Tip #5: Plan for the future.
In Tip #2, I mentioned that the property manager should track the occupancy rate on a monthly basis. In doing so, your PHA will know whether the rate is improving, getting worse, or staying the same. But tracking is an ongoing process, and as your PHA approaches the end of its fiscal year, it will need to set new goals and plan for the following year, taking into consideration the identified problems and strengths.
This is an activity that should happen at the time of annual budget planning for the development. Keep in mind that planning is an area where everyone — development staff, the property manager, the asset manager, and executive management — needs to be in agreement.
Each development's occupancy rate is different,
and planning for each will likewise differ.
In order for your PHA to obtain the maximum score for occupancy in the PHAS management indicator, each development needs to achieve at least a 98 percent occupancy rate. How difficult a task this will be depends on the current circumstances at each development. If the development is having difficulty filling units and is experiencing a low occupancy rate, it could be quite challenging to achieve a 98 percent rate in the next year.
Taking such issues into consideration, your PHA needs to set goals that are realistic, but should also push the staff to do the best they can. If little is expected, little will be gained. On the other hand, if the development is already at 98 percent or higher, there may not be much more they have to do to maintain that rate, other than to keep doing what they're doing and monitor monthly in order to spot and correct any negative trends before they become a major concern.
To review, here are the five steps I've discussed to help your agency maximize occupancy under PHAS:
- Be aware of how PHAS measures occupancy.
- Know your current occupancy rate, and track it on a monthly basis.
- Check the occupancy rate against the fiscal year goals and identify problem areas.
- Take marketing into account.
- Plan for the future.
Remember, occupancy is the lifeblood of rental housing, and your occupancy rate has potential effects on every aspect of program operation. Understanding how to fill units and keep them filled is therefore essential — not just for improving PHAS scores, but for improving the overall health of your agency.
Terry Provance has been a trainer and consultant at Nan McKay and Associates since 1999. He specializes in the public housing program and is responsible for writing and keeping staff updated on asset management materials. He took the lead role in creating and developing NMA's new PH Occupancy Tracking Tool, which can be used by any rental development, whether or not it's HUD-assisted, including mixed finance and LIHTC properties.