Today is national call-in day to end sequestration

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) is urging PHAs and others to call their members of Congress today and urge them to cancel sequestration and protect housing programs. Noting that nondefense discretionary programs, including most of the programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have absorbed a disproportionate share of the automatic spending cuts, NLIHC provides this recipe for action today:

Call 866-898-2624 and tell your members of Congress three critical things:

  • Sequestration has already harmed tens of thousands of low-income Americans. The hardships they face will only grow worse unless sequestration is canceled. States and local communities depend on HUD and USDA programs to meet dire housing needs. Sequestration has made it even harder for poor people to find and afford housing and threatens to cause more people to become homeless.
  • The Budget Committee conference members must come to an agreement that cancels sequestration before the December 13 deadline.
  • An agreement that cancels sequestration will allow Congress to pass fiscal year (FY) 2014 spending bills, instead of another continuing resolution, which would avoid further cuts to HUD and USDA programs.

If you prefer to craft your own message, click here to view other potential talking points.

Are you concerned about the impact of sequestration on your agency? Stay updated with the latest program information by subscribing to the PIH Alert and Housing Resource Newsletter, currently 20% off during the NMA once-yearly sale.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #20

Cara Gillette

While public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #20: Consider at least partial regionalization.

If you’re a small to medium PHA in the vicinity of other PHAs, consider the cost savings if you collaborate in some essential functions. Maybe you’re not interested in or ready for full regionalization. But think about it: a regional site-based waiting list would give verified applicants much more choice. Regional accounting, HR, quality control (QC), RFPs and RFQs, and training could save a lot of needed dollars.

To review, here are the 20 tips we’ve discussed over the course of this series:

Maximize dollars

Reduce costs

Public housing directors and managers know how to do the job with tight resources. Working with reduced funding is a challenge. With strategic planning, accurate and timely reporting and monitoring of property performance, and highly competent property managers and staff, the PHA can ensure its properties are financially viable. As with any business, the properties need to look at ways to increase income and decrease costs. Looking collaboratively at revenue and expenditures enables the PHA to make those smart asset management decisions.

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #19

Cara Gillette

While public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #19: Limit liability.

Losing a lawsuit is a way to lose big money. Avoid getting hit with a voluntary compliance agreement (VCA), which can be extremely time-consuming and expensive.

Make sure your reasonable accommodation processes, forms, and policies are compliant, understandable, understood by staff, and communicated to applicants and residents. If your PHA has 15 employees or more, you’re required to have a 504 coordinator, although of course in smaller PHAs that function may be fulfilled by the executive director or other manager. Track your reasonable accommodation requests, and have a final approval process for any denial of a reasonable accommodation.

Be proactive and vigilant about other fair housing issues. Take another look at your LEP plan for competent interpretation and written translation of key documents (or key portions of key documents). Make sure you’re not prohibiting children in your elderly/disabled developments — the eligibility requirement is that the head of house, spouse, or cohead are 62 years or older or meet the HUD definition of disabled. Nothing allows you to prohibit children in public housing.

Be sure that you’re implementing Section 3 requirements in your procurement processes. FHEO is monitoring this, a sure sign that HUD is serious about it. We’ve seen PHAs, counties, and even states put under VCAs for lack of fully implementing Section 3.

Lastly, never skip any steps when it comes to safety. Onsite staff as well as maintenance technicians should note anything with the potential to become unsafe, and a work order should be issued. Train staff to keep their eyes out for potential safety hazards when walking the grounds and common areas. Staff, as well as maintenance, should understand what a health and safety deficiency is under the uniform physical condition standards (UPCS).

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #20

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #18

Cara Gillette

While public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #18: Watch the little things.

What about utility usage? Are lights turned off at night and on the weekends? What about cutting down slightly on office hours?

Look at cutting down on cutting down all those trees! Reduce the amount of paper your PHA uses. So many agencies have over-documentation of certain items in the file. For example, unless you’re changing the lease contents, a new lease doesn’t have to be signed every year — that’s a lot of pages saved right there!

Make it a priority to find savings in the certification and recertification policies and procedures. Not only are you saving paper, you’re saving time.

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #19

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #17

Cara Gillette

While public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #17: Coordinate and facilitate economic self-sufficiency strategies for public housing residents.

You want higher-income families who pay higher rent, whether income-based or flat. Consider establishing an FSS program in public housing. The FSS escrow accounts are a great strategy for enabling a family to stabilize economically — and those FSS stories are great PR for your PHA. Best-practice FSS programs at PHAs across the country are fundraising, bringing in additional grants, and providing cutting-edge services.

Use those community rooms to bring in fabulous in-kind services: classes from your local community college, career counseling, computer learning centers, support groups, etc. And don’t forget about after-school programs, sports programs, and child care. These kinds of innovations will make public housing properties more appealing, and help you attract and retain those higher-income families.

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #18

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #16

Cara Gillette

While public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #16: Look at time efficiencies for staff.

Look for savings in the certification and recertification policies and processes. Not only are you saving paper, you’re saving time.

For example, Teri Robertson‘s Idea #1 in her HCV sequestration series was to revise PHA interim reexamination policy:

Some PHAs have eliminated PHA-initiated interims altogether so as to ease administrative burden. Others set a dollar threshold, but acknowledge that determining whether an interim needs to take place is often as time-consuming as actually conducting an interim.

Here’s a suggestion we’ve begun making to agencies when they contract with us to spend three days with them to facilitate a complete administrative plan or ACOP revision: consider adopting an interim policy that the family must report, and the PHA must conduct an interim, when the family begins receiving income from a new income source.

Consider outsourcing your quality control (QC) function for PIC errors. This can be time-consuming for PHA staff, and you need an accurate, objective assessment. (In the HCV program, a random, impartial sampling is imperative for SEMAP.) And you want to have trend analysis here: Is an employee’s error rate improving? What kinds of errors are most prevalent?

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #17

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #15

Cara GilletteWhile public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #15: Consider a superpreference for the HCV waiting list for public housing victims of domestic violence.

While a brief paragraph doesn’t do this topic justice, establishing an HCV waiting list superpreference for victims of domestic violence in public housing serves two important purposes. First and foremost, it can be crucial to the safety of the victim. Especially in small public housing programs, transferring to a nearby project is not going to ensure safety. Porting to another state may be what it takes. Also (and less importantly, of course), it will cut down on the public housing transfers.

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #16

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #14

Cara GilletteWhile public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #14: Look at your transfer policies.

Any time you transfer a family, you’re creating a vacancy. The cost to turn a unit typically can run $2,000 or more. While we would never advocate cutting down on or delaying transfers for reasonable accommodation or medical reasons, your transfer policy should be tight enough to avoid unnecessary transfers. We’ve seen some transfer policies that allow transfers for folks who don’t like their neighbors.

Look at your policies. Do you require that families be in good standing (paid up, no termination pending) to be approved for the transfer list?  (However, don’t require this for your reasonable accommodation transfers.)

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #15

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #13

Cara GilletteWhile public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #13: Look at your maintenance costs.

Maintenance salaries and benefits are always a big cost in public housing. If your PHA is large and your maintenance staff is still centralized, take another look at the costs as mentioned in Tip #11.

Also, if you have centralized maintenance, chances are good that your PHA is spending too much on vehicles and gas. You want to keep onsite staff onsite as much as possible and reduce driving time. Many PHAs are switching to maintenance tractor carts, which are like heavy-duty golf carts, with great reviews — keeps the maintenance staff onsite, and cuts way down on gas.

Some other points to keep in mind:

  • Preventative maintenance can be costly to implement, but it will save you money in the long run and prevent those constant trips to the central warehouse or hardware store.
  • Take an honest look at overtime. You may need to just show up a few times on Saturday and see how busy folks are. As with all staff, managing to clear expectations and performance standards is key to productivity.
  • Finally, be fair to your maintenance staff. Their work is essential to keeping the properties decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair.

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #14

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #12

Cara GilletteWhile public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #12: Look at your benefits for new employees.

Is it time to rethink the benefit package? Some of our smaller clients are giving up benefit packages such as vision, short- and long-term disability, etc. Some PHAs are adjusting benefits for future hires, because some defined-benefit plans haven’t been fully funded. More employers are going to defined-contribution plans. But be careful that the  overhead cost of maintaining different plans doesn’t become burdensome for the central office.

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #13

NMA senior associate Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email sales@nanmckay.com for more information.

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