Today in our interview series, we're talking to NMA senior consultant Teri Robertson. Nationally recognized as a leading expert in the housing choice voucher and public housing programs, Teri has previously written for the NMA blog on such subjects as HCV administrative fees and how to maximize your agency’s performance rating. She's currently publishing an ongoing series of posts focusing on sequestration in the HCV program.
Tell us about your work experience.
I've been with Nan McKay and Associates for roughly 14 years. Before that, I worked for a large housing authority; before that, in welfare; and before that, as a manager with AT&T.
How did you get your start in the industry?
AT&T offered the golden parachute. Being a manager took a lot of time away from my family, and my sons were at important ages. I took the "early retirement," and then started hunting for a job. I began working in the welfare department for the County of San Diego, then saw an opportunity to transition to the housing authority. It looked interesting. It was!
What’s one topic you’re most passionate about in the affordable housing industry?
I have two. First is HCV program utilization. As agencies undergo funding setbacks, it's critical that they manage to their voucher utilization to the greatest extent possible. This includes taking whatever actions are feasible to reduce average per-unit costs and to ensure consistent monitoring and projection of lease-up and related expenditures. On average, it can take months from waiting list selection to lease-up. Agencies really need to manage this aspect of their business.
Second is quality control. I believe an effective — and positive — quality control system is the single most important factor in the prevention of future errors. It does require identifying key program indicators (KPIs), establishing a QC system, tracking results, and coaching and mentoring staff. Although QC is a lot of work, it's less work than fixing large errors after they've been made.
What's your favorite part about your job?
Working directly with clients. Whether it be educating, presenting a more efficient way to reach goals, or providing an in-depth assessment of their program complete with recommendations, I know I'm making a difference.
Tell us about a successful project that you had a part in.
A very large housing authority contracted with NMA to have us establish their internal QC department. The agency's HCV program was administered by vendors, and the PHA wanted a new approach to quality control. I headed the project. After writing a detailed action plan that was approved by the PHA, our great team went to work. We participated in the hiring of the new QC team, established detailed electronic tools for QC purposes, trained and coached staff, set an ongoing QC schedule, coached staff in writing QC procedures, and established an ongoing management reporting system.
In her free time, Teri Robertson enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and hiking the many mountain trails of San Diego's backcountry.