NanMcKay-logo


All Topics     |     Industry News     |     Knowledge Base     |     Company News     |     Product Updates

Waitlist reimagined: Rethink your waitlist management style

Posted by Michael Lazdowsky on Jun 3, 2019 12:04:41 PM

With numerous families applying for vouchers and public housing assistance, having a good waitlist management style is critical. Families feel more comfortable when they know what's going on with their application, and you'll free up your staff for more productive tasks. However, as agencies know, it can be hard trying to keep track of all applications. Read on for some tips from Michael Lazdowsky, GoSection8.com's subject matter expert on ways you can reimagine your waitlist management setup.

 

Save time and money with effective waitlist management

Why is it important to have effective waitlist management? In short, it will help you save time and money by allowing you to:

  • Send less mail
  • Cut down on response time and no responses from applicants
  • Increase occupancy and utilization
  • Free up staff time
  • Reduce the burden of maintaining a waitlist by decreasing the time spent on updating mailings, sending notifications to applicants, and opening/closing waitlists

The impact of these changes can substantially improve the level of assistance your PHA provides to the local community. But sometimes it feels easier said than done. This doesn’t have to be the case! With a few simple fixes you’ll be on your way to a highly effective waitlist management system.

 

Create a shared waitlist

In a shared waitlist model, each PHA maintains its own separate waitlist but shares collective functionality. Before we get further into the topic, let’s get a better understanding of how HUD sees these waitlists.

Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (5/24/18)

HUD talks about shared waitlists in section 209:

SHARED WAITING LISTS.—Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall make available to interested public housing agencies and owners of multifamily properties receiving assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development 1 or more software programs that will facilitate the voluntary use of a shared waiting list by multiple public housing agencies or owners receiving assistance, and shall publish on the website of the Department of Housing and Urban Development procedural guidance for implementing shared waiting lists that includes information on how to obtain the software.

Federal Register Notice, Vol. 84, No.31/February 14 2019, pages 4097-4099

HUD also discusses shared waitlists and their implementation in the February 14, 2019 Federal Register notice.

HUD is exploring options for implementing the required software and will publish required guidance accordingly.

In the notice, HUD provides the following topics for comment:

(i) Because the statute refers to software that supports the use of ‘‘shared waiting lists’’ by PHAs and owners receiving HUD assistance, HUD seeks public input on the definition of a ‘‘shared waiting list.’’ HUD is considering defining ‘‘shared waiting list software’’ as software that enables a household to submit a single application to get on multiple waiting lists.
(ii) What types of PHAs and owners might be the best candidates for a shared waiting list?
(iii) Do owners receiving HUD assistance have unique needs that may make it difficult for them to use a shared waiting list?
(iv) Would there be a need for additional software security in providing access to, and using, a shared waiting list?
(v) (i) HUD also encourages the submission of examples where PHAs or owners have used shared waiting lists and seeks opinions regarding the need for HUD to provide software support for this function and what form this support might take.

These citations demonstrate how impactful shared waitlists continue to be in the affordable housing industry as HUD builds out their policies around the new options.

 

What is a shared waitlist?

In the shared waitlist model, collective functionalities allow PHAs to update and maintain only one housing application, remove applications from families who have been issued vouchers or deemed ineligible (i.e. non-discretionary denial), and permit applicants to re-apply at one PHA while maintaining their original application date at others.

Beyond the collective functionality in a shared waitlist, PHAs can also sync existing applications or start new ones, add their organization or leave the shared waitlist, and share application history between all PHAs.

 

Why create a shared waitlist?

Now that we know what a shared waitlist is, it’s important to talk about why PHAs should create one. We touched upon this briefly in the beginning, but let’s go further into the “why” part.

Benefits for PHAs

  1. Reduce duplication efforts among surrounding agencies. By pulling your resources together, PHAs can avoid doing extra work and duplicating an application that already exists.
  2. Save staff time. A shared waitlist will help employees to complete application intakes, updates, and calls more quickly, and reduce the time and resources required to open, close, or update a waitlist.
  3. One application for multiple lists. A shared application allows for quick initial processing, screens out obviously ineligible applicants, defers completion of full applications, eliminates the need to re-verify, and limits delays in issuance.
  4. PHAs can create a centralized application center for their public housing and housing choice voucher programs. This helps keep all applications in an easy-to-access area in case you’re unable to access the files at your office during a natural disaster or other emergency.

Benefits for applicants

  1. Reduced confusion and burden. Your families will appreciate the convenience of one central place to search for open waitlists, find affordable housing opportunities, and access FAQs and detailed information on PHAs and their programs.
  2. Increased pool of applications and accessibility. A shared waitlist makes the application process mobile-friendly, allows for more translations into other languages, and empowers you to reach applicants through SMS, text, and email alerts.
  3. More comprehensive information on housing opportunities in a variety of areas. The more information applicants have, the more they’re able to make the choices that are right for them and their families.

 

How to start a shared waitlist

Now you’ve heard all the good a shared waitlist can do and are interested in starting one for your PHA, but how do you do that? There are four ways to get a shared waitlist started in your community:

  • Organize a collaboration of PHAs
  • Adopt an administrative plan amendment in which all PHAs have a group shared policy
  • Create a universal pre-application and agree upon preferences and public notice
  • Use the same waitlist software between all PHAs

Note, HUD will be coming out with their own guidance in 2019, so be on the lookout for that.

 

Shared waitlist examples

If you do start a shared waitlist, know that you aren’t going into it alone. Other housing authorities across the country have also created shared waitlists:

Massachusetts Section 8 Centralized Waiting List. Open since January 1, 2003, this shared waitlist has 101 participating PHAs and is using the new GoSection8 system for HCV and PBV.

Massachusetts (State Public Housing). This shared waitlist includes all state PHAs, and it’s required by state law that PHAs opt in.

Maine Centralized Section 8/HCV Waiting List. Open since April 10, 2013, this waitlist is required by state law and currently has 20 participating PHAs.

Rhode Island (Section 8 and PBV). Currently has 25 participating PHAs (the entire state).

 

How do I keep the waitlist up to date?

After you’ve put together your shared waitlist, it's key to make sure the list is regularly refreshed. Here are some tips.

Use technology

SMS/text, email alerts, an online application portal, and a live toll-free support line are all great options that help your agency send less mail and reduce response time. Technology can also improve real-time address, phone, and email verification, instantly update all waitlists, and minimize the number of applicants who are removed for no response.

Maintain a healthy waitlist with effective analysis

During your upkeep process, ask yourself these four questions:

  • Are there a sufficient number and variety of applicants to ensure full utilization of the PHA’s rental assistance resources?
  • Do the applicants represent a broad range of social and economic characteristics that are representative of the community?
  • Are those families determined least likely to apply adequately represented?
  • Will the PHA be able to satisfy income targeting requirements with current applicants?

 

Should I keep the waitlist open?

When it comes to waitlist management, a common question is “Should I keep our waitlist open?” The answer depends on the circumstances of your particular PHA. Consider these questions when making your decision:

  • Are there enough applicants to account for contract turnovers and vouchers that are issued but do not result in a HAP contract?
  • Does my PHA wish to continue to take applications from families that meet certain local preferences?
  • Is there a sufficient number of extremely low-income families on the waiting list to satisfy income targeting requirements?
  • How long is the average wait for the various categories of applicants (preference and non-preference) on the waiting list?

As long as you maintain effective waitlist management, it should be easy for your PHA to keep your waiting list open if you choose to do so.

Note: There are benefits for keeping your waitlist open, including the elimination of unnecessary application processing costs and staff time for other important program activities.

 

About the author

Headshot of Michael Lazdowsky

Michael Lazdowsky has worked in the public housing industry for over 15 years. Starting in 1999, he managed the state and federal public housing and the multiple Section 8 waiting lists at the Dedham Housing Authority (MA). For the past 10 years, Mike has managed the Massachusetts Section 8 centralized waiting list, which includes 100 housing authorities across the state. Mike currently serves as a waitlist account manager for GoSection8.com, where he is working on the new WaitListServ program.

About the company

GoSection8 is a website that was established in 2003 with the purpose of improving the way families searched for affordable housing. GoSection8.com has since transformed the Section 8 housing program by creating the largest affordable housing network in the country. Their close relationship with hundreds of municipalities and government agencies makes it possible to help millions of families with their housing needs each year.

Need help with waitlist technology?Rethinking your waitlist management style doesn’t have to be hard or scary, but if you need some extra help, GoSection8 can provide additional assistance. GoSection8’s waitlist management highlights include:

  • Adaptable to any program and PHA policy
  • Sort list by date/time, or lottery, and any PHA preferences
  • PHA Custom Reports
  • One-step or two-step application process (pre-app/full-app)
  • Clear audit trail of selection of applicants and changes made to applications
  • Limited waitlist openings
  • Special admissions override (i.e. displaced due to PH demo)
  • Security of personal information

GoSection8 also has more functionality coming soon, including full applications to collect all applicant and household information and conduct eligibility verification, the ability to export data in HUD 50058 form, and enhanced reporting. For more information, visit their website.

Topics: eligibility, waiting list

4 tips for being a fair housing superstar (part 3)

Posted by Adam Ensalaco on Apr 2, 2019 11:01:00 AM

How to become a fair housing superstar

April is Fair Housing Month! In honor of this occasion, I’m sharing four tips I’ve learned over the years. From “senior buildings” and reasonable accommodation to service animals and housing terminology, I’m here to get you on the path to becoming the fair housing superstar I know you are. This is a four part series, so be on the lookout for part four coming out next week!


Understand The "Critters" of Public Housing

There are three legally distinct types of animals in public housing.

Service Animals:

Service animals are dogs or miniature horses that have been trained to do something specifically related to a disability. Examples include a guide dog (or guide horse) for a client with vision impairment, a seizure alert dog, or a dog trained to bring various items (shoes, medicine, remote control) to a client with disabilities. PHAs may only ask if the dog is needed for a disability and what it has been trained to do. However, if it’s clearly obvious to the PHA (i.e. a guide dog for a client you can tell or already know to have a vision impairment) then no questions should be asked. PHAs may not ask what the disability is, how extreme it is, proof that the dog can do it, proof that it has been trained or licensed. Note that service animals are not reasonable accommodations. The same four-step process outlined above does not apply here (see the Americans With Disabilities Act for more guidance).

Assistance Animals:

assistance animals, on the other hand, are reasonable accommodations. These animals do not have to be a dog or a miniature horse, do not need to be trained to do anything specific but do need to be related to a disability. This is the category where we would find “emotional support” animals. Here’s what FHEO 2013-01 has to say:

An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Neither service animals nor assistance animals are pets, and neither of them are subject to the regulatory restrictions under 24 CFR Part 960 Subpart G and Part 5 Subpart C.

Pets:

24 CFR 960 Subpart G and Part 5 Subpart C cover pet ownership in public housing. As PHAs that own public housing are landlords in their jurisdictions, HUD intends for them to follow all the state or local laws and ordinances that govern pet ownership in their area. This includes establishing pet fees, inoculation requirements, limitations on the number and size of animals per square foot of living space, etc.

From a fair housing perspective, what’s most important to remember is that service animals and assistance animals are not pets.

Next: Don’t Confuse Yourself

 

Want to build up your fair housing knowledge?

Check out our fair housing resources

 


More about the author:

Headshot of Adam Ensalaco

Adam Ensalaco specializes in making rent calculation easier to understand and clearing up common misconceptions about the process. Adam has previous experience in the affordable housing industry working to house people with disabilities and training housing authorities on reasonable accommodations and has been a part of the NMA team for nearly a decade.

Topics: eligibility, fair housing, service animals, Knowledge Base

4 tips for being a fair housing superstar (part 2)

Posted by Adam Ensalaco on Mar 26, 2019 10:45:00 AM

How to become a fair housing superstar

Next month is Fair Housing Month! In honor of this occasion, I’m sharing four tips I’ve learned over the years. From “senior buildings” and reasonable accommodation to service animals and housing terminology, I’m here to get you on the path to becoming the fair housing superstar I know you are. This is a four part series, so be on the lookout for part three coming out next week!

Understand What Reasonable
Accommodation
Is (and Is Not)

The reasonable accommodation process can be a major thorn in the side of PHA staff if they do not understand the nuances of the guidance. Confusion often leads to frustration often leads to fatalism. Not being discerning enough can lead to fraud and OIG audits, being too overly skeptical can lead to lawsuits and charges of discrimination. More than 50% of discrimination complaints to HUD are based on disability-based discrimination.

Any trainer will tell you the key to helping students remember information is repetition. Whenever I train reasonable accommodation, I repeat over and over again, “reasonable accommodation is not a rubber stamp, and it’s not a blank check. That said, if everyone understood reasonable accommodation correctly, they would say ‘yes’ more often than they currently do.”

There are four steps to any reasonable accommodation.

  1. Hearing the request:

    They don’t always involve your client walking into your office and declaring, "I hearby request that you accommodate me!" Often, it’s something much more like, “I know I already got one extension on my voucher, but I need more time.” If your policy is only one extension, then your response should be something like, “well our policy is one extension only, unless a disability is making your housing search more difficult.” Or maybe the client says, “when I moved into that second-floor walk-up unit, it was no problem, but my arthritis is acting up and getting up and down those stairs is really difficult now. Is there any way I can move to a first-floor unit?” You may have a reasonable accommodation request form for the client so that you can keep your files well-documented but remember that you cannot hold up the process just because they refuse to complete the form. Once a request is made—even just verbally—it has been made and the PHA must act upon it (this is addressed in the Q&A section of the HOD/DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations).

  2. Verifying that a disability is present:

    If the disability is “obvious or otherwise known” then no verification is permitted. Asking your client who just lost their legs in a tragic accident to get a doctor’s note to verify the disability is strictly prohibited. But many, if not most, disabilities are invisible to us as we are not trained in those fields. PHAs are often put in the position of saying, “ok, it’s not that we don’t believe you, but since we’re not qualified to determine if you have a disability, we’re going to need a knowledgeable professional to verify for us. We can give you a form to take to them or we can send it directly to them if you give us the contact information.”

  3. Establishing the nexus:

    The “nexus” is the connection between the disability and the request. What turns this want into a need? Everyone in the world wants an extra bedroom. But why does this client need more space than they currently have? We also need to recognize that sometimes multiple nexuses can overlap. Sometimes a client needs a live-in aide and also needs to use their voucher or find a public housing unit in a particular neighborhood close to their doctor or family members who assist them.

  4. Determine if the request is “reasonable”:

    PIH 2014-25 has this to say:

A reasonable accommodation request may only be denied if it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider or fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.

It is critical to note that this language was absent from the previous notice on reasonable accommodations, PIH 2010-51. The only difference from 2010-51 to 2014-25 was to include the sentence I have quoted here. It seems that HUD wanted to make this point very clear.

The important word here is “undue.” Any request out of the ordinary workflow is more work, and therefore an administrative burden; but is it really “undue?”

Example: Three months after moving into a second-floor walk-up unit, your client requests to move to a first-floor unit because they are having difficulty navigating the stairs. The nexus is clear but beginning the moving process this quickly after getting a client leased-up is certainly more work than you were expecting to do that day, but it’s still standard PHA fare. So it’s an administrative burden, but not an undue one. In this example, the PHA would grant this request. 

Students often comment, “but if I say yes to this, I know that thirty people will come in tomorrow asking for the exact same thing.” Possible exaggeration aside, yes: word can certainly spread, especially in public housing where your clients are neighbors. Nevertheless, a reasonable accommodation cannot be denied simply because saying yes could open the floodgates. You are approving or denying this request on its merits alone.

It is also important, though to remember that no regulation can force you to conjure resources you don’t have out of thin air. If there are no vacant accessible units in your public housing program, then all you can do is place them on your transfer list and keep them posted. You can issue a voucher, you can grant extensions, but you likely don’t have the funds to renovate a private unit to make it fully accessible.

Reasonable accommodation: It’s not a rubber stamp, it’s not a blank check, but if everyone did it right there would be more yeses than there currently are.

 

Next: Understand The "Critters" of Public Housing

 

Want to build up your fair housing knowledge?

Check out our fair housing resources

 


More about the author:

Headshot of Adam Ensalaco

Adam Ensalaco specializes in making rent calculation easier to understand and clearing up common misconceptions about the process. Adam has previous experience in the affordable housing industry working to house people with disabilities and training housing authorities on reasonable accommodations and has been a part of the NMA team for nearly a decade.

Topics: eligibility, fair housing, reasonable accommodation, Knowledge Base

4 tips for being a fair housing superstar (part 1)

Posted by Adam Ensalaco on Mar 19, 2019 10:25:36 AM

How to become a fair housing superstar

Next month is Fair Housing Month! In honor of this occasion, I’m sharing four tips I’ve learned over the years. From “senior buildings” and reasonable accommodation to service animals and housing terminology, I’m here to get you on the path to becoming the fair housing superstar I know you are. This is a four part series, so be on the lookout for part two coming out next week!

In Public Housing, There’s No Such Thing as a “Senior Building”

In the public housing program, there are four types of developments.

General Population

These developments are for anyone that meets the eligibility requirements. These are often called “family developments.”

Mixed Population

These developments are reserved for families where the head, spouse or cohead are either elderly (62 and up), or who have a HUD-defined disability.

Designated Disabled

These developments are reserved for families where the head, spouse, or co-head has a HUD-defined disability.

Designated Elderly

These developments are reserved for families where the head, spouse, or co-head is elderly.

The common issue is that many PHAs confuse the phrase “elderly families” with “elderly people.” 24 CFR 945.105 defines an elderly family as follows:

Elderly family means a family whose head, spouse, or sole member is an elderly person. The term “elderly family” includes an elderly person, two or more elderly persons living together, and one or more elderly persons living with one or more persons who are determined to be essential to the care or well-being of the elderly person or persons. An elderly family may include elderly persons with disabilities and other family members who are not elderly (emphasis mine).

This makes it clear that there are no public housing buildings which can legally exclude children. There are many reasons why this confusion occurs. First, many of these mixed population or designated elderly developments contain only studio or one-bedroom units. It can seem odd to public housing staff to allow an elderly head of household to share a one-bedroom unit with a minor child. But the Fair Housing Act prohibits familial status discrimination. This means that a PHA cannot treat families with children differently than families without them. If you would let an elderly couple share a one-bedroom, you must allow an elderly head of household to share a one-bedroom with a minor child as well.

It is also possible that no non-elderly person has ever tried to reside in that development. The community at large, the PHA staff, and the residents have all always just assumed that the development is for "seniors only." It is very common in class for PH staff to refer to these as "senior developments" although that is not a HUD term (more about this linguistic confusion later).

Lastly, many PHA staff, both in property and program management, began their careers in the private housing market, where senior-only housing is legal. And it’s not always immediately clear just how different HUD-funded housing is from private market housing.

What is critically important to understand, however, is that any families on the public housing waitlist who have a head, spouse, or cohead that is elderly must be considered an "elderly family" regardless of any minor children who may also be listed on the application. Failure to offer a unit in a mixed population or designated elderly development to such a family simply because of the presence of minors would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act and a contradiction of 24 CFR 945.105.

Finally, all specially designated developments (mixed population, designated elderly, and designated disabled) must be included in a PHA’s annual contributions contract.

Next: Understand What Reasonable Accommodation Is (and Is Not)

Want to build up your fair housing knowledge?

Check out our fair housing resources


More about the author:

Headshot of Adam Ensalaco

Adam Ensalaco specializes in making rent calculation easier to understand and clearing up common misconceptions about the process. Adam has previous experience in the affordable housing industry working to house people with disabilities and training housing authorities on reasonable accommodations and has been a part of the NMA team for nearly a decade.

Topics: eligibility, fair housing, seniors and elderly, Knowledge Base

FAQ Friday: Eligible Immigration Status

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Jul 20, 2018 9:48:28 AM

Question

Please provide some guidance on eligible immigration status. We know that some noncitizens are eligible (such as permanent residents) and some are ineligible (such as students on a student visa). We’re not sure about other categories such as “nonimmigrant.”

Is there a listing somewhere that gives specifics about what is and what isn’t an eligible status?

Answer

The applicable regulation is at 24 Code of Federal Regulations 5.506(a):

Restrictions on assistance. Financial assistance under a Section 214 covered program is restricted to:
(1) Citizens; or
(2) Noncitizens who have eligible immigration status under one of the categories set forth in Section 214 (see 42 U.S.C. 1436a(a)).

The eligible categories are not listed in the HUD regulation, so we have to look at the United States Code under Title 42, Section 1436(a). The US Code lists the groups of eligible immigrants:

Conditions for assistance. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the applicable Secretary may not make financial assistance available for the benefit of any alien unless that alien is a resident of the United States and is—
(1) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence as an immigrant as defined by section 1101(a)(15) and (20) of title 8, excluding, among others, alien visitors, tourists, diplomats, and students who enter the United States temporarily with no intention of abandoning their residence in a foreign country;
(2) an alien who entered the United States prior to June 30, 1948, or such subsequent date as is enacted by law, has continuously maintained his or her residence in the United States since then, and is not ineligible for citizenship, but who is deemed to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence as a result of an exercise of discretion by the Attorney General pursuant to section 1259 of title 8;
(3) an alien who is lawfully present in the United States pursuant to an admission under section 1157 of title 8 or pursuant to the granting of asylum (which has not been terminated) under section 1158 of title 8;
(4) an alien who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of an exercise of discretion by the Attorney General for emergent reasons or reasons deemed strictly in the public interest pursuant to section 1182(d)(5) of title 8;
(5) an alien who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of the Attorney General’s withholding deportation pursuant to section 1231(b)(3) of title 8;
(6) an alien lawfully admitted for temporary or permanent residence under section 1255a of title 8; or
(7) an alien who is lawfully resident in the United States and its territories and possessions under section 141 of the Compacts of Free Association between the Government of the United States and the Governments of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (48 U.S.C. 1901 note) and Palau.

The eligible categories are also listed on the second page of HUD’s model declaration of Section 214 status. Noncitizens who are not in an eligible category are ineligible. This includes undocumented persons, students on a student visa, workers on a work visa, sponsored aliens, fiancées, and all others not categorized as eligible.

Aliens in nonimmigrant status are most likely ineligible. Here is the definition of “nonimmigrant” from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website:

An alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. The alien must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought. The nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others.
Learn more about HCV eligibilityLearn more about PH eligibility

Topics: eligibility, Q&A, Knowledge Base

Subscribe to our blog via email!    

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all