in rental housing, which lawmakers need to address.
The Yes in My Backyard Act is designed to eliminate regulatory barriers and encourage jurisdictions to reduce exclusionary land-use policies. This act will promote thoughtful development strategies and regular reporting to encourage further housing development. This bill was passed in the last session of Congress on a bipartisan level in the House, and NAA members will be advocating that it passes when it is reintroduced in the Senate.
You may have heard the old proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This absolutely extends to the rental housing industry. Building connections with fellow property managers through the incredible network of apartment associations across the country is the best way to learn, grow and affect positive change in the industry.
We could fill a book with all the associations available to you and reasons you should join them, but two of the largest organizations we highly encourage you to join are the National Apartment Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council. These two organizations do an incredible job supporting property owners and operators. Getting involved with them is the best way for your organization to learn from peers, get out in front of challenges and influence policy that will ultimately impact your assets in one way or another.
The National Apartment Association (NAA)
Getting involved in the National Apartment Association (NAA) through your local affiliate chapter is the best way to network with peers, get support and training,and most of all, advocate for property managers.
As a leader in the rental housing industry, the National Apartment Association (NAA) is an outstanding resource for advocacy, education and mitigating risk. Many cities and states across the country have affiliate chapters, offering a chance to connect with local industry professionals and stay informed of regulation changes and trends in the industry.
NAA has a variety of educational programs on their website, and local affiliates provide webinars, meetings and other resources for things affecting your state or region.
While they offer a variety of resources for property management professionals, one of the most impactful events they host is NAA Advocate. This annual event gives NAA members a chance to share key concerns in the rental housing industry with our elected officials.
Letting your voice be heard on a national level is hugely important—particularly in a year when so many things have changed. During NAA Advocate, property managers and industry leaders meet to discuss a variety of topics and strategize how to communicate them to representatives. Having the NAA’s support and being surrounded by your peers as you work to affect change is unlike anything else, and property managers owe it to themselves to get involved.
“Association involvement is so important for property management companies and suppliers. It gives us all education, networking and advocacy opportunities – to share best practices, and work together as an industry, rather than a bunch of individual companies. It has allowed me to meet, and network with some of our industries top executives.”
– Angi Pusateri-Downey, VP of Business Development at Resman
The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)
The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) brings together leaders in the multifamily apartment industry. It provides both educational and advocacy opportunities that allow members to collaborate, network and work towards a better future for the industry and the communities they support.
The NMHC is an incredible resource to review research and insights on apartment industry issues. This includes industry benchmarks, market trends and economic data. The NMHC also provides a weekly Rent Payment Tracker powered by ResMan and other property management solutions. As a leader in this initiative, ResMan has provided critical data to the NMHC regarding the industry’s financial health and the state of the apartment industry. Not only does the Rent Payment Tracker provide insight for industry professionals, but it has provided authoritative, consistent numbers to help guide policy discussions during the pandemic.
Having this level of insight on a national level enables members to gain context around what’s happening in the industry and gauge their success alongside their peers and competitors. With a mass amount of up-to-date information at your fingertips, you can stay informed and be a better advocate for your industry.
The NMHC hosts a variety of meetings, webinars and press conferences centered around industry changes, trends, advocacy on the national level and more. They also provide networking opportunities with fellow members, emerging leaders and strategic partners and suppliers. There are a variety of committees within the NMHC that you can get involved with to provide expertise, learn from others and affect change in the industry.
Throughout the pandemic, the NMHC has put in a tremendous amount of effort in advocating for the industry. With the help of the data they collect, they can accurately measure the market sector and analyze which challenges their government affairs team should prioritize when working with legislators.
By leveraging data from the NMHC Rent Payment Tracker, the council has been instrumental in securing $25 billion in rental assistance for back-owed rent. Their work isn’t over yet, though. With tools like the Rent Payment Tracker, the NMHC continues to be an effective policy partner, helping policy makers, financial regulators and the media understand our industry performance, current challenges and needs. The government affairs team has continued to advocate for your organization’s interest, which includes an additional $19 billion if the new stimulus bill passes in the Senate.
As an industry, we’re stronger together. Getting involved in apartment associations like the NMHC and NAA doesn’t just benefit you—your expertise as a property manager is equally beneficial for these associations. Joining these associations allows you to provide feedback, opinions and personal experience as well as advocate for your industry on the federal level. These associations have accomplished an incredible amount, and they can accomplish even more with you as a member.
Your peers in the industry have been working hard for you. Isn’t about time you joined them? Join NAA and NMHC today!
In the chaos of the 2020 pandemic and subsequent federal eviction moratoriums, information has evolved rapidly and often, leaving both residents and property managers confused about the rights and responsibilities of all parties.
With the moratorium set to expire at the end of March 2021, it’s important to prepare for the changes it will set in motion.
1. You must communicate to residents now what an eviction moratorium is … and that it will end.
Now is the time to make sure that all residents understand what’s at stake and how you are prepared to help them:
The moratorium is not rent forgiveness.
Some residents may be operating under the assumption that a moratorium is rent forgiveness. They need to know that they still owe all back and current rent and that after moratoriums are lifted, past nonpayment can lead to evictions.
Tenants must show that they made an effort.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says tenants are supposed to make payments “to the best of their ability, up to the full amount of the rent,” so they may eventually have to show proof of their spending habits and that they made their best effort to pay rent.
One way they can do this is to establish payment plans for your residents. Encourage them to use any available stimulus or unemployment disbursements to begin paying toward back rent. By setting them up on a payment plan, you can be sure you can get some of the money owed to you on a regular basis.
2. The moratorium applies only to non-payment of rent.
If the emergency moratorium legislation feels like it has stripped you of any resources for protecting your investments, you’ll be glad to know that property managers still have the right to sue for overdue rent, even if they can’t evict for non-payment.
And they can still evict those who are violating rules. It’s important to remind residents that failure to communicate with their landlord can be evidence of non-monetary default on the lease, giving you the right to take action. For best results, communicate with residents via text messages (the most effective channel for many residents) and keep a record of all communication (in print form).
Because the penalty for violating the eviction moratorium is quite steep ($200k), we advise you to work with a qualified lawyer in the industry if you decide to take any action.
3. Prepare now for clusters of vacancies.
When eviction moratoriums are lifted, be ready with additional staff for maintenance and turnover and for the financial impact a higher rate of evictions will have.
Begin preparing a pool of candidates that will be ready to go when evictions become a reality. Affordable housing PMs, especially, need to make allowances for the additional time required for verification and move-in eligibility processes.
This is a good time to ramp up your leasing efficiency. Greater reliance on technology has been a rising trend since the pandemic began, because it allows property managers and staff to complete verifications quickly and streamline the entire leasing process for both prospects and your team. The right property management platform also provides a better experience for prospects, giving you a competitive edge in the industry.
How ResMan Can Help
ResMan offers a full suite of virtual leasing office components including:
Create and track custom resident payment plans within the ResMan property management solution. Most platforms only allow for a 30-day payment plan, but ResMan provides greater flexibility and longer plans to help you capture lost or at-risk revenue and help residents protect their credit.
Reduce friction for applicants and residents and streamline back office processes when you choose a native payments system for receiving, processing and reconciling application, lease and amenity payments.