Janel Ganim (JG): Hi! Welcome to Cocktails & Compliance, a special series on affordable housing compliance from PropTalk, powered by ResMan. I’m Janel Ganum. With me today is Rue Fox.
Rue Fox (RF): Hi, everybody. Welcome to the show. We hope you enjoy it. This is actually a little bit of a reboot from a prior podcast series Janel and I were doing a couple of years ago, and there’s a few things that have happened since then. Most notably bringing Janel to the team. We’re super excited to have her be a part of the ResMan family. Today she leads all of our product initiatives, especially around Affordable Housing, and so we’re super happy to have her here. So, welcome Janel and welcome all of our listeners out there.
One of the first things that we probably want to do to kick this off — and feel free to jump in at any time, Janel — is we really want to say thank you, most heartfelt thanks to all of the workers out there in affordable housing — and in fact, all of multifamily — for all of the work that you guys have put in this year. I know that this could not have been easy for you, and I know as someone that lives at a multifamily property, I’m eternally grateful that everybody has stayed with it and continues to do everything they can to make housing safe and be a good place for people to live.
JG: Yeah, 100% Rue. Rue and I are very active in the industry. We hear a lot from people in the industry, as well. We know this last year has been quite a challenge and, again, so thankful for what you guys do. I know it’s been a rough year. You have a tough job, anyway, right? And this last year has been just quite a challenge. So, that’s part of what we want to talk about today, too. And we’ll kick that off here in just a minute. But as we said this is Cocktails and Compliance which means …
RF: There’s cocktails.
JG: Gotta talk about our cocktail of the day.
JG: So this one is a little bit fun. You may have heard us on our previous podcast talk about NAHMA. Rue and I have been members of NAHMA for very long time and one of our favorite things at the NAHMA fall conference is an auction that happens for the Education Foundation. And that is a wonderful organization that awards scholarships to residents of Affordable Housing properties. And at these meetings, there’s usually a former scholarship recipient that comes and speaks and talks about how their life has changed as a result of having that money and being able to go to college and further their career. And it’s always inspiring. Not going to lie, there’s usually some tears.
RF: Talk about tugging at your heartstrings, for sure.
JG: Man, for sure.
RF: A really feel-good time.
JG: It is, and it happens once a year. So, this past year, because it had to be done virtually, what we did was a big silent auction. So, it’s probably going to come as no surprise to you that Rue and I bid on wine; there were several wine baskets to choose from. I’m not embarrassed to admit I won the biggest one, and Rue won one, as well. I chalked mine up to hey I needed some extra around for when I’m entertaining.
RF: She overbid me.
JG: I bid on a different basket, for the record.
My basket had — we’ll just call it a selection — of wines that were from California. And it was sponsored by, I think AMHA NCH, who is in Northern California, where there’s some wonderful vineyards. So today we have, I’m going to call it our NAHMA wine, it is Hopson Estate. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve just cracked it open. Believe it or not, we actually haven’t started drinking, yet but …
RF: We’re about to.
JG: We’re about to. So, cheers to NAHMA, cheers to their ad foundation, cheers to—
JG: Cheers to Resman. I’m super happy to be here, as Rue said. I’ve previously been a guest speaker, now I guess I’m just a regular speaker, but super excited and, again, for those of you that don’t know, Rue and I have known each other for a really long time. We joke that we’re a package deal now. This is the fourth time we’ve worked together, all in the multifamily industry, as well.
So, I was happy to sit and have some cocktails with Rue. It may or may not be a regular occurrence with us, but anyway, happy to be here and so happy to get this kickstarted again. And thank you to the marketing team at ResMan for doing this. Super excited to watch this whole PropTalk series and looking forward to that.
JG: So, one of the things that we wanted to catch you up on is what’s happened since our last podcast.
RF: Only about two years ago, so, yeah, not a lot.
JG: Yeah, I mean, nothing’s really happened like the last year, 2020. I don’t remember it, but a lot has happened—
RF: A lot has happened in the last couple years, for sure.
JG: A lot has happened for sure. Obviously, there was the year that was, 2020, and COVID, and the pandemic, but—
RF: Was it really a year that was? I think it was more a year that wasn’t.
JG: Yeah, it was, it was crazy. We probably won’t speak of it again. But one of the things that we were talking about in our last podcast—pre-COVID—was Electronic Signatures, which I’m super passionate about, and TRACS 203. And if I recall, I was joking that we had delayed the TRACS 203a release for so long that even though we’ve been talking about Electronic Signatures for what feels like 72 years, I said Electronic Signatures is going to get approved before TRACS 203a. And lo and behold, since we’ve last chatted with you, Electronic Signatures did get approved. That happened in April of 2020.
RF: I think you had insider information, you wrote the proposal.
JG: I wish I had insider information. If I did, I would have gotten that thing out a lot faster ’cause we submitted it a year prior to that. But anyway, and you know we kind of joked it took a hurricane to kick start it. Well, apparently it took a pandemic to get that thing through and get it finalized but—
RF: Well, and also, an important part of Electronic Signature is the ability to be able to store documents electronically. Let’s not forget about that.
JG: That’s true. That’s a big, big initiative for Affordable Housing, for sure. That’s true and I’m glad you pointed that out, because it did originally start as e-signature and then it became electronic signature, electronic storage and electronic transmission of documents, as well. So, if you think about the case of a property selling and you want to be able to transfer those documents from one management company or one owner to another, that got included into the notice as well, which was exciting to see. But you’re absolutely right. The electronic storage piece of that is key.
RF: That means you know you don’t have to chop down any more trees to create a resident file.
JG: For sure, and you think about keeping those files, and as long as you have to keep them, and you think about, from a HUD perspective, your HAP request, having to keep a wet signature version or copy of that and having to keep that for so many years. And God forbid, you do a retroactive gross rent change! You’ve got pages and pages and pages of HAP request. You can now just keep all of that electronically within your software system.
RF: I need to do a shameless plug here, because we are one of the only products out there on the market that have unlimited document storage.
JG: Alright, I think every time Rue does a shameless plug, we’re going to stop and take a sip.
RF: Oh, it’ll be like the Bob Newhart game.
JG: There you go. If I know Rue, there’s going to be more shameless plugs just ’cause it means we’re going to stop and sip. Back to Electronic Signatures. So, it did include electronic storage, which is important, and particularly important given the way that last year went, and people moving to more online and more paperless ways of doing business. I do want to just, while we’re at it, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about TRACS 203a, for those of you that are just hanging on the edge of your seat. Yeah, that still hasn’t happened.
RF: That’s taken almost as long as Electronic Signatures has.
JG: I’m almost to the point where I feel like the boy that cried wolf, saying you know we’re going to have this. And everybodyis like, yeah, sure we are.
Almost! We budget time for it, we think about it in terms of road map and making sure that we allocate time to work on it, and I don’t think people believe me anymore.
But it did actually get mentioned at the last NAHMA meeting. There was head staff there that said it was still in progress and still going to happen, but—
RF: There’s also some other functionality there that’s tied into that release that people are waiting for this industry, too.
JG: Yeah, and a piece of that, that we talked about before, is some changes to the way RAD contracts work, and in terms of some of the calculations and what has to get reported on the HAP request and things like that. So I know that a lot of people are anxiously waiting for that. This feels like déjà vu, ’cause I think the last time we talked about this two years ago, we said OK, we’re waiting on OMB approval of forms. And hey, guess what, guys, that’s the hold-up. We’re still waiting on OMB approval of forms, which, look, in all fairness to HUD, you know, COVID threw them a curve ball, too.
RF: And didn’t we submit a new forms package for approval, or did I dream that?
JG: No, you didn’t dream it. We did it, we — the industry — submitted a forms package to OMB. We are still waiting on that approval. Again, you know, COVID threw everybody for a loop. HUD is no exception to that rule, because there were suddenly things that they had to issue guidance on and think about, how are we going to handle certain things? So, in all fairness, their focus shifted to answering questions and dealing with things that have come up as part of the pandemic.
RF: Or really anything besides 203a.
JG: I mean, it kind of feels like it.
RF: It does feel like that a little bit, it does.
JG: But you know, still waiting. I still budgeted time this year to work on it. We’ll see … it’ll be great if it happens. If not, I don’t know …
RF: How about this? When it does, we’ll be ready for it.
JG: When it does, we’ll be ready and we will absolutely be talking about it on a future podcast, that’s for darn sure.
RF: Probably, the next five!
JG: I mean, maybe. Because I’m beginning to think, you know, as much as we introduce our cocktail and talk about all that, I think giving TRACS 203a updates is going to be at the top of the agenda as well as a recurring theme for these podcasts. So, stay tuned, I guess, again—
RF: I think we — do not hold your breath!
JG: No, no, for goodness sakes, you would have passed out like four years ago. But do stay tuned. When we know, we will be sure and share. We also share on social media at ResMan, we’ve been doing quarterly webinars to talk about what’s going on in the industry and things like that, as well, so stay tuned. We’ll let you know when we know. And who knows when that’s going to be? I feel like I need to place a new bet on whether or not it’s going to happen this year. I’m going to go with no.
RF: I feel like I need to put in another shameless plug in for ResMan, too, though, ’cause we’ve got a blog. So please be sure that if you’re not subscribed to our resident blog, follow it. We talk about a lot of things, not just compliance. We talk about all things multifamily out there, so, lots of good stuff.
JG: We do, absolutely. Lots of good stuff, we do absolutely and shameless plug … [sips] I think we really, really just needed to take another sip …
RF: Watch LinkedIn, as well.
JG: I know that I get a lot of information off of LinkedIn. I follow a lot of different groups and companies. NAHMA, we can plug again. NAHMA posts information, as well, so that’s out there for the industry. Other industry organizations do, too, but we try to share as much of that to as soon as we know. Rue and I personally post, ResMan posts as well, so watch for that. That’s always a great source of information.
RF: Connect with us out there on LinkedIn, too. We’d love for you to do that.
RF: Janel, there’s all kinds of other things that we want to talk about too. I’m just going to throw it out there. Let’s talk about the eviction stuff.
JG: Ooh, yeah, so that’s a lot as a lot to unpack right there. So, one of the things that Rue and I really wanted to focus on, like we said, we feel like we’ve got some catching up to do here. So, one of the things that we wanted to talk about today is what has happened in the last year. How has the industry changed, how have they had to adapt? And while some of it wasn’t super fun, it is interesting to see for us this year … people are now talking about well, post-pandemic, what are we going to keep from that? There are some best practices and some good things that happened as a result of all of this. And Rue and I participate in—I feel like I’m shamelessly plugging NAHMA again—but NAHMA holds calls for their members every Friday where we’ve been able to share experiences: What’s going on? What challenges have we had? Members share information and share best practices. So, it’s been really interesting to watch the industry adapt and deal with all of these, but as we mentioned, eviction moratoriums—interesting.
Early on in the pandemic last year, around the April, May timeframe, everyone really started holding their breath and saying Oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen? What’s the financial status of my property? Am I going to be able to collect rent from my residents? And are they going to be able to pay? And what do I do? And one of the things that I saw that was so interesting, particularly on the Affordable Housing side, is the overwhelming trend of management companies to be proactive and reach out to their residents and say you know what, there may be an eviction moratorium, but that moratorium only applies to non-payment of rent. So if there are other release violations that are happening, those evictions could happen—whether or not those are successful is something we’ll touch on here in a minute but—
RF: That kind of depends on your state. It can kind of go either way, too.
JG: Yeah, yeah, I agree. And I don’t know how many people are actually pursuing those types of evictions but, again, the focus was really on educating residents and saying you know what, you need to understand this isn’t rent forgiveness. This is just “I can’t evict you right now because you can’t pay,” right? So, I’m making sure that those residents are educated. They understand that it’s not just man, this is great, I don’t have to pay rent for months. It’s really working with those residents to say look, if you’re getting a stimulus check, if you’re getting some additional unemployment benefits, whether it’s an increased amount or an increased duration of that time, use that money to pay your rent or work out a payment plan … or something like that with the residents.
RF: Well, I’ve even seen management companies work with the residents on how to go find that money. Like, what are the sources of rental assistance? And there are sources out there. And from what I hear, there is money out there that hasn’t been used.
JG: And working on payment plans. So I can say—gosh, I guess it’s my turn now to shamelessly plug ResMan—I know others in the industry did this as well, but putting payment plan functionality into the software to help people in the industry track that information and at least be able to show that you’ve worked out a plan, to be able to track that plan, keep up with what’s going on, what is that resident owe, but to be able to show there is some history of payment has been really good.
But fast forwarding to now and thinking about what is going to happen—although the eviction moratorium just got extended—but management companies are now starting to get concerned about what happens down the road once this is lifted. What if I do have a number of people that need to be evicted and how is this going to work, right?
RF: And does it count as income? And all of those types of things with the rental assistance.
JG: Right, so that’s been interesting as well. And that’s one of those things where it’s a challenge for the industry, right? What is stimulus money? Is it a onetime thing? Does it count as income, as recurring? What do I do with it? What do I do with the extra unemployment benefits? How do I annualize that benefit? How do I determine the duration of that?
And there really hasn’t been clear guidance. There’s been some, but I would say that it hasn’t been clear. And so, in lieu of clear guidance, you kind of have to go back to the What do I know that’s black and white, right? I count it as income unless it’s specifically on this list of things that are excluded and so, if it’s not on that list and that Exhibit … 5-1? That was a stretch to come up with that.
RF: That’s assets.
JG: I think 5-2 is assets. 5-1, but look at the exhibits at the end of Chapter 5, as far as what was included in income. If it’s not specifically noted there and if it’s not specifically spelled out in an FAQ, I mean, that’s really thrown a lot of Affordable Housing property managers for a loop. And wanting to do the right thing by the resident, but also wanting to do the right thing for the property and meet those expectations that HUD has, as well, to follow the rules.
RF: Well, and I mean, let’s be honest. How many times do we get updates daily, almost, on different pieces of guidance that have changed. So, I’m certain it’s really difficult to follow all of the changes in the updates to everything out there right now.
JG: Right, and let’s add on top of that the fact that very few people, if anyone, I think it’s just now starting to open up, where there are some in-person conferences. But so many conferences last year, where people would stay up to date on what’s going on and, you know, get the latest information, it’s all moved to virtual.
RF: I feel out of the loop, don’t you?
JG: Well, it’s been harder … it really has, for sure. I certainly miss all the in-person conferences for multiple reasons, but being able to have that opportunity to network and be able to get that information or go to trainings that are in-person things, things like that—What did I do?
RF: Nothing, I was just saying you missed the in-person for different reasons and I was like … a little drinky drinky.
JG: Well, we’re going to take a sip while we toast the in-person conferences that we missed.
RF: That’s right and we hope that they’re going to come back by at least the end of this year.
JG: That’s what happens when you’re sitting here chatting with someone who knows you and goes to those conferences with you. She gives me this look like yeah, I know what you’re talking about. You miss it.
Anyway, back to the property managers and even the corporate staff, you know. Trying to keep up with everything that’s going on, not having the benefit of those in-person conferences, not having the benefit of in-person training. We know several trainers who have had to switch to online training and it’s tough, right? I mean, it’s better than nothing, but even for us as a company, you know, having to do the same thing, to train our users on our product. It’s hard to keep people engaged, right? I mean, we all joke about Zoom fatigue. I mean, by the end of the day, after I’ve been on 15 Zoom calls, you know, I’m kind of tired, too.
RF: Yeah, I’ve got Zoom fatigue, for sure.
JG: Yeah, so again, it’s been hard to keep up with the information, especially the first few months of the pandemic, with everybody being home and the information was just coming fast and furious and not knowing what to do and where do I go for information? how do I keep up? It was crazy and, again, that’s what Rue said at the beginning of this, is it’s been tough, and I know it’s been hard for her managers and site staff to keep up with everything, but you know just keep watching for guidance. And what’s happening now is MORs are starting to happen again. And what we’re seeing is MOR findings on income calculations ineligibility in saying why did you count it?
RF: Janel, you say, keep up with the guidance, but because we’re connected, we get a lot of emails, and we talk with people, and we’re involved in working groups and things like that. But for a site staff who doesn’t always have the benefit of being that connected, what is a good way for them to stay in constant contact to know of all of the guidance that’s coming out and getting changes and things like that. What do you think?
JG: So, for site staff, again, depending on if it’s a HUD property or tax credit or rural housing, signing up for any kind of email alerts that you can from either your PBCA, your state housing agency, your state or local rural housing office, if you’re a rural housing property, doing that. But again, going back to the bigger organizations, HUD and tax credits and rural housing there. They push out a lot of information as soon as they get it too. We know that there are trainers in the industry—Mary Ross is the first one that comes to mind from HUD, you know, her HUD blast is free to sign up for. She’s got a lot of information there that people can read. I know I get information frequently from her. Rip Listservs[GC1] from HUD are also a good way to keep up with information as HUD releases guidance. But honestly, you know, HUD can release a new housing notice or updated a FAQ and I get an email from four or five different sources about it the day that it happened.
RF: So that’s what I was going to say. One thing you can always count on is your software provider, that even if you’re not up to date, that’s part of what we have to do, so you should always be able to count on your provider to be up to date as well.
JG: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, Rue. I want to go back for just a minute to eviction moratoriums. We talked about how to best avoid that by working with your residents and helping them understand you know, it’s not for rent forgiveness. You’re working on payment plans. But what we’re hearing now is concerns about what happens when the moratorium is lifted? And there are concerns about am I going to see a surge of vacancies? And what am I going to do from a maintenance perspective, to have to turn several units and get them occupied again? And what does that cost, to have to turn units … and you know, thinking about budgeting and if you have this one month where suddenly now you’ve got all these evictions and you didn’t necessarily budget for it, and you’ve got all this added maintenance expense. That’s a concern, certainly, for people, and then an increase in leasing activity and, you know, how are you going to hurry and get applicants qualified and get them back in the door and get people in your units and get that rent money coming in?
RF: I mean, think about that. Think about the interview process for an affordable resident, all the time that that takes. I mean, it seems like that’s something that you’re going to want to put some kind of a time allocation plan in place for, to start looking at your staffing and go OK, I can set up interviews this day and interviews that day. And hope that you can get them in your everyday workflow. I know that’s one of the hardest things that, as a property manager in Affordable Housing, you’ve got so many things to do. Hopefully, your software helps you take care of some of that.
JG: Yeah, for sure, and, again, what was so great about the timing of the notice last April for Electronic Signature is that it enabled the online leasing and online application process for HUD that the industry has so desperately wanted for so long. Again, you know we talked about this in the past—it was only HUD that said hey, we’ll approve it. And I know on tax credit, on that side, you know, some of the states tend to ask forgiveness, not permission. And so some states were doing their own thing and accepting it. And the hope is that with HUD giving that permission to the HUD properties, that the tax credit properties just followed along, and states just said yeah, we’re going to play, too.
RF: It does, I know it does put some pressure on the HFAs, but the other thing to think about—in in the presentations that I do, and we’ll talk about that often—when we’re in a tax credit property, about if my HFA accepts them, and we don’t actually know which HFAs do or do not. So, the best advice that I could give you in a situation like that, because we’re software providers, they’re not going to listen to us when we call them. We’ve already tried that, I tried that in 2004. It just wasn’t even working, so as a software provider, the best thing that you can do is, at your property level, you can reach out to your HFAs and implore them to do that. And especially now that HUD’s doing it, it’s been proven to be safe and effective, and most especially, efficient. And efficiency is going to be so important in the next 12 to 18 months as we come out of this eviction moratorium and you have all of this paperwork and unending things to do. So, be sure and get out there and reach out to your HFAs and implore them to accept that.
JG: Yeah, so it’s great that this guidance came along, because so many people said hey, I’ve got to move to online processes, I’m concerned about my residents or applicants, I’m concerned about protecting my site staff, I’m concerned about protecting my maintenance staff. So, one of the trends that we saw over the last year was an amazing adoption of technology in the Affordable Housing industry, which—
RF: Ready or not.
JG: Yeah, ready or not, here it is. And from our perspective, I mean, the Affordable Housing industry tends to lag behind conventional or student or even military, in terms of being able to have online processes. If you think about trying to lease to students or someone who’s in the military who’s needing to find housing and they’re deployed. You know they can’t do all of that in-person at an office.
So, it was nice to see Affordable Housing catch up to a degree. Like Rue said, ready or not, it’s here. And you have to do it. So, seeing an adoption of online applications of mobile maintenance, mobile work orders … and payment! I mean, ironically, watching that adoption of online payment has really gone up in Affordable Housing, which is great to see.
RF: By the way, we just released a payments product, too.
JG: Alright, stop and sip. Shameless plug.
JG: Cheers! So, yes, we did release a payments product. And there are some additional things coming this year that I’m excited to see particularly for Affordable Housing.
RF: Can we talk about it yet?
JG: I mean we can. Hopefully our boss isn’t listening, so yeah, let’s talk about it.
RF: We’ve got the mic, he doesn’t, so it’s OK.
JG: It’s OK. So, Cash Pay is going to be awesome, particularly for Affordable Housing. I’m super excited about that functioning. Obviously, we take credit cards, debit, and ACH and all of that, which is great, but for Affordable, I personally am really excited about a Cash Pay option.
RF: Yeah, I really like Cash Pay and I really think that’s going to help tremendously with money order fraud. That’s going to virtually eliminate that, so if you’re unsure what a cash pay option means, it just means that when a resident moves in, they get a little identification card with their account number on it and they can go to any, like, 7-11 or a Walmart or something like that, and they can actually pay their rent and it will actually apply to their ledger. Did I say that right?
JG: Yeah, I’m really excited about that and, again, watching the adoption, like Rue said ready or not, one of the things that we learned on one of the weekly AMA calls is actually in New Jersey, I think it was that day or that week, New Jersey passed a new law that said that management companies must accept credit card payments for rent during and for one year after the COVID-19 emergency. And, I mean, we were floored. People on that call just went bonkers because one of the big barriers to that is well, who pays the transaction fees for the credit cards, right?
RF: And I gotta tell you, the transaction fees are not a decent size.
JG: Yeah, it’s not a small thing, right, especially if you’re thinking about Affordable Housing residents. So, it’s always been one of the biggest barriers, I think, personally, to credit card payments or Affordable. The law in New Jersey was very clear and said that those transaction fees could be passed on to residents, so that was huge for affordable because there are so many fees that you can’t pass on—you can’t pass on an application fee or a fee for screening, you know, which is required to do criminal screening, right? So, the fact that New Jersey said hey, you’re taking credit card payments, if somebody wants to pay, you gotta let them.
RF: Well, what do you think about like on a tax credit property? In a situation like that, I would definitely check with the HFA because I don’t know if that means that they have to pay it if they’re not playing max rent, or if they can pay it over and above max rent, right? I don’t know, so you definitely want to check with your HFAs in a situation like that.
JG: Yeah, one of the things that’s interesting too, if you think about well great you know they’re going to pay with their credit card well. But if they don’t pay their credit card or they reverse the payment or whatever, well, the law addressed that and said that any kind of reversal due to fraud—and we know we have to be careful, the F word in affordable housing is fraud—we have to be careful with that because that is actually considered unpaid rent, if they reversed that. So there is some protection there for the management companies, which was good to see.
But one of the things that we’re watching and why it’s so beneficial to have these calls and hear what’s going on throughout the country in different states, you know, we hear about it on the national level, what is HUD doing? What is the IRS doing with tax credits? But do you hear about things like that in specific states ’cause we want to know what other states are going to jump on that bandwagon, right? If New Jersey is doing it, who else is going to do something like that. So, really watching keeping a close eye on that.
And speaking of states, one of the other things that came up during this call was California.
RF: I was just about to say, yeah, what do you do about this?
JG: Yeah, so now management companies are required to offer credit bureau reporting of tenant rent payments in California, which is, you know, it’s not unusual on the conventional side, but to see that it doesn’t matter, Affordable Housing, if they’re making rent payments, you’ve got to report that to a credit bureau. So, it’s an interesting trend.
The open item on the credit bureau reporting is the charge for that, right? There’s a fee associated with that, so it’s unclear yet as to whether or not the renters can be charged for that reporting of payments to credit bureaus or not.
So that’s another situation where you should stay tuned, follow your state HFA, be in close contact with them, because the rules are always changing. Certainly, something that you want to keep up with and be able to ask questions because a lot of times a rule comes out—and I’m not picking on any particular state, it happens with HUD and other things too, that you know, it sounds great and then you go to put it into practice and that’s where all of the gray area comes into play and you need some additional guidance or FAQs.
RF: You mean it’s not in black and white, it’s in gray? And that’s just always how it is with regulations. Isn’t it?
JG: That’s what makes it tricky.
RF: Part of it is just left up to your interpretation.
JG: Part of it is, yes ma’am. So—
RF: We’ve covered a lot. Do we want to talk about what we’ve been doing for the last year?
JG: We do, but before we get to that—
RF: What, I went ahead of time?
JG: A little.
RF: How dare me!
JG: So, we’ve talked about things that have happened in 2020 in the past year and challenges, but the thing that’s interesting now talking to management companies is what are those good little nuggets that we want to keep from that? You know, what was a good practice that they want to keep, and they want to extend, and going forward, what’s here to stay? So, we did a survey a while back and the top things that we saw in terms of trends were to expect increased adoption of technology, which was no surprise. Actually 67% of respondents said that they’re expecting to increase their adoption of technology, which is great.
RF: Yes, it is, that’s a lot.
JG: Like we said, it’s here whether you like it or not. 59% said they expect increased regulation. So, if you think about it, all the things that are changing, the things that we just talked about, what’s going on in different states, right? So, they expect to see increased regulation as part of what we’re going to have going forward.
But 47% also said they expect increased government investment. So, there’s been a lot of talk in these meetings about preservation, and how are we going to get money for that and what’s going to happen with additional funding, and it was interesting to note and hear in the most recent NAHMA meeting, where members were saying you know, this isn’t like the recession before in, that there’s still new construction going on, and there’s still a lot of new development. And I know from our perspective, we’re seeing clients who were still taking over properties at an amazingly rapid rate. It seems like every time we turn around, we’ve got a client adding a new property, you know, ’cause they’re just continuing to expand their portfolio.
RF: And I’m seeing tons of new Affordable construction. And all of the groups that I’m in on LinkedIn, every time I turn around, there’s an announcement that somebody’s won an award to build another property. So, there is a lot of new construction going on in Affordable Housing, too. Yay!
JG: Yeah, it is, and I think the other thing that we’ve been talking about, too, is they anticipated increase demand for it as well. If you look at people who are in need of it—and this one particular session I was really focused on senior housing—and they said one of the things that happened last year is seniors who maybe had a nest egg or whatever and they ended up blowing through their savings just because of different challenges that happened last year, and so now, there’s an increased need for senior housing.
RF: And there’s already a housing shortage.
JG: Exactly. We think there will continue to be an increased shortage in Affordable Housing so that’s certainly what’s driving a lot of new construction, new development.
RF: Get those hard hats ready.
JG: Yes. And so, again, one of the trends it fascinated me to see, because we see it on the conventional side but to see this now on the Affordable side, is a really renewed interest in green building and smart technology. And you know, I never really put it into this perspective, but they said we’ve got more people working from home or you have children in the apartments who are doing school from home—and who knows what’s going to happen with all that—so they said you know these buildings have got to be wired for Internet. Really good Internet. This is not the time to have crappy dial-up Internet or whatever. You’ve got families, you’ve got to have great Internet in these buildings in order to support people working from home or doing school from home.
RF: It taxes our infrastructure, too.
JG: But the other thing that I, frankly I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t think about it, but if you think about senior properties, the amount of telemedicine that happened. You know, all the telemedicine doctor visits. So, those properties need Internet, as well, for that. So, it was interesting to hear conversations about that. And then also thinking about the increased usage of utilities. With that many more people being home all the time, think about your water, your electric, all of that. So, trying to put anything in place to help detect water leaks or help control temperatures in apartments, things like that, and help with utility usage. It’s interesting to watch the Affordable Housing industry kind of catch up.
RF: Yeah, it really has been really fun.
JG: Yeah, for sure. So interesting to see that and, then again, with new construction, the other thing that came up was how do we design our common areas. How do we have safe areas for residents who desperately need to get out of their units and have some interaction with other people, but do it in a safe environment? Sothat’s part of what’s being locked out, too, in terms of construction of new buildings, so those are definitely some things that I think were good and interesting to see, you know, moving forward. The adoption of technology, again, just blows my mind to see how many people have said I’ve gotta have online applications, I’ve gotta have a way to take payments, I’ve got to have mobile maintenance solutions. And even within management companies to say you know we’re going to do more online training because we’re doing it and it works.
The thing that’s going to be interesting for me to see—I’ve heard mixed reaction about this—is what do we do with conferences? And some people have said well, you’re going to have hybrid conferences now where we can do it in person, if you want, when we feel it safe, but some people said you know, what I don’t want to spend the money to travel or I want to be able to send more people and have more people benefit, but I don’t want to take people away from my office and so they want a virtual option, too, and I’m frankly torn on it.
RF: I’m really torn on that, too. Honestly, participating in some of the virtual conferences that I have this past year, I feel like as long as you’re at your desk, you’re open game for everybody else at work, too. And same for everybody else at work, too. And so even though you’ve registered and you’ve got time blocked, there’s other things that are always going to get in the way. And so, I think that probably the real benefit of an in-person is that unless you can actually go lock yourself away in a room where nobody else can get to you and nobody else can interrupt your sessions, it’s hard for you to get the full benefit of a conference in a virtual situation.
JG: I 100% agree. And it’s funny, I’m sitting here kind of laughing about it, thinking about it. I’m personally guilty of it, it happened to me, to do it in virtual conferences. And I thought, but I’m not even in an office where people are walking around. I’m at home, all by myself at home, and I’m still getting interrupted. And it’s hard to attend and, I don’t know, maybe part of it is at least when we went to a conference, if you knew it was two days, it’s like look, I’m gonna be super focused on this for two days—
RF: Don’t talk to me!
JG: —And I’ll catch up on emails and things on breaks or I’ll call you before or after hours, or whatever, and now, a lot of the virtual conferences—and I don’t fault them for this—but it expanded and now it’s four half days. And I get it, right, because you need to be able to do some other things, but I’m also thinking in some ways, it is harmful. ‘Cause now it’s like gosh, now I gotta be available for four days, right, even though it’s not four full days. So it’s tough and I really feel for all the people who are having to put these conferences on. It was quite a shift for them to have to switch to virtual, right?
RF: And kudos to everybody out there who has done these, because there’s no way they can be easy.
JG: No, I mean, I know when speaking with some people who have had to suddenly shift from an in-person conference, it‘s a totally different way of planning, having to think about technology and how do you get all your speakers on there. And we kind of laughed, we did a panel on technology at one conference, and we were the first group to try it out and be the guinea pigs for it, and I swear we have more problems with it than anybody else did. And we’re your good kids, right?
RF: We’re the ones know what we’re doing, supposedly.
JG: Yeah, it’s been tough, and it’s been a challenge. We talked about this, and you teased me about it before, but I so miss being in person. I’m missing all the friends that we’ve made in the industry, and I miss having that face-to-face interaction and being able to network and, you know, just having that interaction within a session.
RF: Being face to face with the officials, right? There is nothing that can take the place of sitting in a room, having all of the HUD officials or the IRS officials right there at your disposal to ask questions of.
JG: Yeah, and probably even more so, catching them after the session.
JG: And saying, hey I need to make you aware of this challenge that we’re having, and I just want to expand on something that was said earlier and, to their credit, they’re great—
RF: They are!
JG: —they’re great about sitting there and listening. They want to hear it, you know, they want to do the right things, too.
RF: But you can’t catch them on the phone, an email, on a Zoom call … you can’t catch them when you’re like that, so those are kind of the things that really, I think, are so important to an in-person.
JG: Yeah, yeah, I do, again, certainly miss it. I think there’s no substitute for it.
New for ResMan
RF: Are we ready, about what’s coming this year now?
JG: Yes, you’ve been so good and so patient. We can talk now about what’s going on.
RF: Because I’m so excited. I can’t stop being so excited.
JG: I know. I’m—
RF: Almost everything I’ve asked for.
JG: You guys, that’s no small list.
RF: Actually, pretty much everything I’ve asked for.
JG: Yeah, yeah, for sure. We do have some exciting things going on at ResMan with our Affordable platform. We’ve certainly been working hard. We have an amazing team, both product and developers, and some internal stakeholders, Rue being one of them, to say hey, here’s what I’m hearing and here’s what we need to make sure that we’re able to provide. So, we spent a lot of time doing that last year.
This year, super exciting to me, one of the things that we just released was Automatic Income Limit Updates. So I know that that’s time consuming. It’s fraught with human error for all the data entry and, especially if you have a large portfolio, having to go in and spend the time to update your income limits. I’ve seen, in some cases, people sometimes forget that it’s time to update their income limit. So being able to do that automatically for our customers is really, really exciting.
RF: Really huge. And especially with all the extra stuff that they have to do. I mean, if you’ve got a large portfolio, we’re just giving you back a whole day at the time.
JG: Yeah, for sure, for sure. One of the other things that we’re working on is Income Averaging.
JG: And I know it’s been around for a little while, but—
RF: It’s also changing, like almost weekly.
JG: Well, it’s been changing. And there’s a proposed rule that came out and industry associations had said hey, you know we have some concerns about this. And, again, that’s one of the great things about participating in these industry associations, is to be able to have a voice and say hey I know how this works in practice and let me tell you where I see some concerns in the proposed rule and being able to send that back, in this case, to the IRS. And they listen and they read through all those comments, ’cause I know I’ve seen it both with the IRS and with HUD, but income averaging is certainly something we’re working on. We’re watching very closely the changes to the rules. I know it’s difficult to track manually and we do know some people that are doing it, but we’re going to work on automating that for our customers.
One of the other things, too, and you know, I will tell you, I partially waited for TRACS 203a because of all the RAD functionality in it, but I’ve given up a little bit on 203a, and so we are also adding RAD contract functionality this year, which I’m really excited about. We’re seeing more and more, the public housing to RAD convergence, which have been going on, but we’re seeing an increase in the PRAC to[GC2] RAD, as well. So being able to provide that for our customers who are moving over to RAD is great. And, again, one more time, I’m going to hope that TRACS 203a comes out soon, because there’s some really great things in there that help those RAD properties.
RF: Well, and in both of those programs it doesn’t apply to everybody, for sure, but it truly is happening more and more and more across the country. So just because you’re not in it right now doesn’t mean in six months or a year’s time, you won’t be in it.
JG: Yeah, exactly well and going back to income averaging, same thing, right? If there’s a lot of new construction going on, that’s a lot of opportunities to select income averaging as you set aside.
RF: Yes – I thought I said that, so good.
JG: So, we do anticipate an increase in that and an increase in the amount of RAD contracts, for sure. And I know one of the things Rue is really excited—
JG: So, I kind of saved it for last—I don’t know if ya’ll just picked up on that squeal that she did, but I certainly heard it. What we currently have in development right now is our Rural Housing Functionality. So that really just rounds out our Affordable program nicely. I am really excited about that.
RF: I’m really excited about it, too.
JG: Yeah. It’s a smaller segment of the market, but it’s amazing to me how many people have it and have a need for a better solution than what they currently have, and so I’m really excited that that’s coming out. So, stay tuned! Like we said, we post industry update, but we post product updates, as well. And so, as we launch those, we’ll be talking about those in some of our upcoming webinars. I’m really, really excited to talk about that
RF: Yeah, I’ve seen little bits and pieces of it, too, so, really excited. You know, we really don’t just have cocktails. We actually really do love compliance and we love our Affordable Housing part of the industry.
JG: We also love cocktails, I’m not gonna lie.
RF: Alright, everybody, that is about a wrap on this edition of Cocktails & Compliance. Thank you for joining and we hope to see you next time.
JG: Be sure to subscribe to PropTalk on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. For more about ResMan’s property management platform, visit myresman.com.