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Affordable Housing Is Fundamentally Resident-Centered, and We Need More of It

4 min read

In November, I attended a White House meeting on Resident-Centered Management Practices to solicit best practices. The stakeholder meeting was a part of an Interagency Task Force working on tenant protections and resident-centered property management practices, including representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense (DoD), as well as independent agencies, like the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And yes, you read that correctly, I too was surprised to see representatives from the DoD – as you might imagine, they are responsible for housing a lot of people, and recently went through a Military Housing Privatization Initiative. As a part of that process, DoD updated its tenant bill of rights and offers a universal lease and dispute resolution process.

The White House meeting centered around three main topics: safe and decent housing; leasing and compliance; and eviction prevention. National Housing & Rehabilitation Association and several others highlighted the heroic efforts of our members during the height of the pandemic when property management staff turned into case workers and assisted residents with everything from food security, obtaining Emergency Rental Assistance and setting up on-site vaccination clinics.

The White House specifically asked for examples of housing providers going above and beyond requirements – we highlighted the work of several of our members to set up rental payment plans to better align with how our residents are paid, as well as voluntarily reporting on-time rental payments to credit reporting agencies. If you have other best practices that you would like to lift up, please contact me at info@housingonline.com.

Emergency Rental Assistance helped soften what could have been a massive eviction crisis. NH&RA members report that most residents either paid their rent or obtained Emergency Rental Assistance. As we move from the pandemic phase into the endemic phase, courts are addressing the backlog of eviction proceedings and Emergency Rental Assistance funding is drying up.

Fundamentally, this comes down to a resource question. Landlords need to be able to evict tenants for major lease violations, as well as unresponsive tenants who have not set up payment plans nor applied for any of the available government assistance. Properties with low collections are unsustainable, and the federal government must balance its resident protections work with safety and soundness of many government-backed mortgages.

As an industry and country, we also must balance creating as much housing as possible to address the shortage of 4.4 million affordable housing units with creating costly, service-enriched housing. We currently lack a means to permanently fund resident services. But are excited about Steward of Affordable Housing for the Future’s Certified Organization for Resident Engagement & Services (CORES) Certification and the proposal to create a new 25 percent credit for low-income housing supportive services to cover a portion of costs for providing certain resident services at Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties included in the Democrats initial, but ultimately unsuccessful, Infrastructure Proposal (H.R. 2 – 116th Congress).

The most impactful thing we can do to shift the power equilibrium towards the resident’s favor is to offer choice and competition by creating more affordable housing. We need more tax credits, more vouchers and more emergency rental assistance. More assistance for life’s emergencies rather than the COVID-19 emergency.

The White House is looking for private companies willing to publicly agree to a to-be-determined set of resident-centered management practices. Please contact me if you’re interested in participating in this work. NH&RA will remain engaged as the White House and Interagency Task Force complete their work and will continue to press for increased funding to support our work and strategies that benefit both residents and property owners.

Kaitlyn Snyder is managing director of National Housing & Rehabilitation Association.