Meet the NMA team: Cydney Jones

Cydney JonesToday in our interview series we’ll be talking with senior consultant Cydney K. Jones, who recently wrote for the NMA blog about how to run a successful VASH program. With an exceptional knowledge of HUD regulations, she honed her skills while working at the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA), the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA), and as a business owner at CKJ Consulting.

How did you get your start in the industry?

I started as the secretary to the executive director at a housing authority.

How many years have you been at NMA?

I’ve been happily working for NMA for over three years, and in the low-income housing industry for almost twenty years.

Education credentials and professional organizations?

I have a bachelor’s degree in communications from Howard University, and am a candidate for a master’s degree in public policy.

What’s one topic you’re most passionate about in the affordable housing industry?

I believe in the housing choice voucher program, and enjoy helping housing authorities administer the program effectively and efficiently. I’m passionate about ensuring the program is run efficiently. Our tax dollars are on the line!

What’s your favorite part about your job?

Issuing housing choice vouchers to families in need.

Describe your typical work day?

I have to travel a lot, which can be a blessing and a curse. But probably the best part of my job is my home office — I usually wear pajamas to work.

Tell us about a successful project that you had a part in.

Unquestionably, our first program management engagement at a large agency in the Midwest was a great overall experience for me as a housing professional. Managing the HCV program from the private sector really allowed us to administer a highly efficient and effective program and also allowed us to be creative in meeting very high performance standards. And the winters in the Midwest build character!

NMA senior consultant Cydney Jones is expert in providing a wide range of technical assistance, management training, and on-site expertise for multifamily assisted programs and the HCV program. She’s also a member of several professional organizations: NAHRO, NLHA, and her local PTA. In her free time, Cydney enjoys boating, rollerskating, swimming, and spending time with her family.

HUD updates VASH PBV funding notice

If you read our earlier blog post regarding HUD’s announcement of available set-aside funding for project-basing vouchers under the HUD–Veterans Affairs (VA) supportive housing (HUD-VASH) program, you’ll be interested to learn that HUD has posted an updated version of Notice PIH 2014-03.

Issued on February 4, the original notice provides guidance on applying for $7 million in set-aside funding expected to support about 1,000 units of project-based voucher (PBV) assistance.

The corrected notice revises the first sentence in Part 2 as follows:

  • Original version: “A PHA may submit only one application for one project to be placed under one PBV housing assistance payments (HAP) contract and may request no more than 75 PBVs in its application, with the following exception.”
  • Corrected version: “Any PHA that administers a Housing Choice Voucher program may submit only one application for one project to be placed under one PBV housing assistance payments (HAP) contract and may request no more than 75 PBVs in its application, with the following exception.”

In response to our inquiry, HUD staff stated that the correction is intended to clarify that a PHA must be administering a housing choice voucher (HCV) program in order to apply for the set-aside funding. PHAs that administer an HCV program but do not have an existing HUD-VASH program are eligible to apply.

An email sent to the HUD-VASH mailing list late yesterday provided the following additional clarifications:

  • Only PHAs that currently administer a housing choice voucher (HCV) program are eligible to apply for the set-aside funding
  • PHAs do not need to currently be operating the HUD-VASH program to apply for these vouchers. However, all applications must include a signed letter of support from the director of the VA Medical Center or Veterans Integrated Service Network, as detailed in the notice
  • The application due date is May 5, 2014. The anticipated selection date for funding awards is August 4, 2014
  • The email also contains estimated project readiness dates, which are subject to change based on project selection dates

To stay updated, follow the #VASH tag to keep up with all related blog posts or subscribe to the PIH Alert and Housing Resource Newsletter.

How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #5

Cydney JonesTip #5: Communicate often.

While the secret of buying real estate is location, location, location, the secret of a great VASH program is communication, communication, communication. As HUD policy and funding changes, caseworkers turn over, and tenants have leasing disputes, it’s critical that all partners maintain open and frequent communication. Some tips for keeping the lines of communication open:

➤  Meet often. Ensure that the VA and PHA have regular meetings that include not just senior-level managers but also housing specialists, caseworkers, and a landlord or community liaison. A diverse group of involved parties will provide valuable input toward improving the lives of your veterans.

➤  Designate one point of contact. Great VASH programs have one designated person to respond to the VASH clients, owners, and caseworkers. Incorporating a VASH hotline phone number or designated email address can work wonders. Centralizing this function with someone who’s knowledgeable about the VASH program and landlords’ needs, who is adept at managing conflict, and who has good negotiation and customer service skills can greatly help resolve a concern before it escalates into a bigger problem. Responsiveness is paramount to great customer service.

➤  Mediate. Have staff who can intervene in a timely fashion when there are lease violations. Remember, there are always two sides to any story; sometimes, mediation may involve helping veterans with legal assistance if their rights have been violated.

➤  Conduct home visits. Great VASH programs do offer individualized levels of support to veterans based on their needs. However, successful VASH programs also have staff, mostly VA caseworkers, who proactively conduct home visits to identify and prevent future tenancy concerns.

➤  Get feedback and monitor performance. Survey landlords, VA partners, and staff to solicit feedback and recommendations for improvement. Track VASH leasing progress with HUD’s two-year forecasting tool or a similar method to identify trends in leasing so you can keep doing what’s working, and modify and amend your policies for what’s not.

By incorporating some of these best practices, your VASH program will surely increase its potential of being hugely successful.

With an exceptional knowledge of HUD regulations, NMA senior trainer and consultant Cydney Jones is expert in providing a wide range of technical assistance, management training, and on-site expertise for multifamily assisted programs and the HCV program. Ms. Jones recently headed operations for NMA’s contract with one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, including administration of VASH vouchers.

Nan McKay and Associates has assisted a number of agencies across the country with their VASH voucher programs and can leverage that experience to help your PHA be more successful. For information, contact sales@nanmckay.com.

HUD announces availability of set-aside funding for VASH PBV

Today HUD issued Notice PIH 2014-03, announcing the availability of set-aside funding for project-basing vouchers under the HUD–Veterans Affairs (VA) supportive housing (HUD-VASH) program. The set-aside funds total approximately $7 million and are expected to support about 1,000 units of project-based voucher (PBV) assistance.

According to the notice, a PHA may submit one application for one project of up to 75 PBV units (PHAs administering multiple HUD-VASH allocations with multiple VA facilities may submit additional applications). Applications are due within 90 days, and PHAs must select PBV proposals prior to submitting the application.

The notice includes instructions for downloading an application, Form HUD-52515, from the HUDClips forms library. It lists six threshold factors which must be met in order for the application to be given further consideration (HUD may contact the PHA to clarify or request missing information). Applications meeting the threshold requirements will be awarded up to 85 points under the following scored factors:

  • Project readiness
  • Participation in the VA’s Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) program
  • Relative need

To stay updated, follow the #VASH tag to keep up with all related blog posts or subscribe to the PIH Alert and Housing Resource Newsletter.

Friday news roundup 1/31/14

On a single night in January, cities across the country walked through their communities to do a one-night count of their homeless population who live in shelters and on the streets. This annual point-in-time count aims to measure homelessness over the course of one night every January. (Credit: HUD’s Facebook page)

On a single night in January, volunteers across the country walked through their communities to do a one-night count of homeless people living in shelters and on the streets. This annual point-in-time count aims to measure homelessness over the course of one night every January.
(Credit: HUD’s Facebook page)

Brookings: Congress passes a new $1 trillion Farm Bill, cuts $8.6 billion from SNAP

MetroTrends: Girls face unique gender-based risks in public housing

MSNBC (via HUD): Secretary Donovan talks about HUD’s annual homelessness point-in-time (PIT) count

NCSHA: President Obama calls for housing finance reform in State of the Union address

NeighborWorks: Is there truth to those renter stereotypes?

NHC: More than 80 families have purchased homes with the help of DCHA’s homeownership program

NLIHC: Families living doubled-up tripled from 2003 to 2009

Off the Charts: Poverty and the safety net

Rooflines: Poverty today looks completely different and that’s important

VAntage Point: On Wednesday night, hundreds of volunteers walked the streets of Washington, D.C., to get a “point-in-time” count of the current homeless population

How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #4

Cydney JonesTip #4: Train the VA caseworkers to conduct initial inspections.

Many PHAs contract out certain functions of their program for greater efficiency and cost savings. Why not train your VA case managers on housing quality standards (HQS) and allow them to conduct an initial inspection of the unit?

Empowering the VA caseworker to inspect the unit while onsite with the veteran saves your PHA time and money, and helps to ensure that the veteran gets leased quickly and the PHA receives administrative fees sooner. It’s a win-win!

Of course, a key component of quality inspections is PHA oversight and monitoring. When outsourcing initial inspections to a third party, it’s imperative that your PHA performs a certain level of quality control to guarantee that the outside entity is meeting unit standards.

Next: How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #5

With an exceptional knowledge of HUD regulations, NMA senior trainer and consultant Cydney Jones is expert in providing a wide range of technical assistance, management training, and on-site expertise for multifamily assisted programs and the HCV program. Ms. Jones recently headed operations for NMA’s contract with one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, including administration of VASH vouchers.

Nan McKay and Associates offers HQS and UPCS training and certification around the country. Upcoming classes are being held in Connecticut, Missouri, California, Atlanta, and several other locations coast to coast. Save 10% when you register now! For information, contact sales@nanmckay.com.

How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #3

Cydney JonesTip #3: Speed up initial HQS inspections and rent determinations.

Once owners have been prescreened and trained, a pre-inspection and pre-rent determination process is a great tool to speed up leasing. Here’s how that process works.

When an owner and unit have been identified, the unit is pre-inspected for HQS and good for at least 30 days or longer, depending on the PHA policy. Lists of these pre-screened units are then forwarded to the VA case managers to make referrals to the units for veterans.

If units remain vacant after 10 days, they can be made available to other HCV participants and no further inspections are needed. The rent reasonableness test can also be done at the time of inspection.

While the PHA must still ensure that the rent does not create a rent burden for the family, the rent negotiations and determinations are already done! This process allows PHAs to reach their goals of housing homeless veterans quickly, but also assists other HCV families who may be out searching as well.

Next: How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #4

With an exceptional knowledge of HUD regulations, NMA senior trainer and consultant Cydney Jones is expert in providing a wide range of technical assistance, management training, and on-site expertise for multifamily assisted programs and the HCV program. Ms. Jones recently headed operations for NMA’s contract with one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, including administration of VASH vouchers.

Nan McKay and Associates has assisted a number of agencies across the country with their VASH voucher programs and can leverage that experience to help your PHA be more successful. For information, contact sales@nanmckay.com.

Friday news roundup 1/17/14

John Hankins, right, who repaired intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Air Force, played chess with William Godwin as Gary Workman watched. All three veterans were considered chronically homeless but are now living in Victory Place, an apartment complex in Phoenix. (Samantha Sais / New York Times)

John Hankins, right, who repaired intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Air Force, played chess with William Godwin as Gary Workman watched. All three veterans were considered chronically homeless but are now living in Victory Place, an apartment complex in Phoenix.
(Samantha Sais / New York Times)

GoSection8.com: Go8 partners with Apartments.com, doubles available inventory of apartments and Section 8 rental listings

The HUDdle: Expanding opportunities to create strong local economies

MetroTrends: How homelessness continues to decline despite the affordable housing crisis

NCSHA: Congress passes FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill

New York Times: Phoenix is the first community in the country to end homelessness among veterans (for further discussion from the Urban Institute, go here)

Next City: Marco Rubio’s War on Poverty includes taking money from poor people

NHC: More than 25% of low- and moderate-income renters in the U.S. spend more than half of their income on housing costs

NLIHC: In 1974, when the National Low Income Housing Coalition was founded, the official poverty rate in the United States was 11.2%; today it is 15%

Off the Charts: Funding bill stops the bleeding, but low-income housing still needs intensive care

Roll Call: Good public policy demands that Congress restore funding to HCV program

Rooflines: A compelling case for federal intervention to prevent displacement

Wall Street Journal (via Planetizen): NYC lost 40% of its affordable housing over the last decade

How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #2

Cydney JonesTip #2: Identify, educate, and prescreen owners.

The Housing First model incorporates intense case management services for veterans, but the more knowledgeable potential owners are in working with advocacy groups and case managers, the more successful the landlord/tenant relationship will be. Particularly, it’s important to recruit owners who are willing to work with participants who may have significant screening barriers.

Outreach to owners interested in renting to veterans is a good first step. Prequalification of owners who may not have yet identified a tenant is another best practice. The Chicago Housing Authority, for example, offers an Owner Excellence Program (OEP) that screens owners to determine if they have any record of HQS or HAP contract violations before granting membership to those with a documented history of being responsible landlords. Under its Moving to Work (MTW) authority, the CHA reviews unit amenities and conducts a special inspection before designating a unit as “excellent.” Chicago’s OEP also provides vacancy claims as incentives to OEP members who re-rent their vacated units back to HCV participants.

Other landlord incentives that have proven to be effective for high-performing VASH programs include covering the security deposit and moving costs for the veteran, paying for repair of damages, and/or cosigning the lease. Typically, these initiatives are sponsored by the VA; however, some PHAs with HUD approval and/or MTW authority can sponsor certain VASH initiatives as well. You should check with your legal counsel and local HUD office before implementing incentives if you aren’t an MTW agency.

Part of the prescreening or qualification process should include mandatory training for owners. The training should cover basic rules governing the HCV program and the nuances of how special programs like VASH work. Chronically homeless veterans can be a challenging population with unique needs. It’s important that owners understand those needs and know where to go for help if and when an issue arises, since vets have a huge continuum of care under the VASH program.

For significant cost savings, make your owner trainings and seminars available online at your PHA’s website or some other easily viewed location. Busy owners enjoy the flexibility of accessing this information at their leisure.

Next: How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #3

With an exceptional knowledge of HUD regulations, NMA senior trainer and consultant Cydney Jones is expert in providing a wide range of technical assistance, management training, and on-site expertise for multifamily assisted programs and the HCV program. Ms. Jones recently headed operations for NMA’s contract with one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, including administration of VASH vouchers.

Looking for an easy, effective way to introduce owners to your HCV program? Nan McKay and Associates offers a comprehensive guide for landlords in the NMA Owner’s Handbook, with bulk pricing available. For information, contact sales@nanmckay.com.

How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #1

Cydney JonesLeasing our nation’s veterans has recently been a top priority for HUD, as well as for many PHAs awarded special funding under the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) grants.

Studies have shown that the mortality rate for those experiencing chronic homelessness is four to nine times higher than that of the general population. To save the lives of the most vulnerable homeless veterans, it’s vital that they be placed in safe, permanent housing as quickly as possible.

Also, as a PHA, you don’t get paid an administrative fee for unleased vouchers — so the sooner a veteran is leased, the sooner fees are earned for you to administer the program. In working with PHAs and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through the Housing First initiative, we’ve discovered some best practices to quickly and effectively lease up homeless veterans and run a successful program.

Tip #1: Streamline eligibility.

Your PHA must work hand-in-hand with the VA to ensure that screening criteria and prioritization for veterans don’t include factors such as criminal background checks (other than lifetime sex offender registry), credit checks, eviction history, minimum income requirements, or the ability to obtain employment. It’s critical to make the eligibility requirements as easy as possible for veterans who may have had some bumps in the road called life.

The VA and your PHA should work closely with the Continuum of Care (CoC) providers to offer a network of referrals for the VASH vouchers, with everyone in the continuum providing referrals to the VA and case management services. One best practice is found at the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA).

The VA partners with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to make VASH referrals. Since the DHS manages the homeless shelter system, they provide a direct link to the VA for potentially homeless veterans. This then helps the VA provide a steady stream of referrals to the DCHA to cover new allocations as well as turnover vouchers and keep the VASH utilization up to HUD’s minimum standard, which is 95 percent leased.

Additionally, your PHA must be certain that staff at all levels understand and can describe the VASH program’s target population, its eligibility criteria, and how to gain access. There’s nothing worse than losing a veteran in need of housing assistance due to lack of information on the front lines.

Next: How to run a successful VASH program: Tip #2

With an exceptional knowledge of HUD regulations, NMA senior trainer and consultant Cydney Jones is expert in providing a wide range of technical assistance, management training, and on-site expertise for multifamily assisted programs and the HCV program. Ms. Jones recently headed operations for NMA’s contract with one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, including administration of VASH vouchers.

Nan McKay and Associates has assisted a number of agencies across the country with their VASH voucher programs and can leverage that experience to help your PHA be more successful. For information, contact sales@nanmckay.com.

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