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Better Serving Residents Through Efficient Property Management

3 min read

Property managers are often asked to wear many hats: owners’ representative, rent collector, social worker, maintenance coordinator, event planner and building/systems expert, just to name a few. It’s a complex, multi-faceted job that I have immense respect for, especially as they served on the front lines during the pandemic and continue to adapt to a dramatically shifting landscape.

Many are cautiously optimistic about the changes in the new Department of Housing and Urban Development inspections protocol as we move to a more objective system that promises to focus on critical health and safety items as opposed to cosmetic items. These changes will reverberate throughout the entire affordable housing community with Treasury and housing finance agencies (HFAs) likely to learn from and adopt HUD’s standards. In the meantime, we need regulators to coordinate with and rely on each other’s inspections to avoid costly duplication. HUD maintains a database of scores for the three most recent inspections and HFAs should coordinate their inspections based on HUD’s inspections.

Resident applications and recertifications could prove to be another area where more coordination leads to better outcomes for all parties. I’ve often heard applying for affordable housing described as more complex and cumbersome than buying a house. The archaic process is heavily dependent on paper and is ripe for innovation and integration with existing systems that can instantly check eligibility. National Housing & Rehabilitation Association and its partners are working to reduce the complexity of applications to minimize the administrative burden for residents and property managers alike.

Perhaps no area is more poised for change than recertifications for 100 percent affordable properties. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 provides an exemption from tenant annual income recertification requirements for these properties, but 15 years later, many state HFAs have yet to implement this change. The cost of this duplication adds up and ultimately trickles down to residents in the form of increased rents due to the cost of being forced to manage properties inefficiently.

At the same time, we’re also asking property managers to green their buildings. We’re harnessing the power of technology to track and improve utility consumption, but more work is needed to fix the wrong pockets problem in which residents have no incentive to reduce consumption when landlords pay the utility bills and vice versa when owners have no incentive to invest in energy efficiency upgrades when residents pay the utility bills. Those dynamics are beginning to change, and I expect there will be a sea change with the federal funds flowing from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  

Amidst this complexity, resident interactions stand out as the most dynamic aspect of a property manager’s job. The role includes everything from tenant eligibility compliance, rent collection, setting up payment plans and processing evictions amid an evolving legal landscape to coordinating on-site services and after school programs, managing resident conflict, helping residents apply for benefits and hosting ice cream socials.

We owe it to the residents we purport to serve to help property managers do their jobs as efficiently as possible so they can focus on the good stuff: serving the residents by maintaining vibrant, safe, livable and green communities that people are proud to call home. Thank you to all the property managers and on-site staff showing up for their residents and communities every day. I hope you’ll join us in making their jobs more resident-focused.

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