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Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #5

Posted by NMA on Apr 18, 2013 10:02:34 AM

Cara GilletteAs we know, public housing funding for April is at a 73% proration level. HUD plans to issue a second funding to bring the April proration level up to 79%.

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 #5: Market like a pro.

Property managers need to know the neighborhood, as well as the housing market in that neighborhood. What is your competition? What amenities and services are offered in comparable developments? A local market with high rents and low vacancies will make public housing much more attractive to families.

The quality of your public housing stock (location, market appeal and general appearance, services and amenities, etc.) greatly affects lease-up. Think about the quality of your customer service at the project — are prospective applicants welcomed? Do the property manager and onsite staff know how to "sell" not only the unit, but the property?

What about services in the neighborhood? Is there good public transportation? A supermarket? Good schools? A YMCA? (Walk Score is a helpful resource when making these evaluations.)

Properties with pictures get ten times more traffic. Take photos of the outside of the property and inside the unit. Consider your landscaping and signage. Put some decorative touches such as curtains or potted plants in the unit. Potential renters will arrive at the property with an attractive picture already in mind.

Curb appeal is very important to ensure a highly-leased property. Are you removing graffiti immediately? Is your project the first one shoveled out after a snowstorm? Is trash picked up daily? Attractive landscaping, nice signage, and a clean and neat management office contribute to curb appeal.

Fewer people read newspapers these days. Most people go online to shop for an apartment. Develop a website, with pictures of the property as well as the interior of a unit.

Finally, remember that the leasing office needs to have some evening and weekend hours to meet the schedules of working households. One of the most important marketing techniques is for the unit to be spic-and-span when you show it; the number one complaint from prospective renters is a dirty unit. The seemingly small details make the sale.

To sum up, the five occupancy tips we've discussed are:

You might also be interested in Terry Provance's occupancy series we published last October:

Next week, I'll talk about some other ways that your PHA can maximize dollars without cutting corners.

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #6

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.

Topics: Budget Cuts, Customer Service, Occupancy, Sequestration

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