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Best practices for affordable housing Section 8 Owner/Agents that work!

I have attempted to assemble a list of best practices observed by O/A’s that work with multifamily affordable housing. The list is not all inclusive or in order of importance. The ideas presented are merely another tool to assist O/A’s in the challenging role of retaining tenants and trying to keep units fully occupied by tenants so the property can meet their financial responsibilities.    However when all is said and done, there is no substitute for affordable housing training.  Click on the link to sign up for classes:  http://www.ahtcsonline.com/regform.php

1. Establishing a preventative maintenance program. Good tenants want to live in a building that is clean and properly maintained. Contact your maintenance personnel to establish a program for your property.

2. Establish a plan to manage the property’s capital repairs and replacement needs.  Management should maintain a reserve for replacement spreadsheet by property that identifies what items are eligible for RFR replacement and when they should be replaced.  In the HUD Special Claims Guide, there is a matrix that shows the Life Expectancy of such items (i.e. Range, Refridge, Rugs, etc.).

3. Training of staff.   All staff should be properly trained and receive periodic continuing education. Numerous organizations provide training including but not limited to Affordable Housing Training & Consulting Services.  HUD has made it mandatory that staff take advantage of training opportunities. The training of on-site staff is an allowable project operating expense.   Click here to register for our EIV Class:  http://www.ahtcsonline.com/regform.php

4. Pay your staff an appropriate wage. It is extremely difficult to obtain and retain good staff.  Once you do it pays to try to keep them. Staff turnover can be very costly and time consuming for a management company. Treat your employees with respect by paying them an appropriate wage with benefits. This is often an area where management agents look first when a property starts having cash flow difficulties.

If you are unable to provide pay increases to your staff, work with them to provide compensation in other ways, such as paying more of their benefits or offering incentives for reaching certain goals. A disgruntled employee can damage a property’s reputation quickly.

5. Have a written policy in place to manage the turnover of vacant units. Vacant units can be turned over in 3-5 days with a plan of action in place. Schedule a unit inspection once the notice of lease termination has been received so the work required upon move-out can be determined. Once the scope of work is

determined, coordinate with the maintenance personnel, painters, carpet installers, and any other necessary repair persons, installers, and janitorial staff to get the work done timely and quickly upon move-out. Follow-up and inspect each phase of the work.

6. Have a policy in place to keep the property fully occupied. Do you need to advertise in the local newspapers? Would an “open house” be of benefit? If excessive turnover is a problem, why are people moving out? Revisit the screening criteria if turnover appears excessive.  Develop a program for tenant retention that addresses the cause of the turnover. Do exit interviews with residents who are leaving. Contact your property’s and/or HUD housing management representative if you need assistance in setting up your retention plan. Make sure you are maintaining your waiting list. Review the list and purge those that are no longer interested every six months.

7. Establish written eviction procedures. Legal expenses can seriously hurt the property’s bottom line if tenants are evicted without following proper procedure. Have an attorney review the policy before putting it in place and make sure that all property managers are aware of the policy and follow it.

8. Create a physical environment that supports a sense of community within the development.

-Establish after school programs if you have a general occupancy property with numerous children.

-Establish a computer center that the residents can use. Contact HUD for assistance in establishing a Neighborhood Network Computer Center.

-Create common areas within buildings that tenants can utilize for meetings.

-Provide landscaping and recreational areas that tenants enjoy and utilize.

-Plan activities that meet the needs of the resident population such as picnics or bingo.

9. Provide resident services that foster a sense of community

-Establish services that will improve day-to-day life such as offering a meals program and/or van service in an elderly building. A general occupancy building could provide after school programs, job training,

and/or life skills training. Identify the types of services needed and work to fill those needs. Contact the Agency’s housing services coordinator assigned to your property for assistance.

– Provide recreational activities

10. Integrate the property with the surrounding community through partnerships with other organizations and agencies. An elderly building can have a direct relationship with the local senior center or a local hospital to provide blood pressure screenings and other medical services. Both elderly and general occupancy properties can often form partnerships with local colleges.

11. Secure the property. Develop effective relationships with the local police department. Work for increased police visibility if security is a concern. Make improvements to the physical appearance of the site to improve security. Keeping bushes trimmed, adding lighting and motion sensors, and installing security cameras can do wonders to deter crime. Contact your technical services representative or your HUD representative for assistance with paying for security, especially capital upgrades.

12. Work to obtain yearly rent increases. Tax credit properties should expect to increase gross rents yearly. Tenants should get used to the concept of increasing rents each year. Section 8 properties may be limited in their ability to increase contract rents.  Currently, only those properties with total housing expense less than fair market rents can request and obtain a yearly contract rent increase if they obtain a rent increase. All other Section 8 gross rent increase properties are required to obtain a rent comparability study to determine if a rent increase is warranted. A property manager should check yearly with neighboring market rate properties to try to determine if the property’s rents are comparable. If rents are close to the neighboring market rate properties, then a rent comparability study may be warranted. Please contact your property’s financial analyst if you have any questions regarding a gross rent increase on a Section 8 property that receives an gross rent increase.

13. Review real estate taxes on a yearly basis for appropriate assessment. State legislation was passed to assist tax credit properties. The value of the tax credits may not be considered in the assessment on these properties. Please contact your financial analyst if you have any questions regarding your current taxes.

14. Review your insurance bills yearly. Put your insurance out for bid each year to ensure you obtain the best price for your property. Contact an insurance specialist if you have any concerns that you are getting the best price or if you need the names of insurance carriers to obtain quotes.

Feel free to contact AHTCS, LLC with any comments or suggestions for improving this list.

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