Troubled Affordable Housing: Bridging the Gap

Article excerpt

"Respect-based management" is treating your residents the way you want to be treated. Provide your residents with all the information they need to be successful in their new apartment. It's vital to be fair and not base important decisions on emotions or stress. Having respect for your residents can go a long way in changing the way they view their community and the staff.

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Establishing a firm base of communication begins on the day a resident moves in. A thorough move-in can take up to two hours; and, while this might seem like a large amount of time, the investment will pay off through the occupancy period. Take the opportunity to address your expectations and explain all of the community rules to the new resident. Respect-based management is a two-way street: If you expect your resident to follow the rules, it's only fair that you take the time to explain them. Develop a rapport with residents so that they feel open to communicate with you when the need arises, regardless of the situation. Communication is the core factor in creating a better living (and management) situation at a troubled affordable property.

HARNESSING YOUR COMMUNITY COUNCIL

A resident council functions in two ways; First, it helps to motivate residents to take a form of ownership with the issues in the community; and second, it puts the property manager in a better position to connect to residents' concerns by being available to speak to the council. Instead of attending the council meeting, the property manager should be available in the event that the council needs to address a particular item. Holding a quarterly resident meeting ensures that residents who don't participate in the council become involved and have a voice. Resident meetings are more productive when site staff, upper management and representatives from HUD attend, because the meetings help strengthen mutual communication: residents become more aware of the background behind management choices, and management can better develop comprehensive community policies.

DEVELOPING STRICT PARKING PARAMETERS

If your community has a buildup of unwanted traffic, it's beneficial to adopt a strict parking policy. Before drafting your policy, get up-to-speed on local parking laws and allow your local HUD office and contract administrator time to review and/or revise your policy. Ensuring that every person parking onsite has a parking pass is a great way to control the traffic coming to the property. Visitor passes should be valid for two weeks at a time and residents should accompany the guest to the office to obtain the pass. Taking copies of the registration is a good way to monitor who visits your site and will prevent stolen cars from being parked at the property. Enforcing parking regulations goes more smoothly when you develop a trusting relationship with a local towing company, which can work with you to provide evidence to a resident whose vehicle gets towed. Suggest that the towing company provide pictures as evidence that the proper car was towed, and to help communicate to the resident why the car was towed.

STICKING TO SECURITY MEASURES

Drugs, violence and gangs breed at troubled sites; the best line of defense is developing strong security measures. Security cameras and after-hours security are crucial and necessary expenses for a troubled community. You cannot evict a resident based on hearsay of criminal activity--you need to have documentation. Police reports, security reports and tenant complaints provide a backbone to ridding your property of these issues. Having an open line of communication with all residents makes it easier to identify high-traffic apartments and criminal activity.

To nip criminal activity in the bud, create a semiannual inspection, which will enforce housekeeping rules, identify unauthorized residents and criminal activity. …