Tip #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 firstname.lastname@example.org.