Illustrated in this article from the San Francisco Examiner is the heartbreaking, widespread reality that residents of public housing authorities (PHAs) are “alarmed by shimmering, new-looking buildings” in their communities, troubled that these seemingly higher-end establishments will drive up the cost of living and perpetuate higher rates of homelessness.
But as District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney exclaims in the article, “Those aren’t condos, those are affordable housing buildings…They’re beautiful and they’re what our residents deserve.”
With a nationwide, $26 billion-dollar backlog of deferred maintenance owed to Public Housing Authorities, it’s no surprise that residents have come to expect and accept less-than-desirable living conditions. Still, many who could use the assistance of PHAs don’t utilize them solely because of the bleak environments.
Public Housing Can Be RAD
Recognizing this alarming challenge, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) developed the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, commonly referred to as RAD.
RAD’s sole purpose is to supplement public housing authorities with enough funding to keep units in good condition and “stabilize, rehabilitate, or replace” their properties. Not only does it solve for the need of PHA repairs and maintenance, but it sustains affordable housing for residents by converting funding into long-term, Section 8 contracts – most residents won’t even see rent increases. RAD can also be used to develop community hubs like the Wimberly Center, a $67 million rehabilitation project that transformed a vacant middle-school property into thriving community resource “delivering education, food security, child enrichment, job training, and other community development services to an estimated 8,000 people annually and up to 150 children daily.”
You can read more fast facts on RAD in this infographic, courtesy of HUD.
The Impacts of COVID-19 and How HUD CARES
The Coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affected public housing communities, where the primarily senior demographic already qualifies most residents as “high-risk.” Elderly residents who rely on the daily assistance of aids couldn’t continue their contact with assistants and were isolated from family and friends, taxing both their physical wellbeing and emotional health. Not to mention the pandemic’s additional financial strain on those with existing economic hardships.
Realizing the virus’ significant burden on individuals, families and PHAs themselves, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed off on approximately $12 billion in funding for HUD programs to relieve some of COVID-19’s impact.
As many PHAs are discovering, the pandemic’s impacts could endure for a while, especially because they didn’t have the initial front-line response plan in place to buffer the economic hits or the urgent needs of residents. In addition to addressing the immediate needs of residents to sustain affordable housing, many PHAs are investing in long-term solutions that will facilitate faster, more stable day-to-day services. Not only will this help them turnaround today’s urgently needed certifications, recerts and real-time status updates in backlogged systems, but it will keep them prepared and up-to-speed for future emergencies.
One common use case has been the adoption of digital enterprise content management systems (ECMS). With all tenant information and documentation housed in one, centralized hub and integrations with Section 8 Software, Microsoft Office and more, PHAs and tenants have secure, immediate access to work on and push case files out the door in just a few clicks. In addition to a 360-degree working environment, reporting dashboards provide supervisors with the increased visibility needed to find missing documentation, identify and relieve bottlenecks, watch average processing times and more before HUD regulators come knocking.
Of course, all this feeds into HUD compliance and records retention, which also ensures your PHA qualifies for every possible grant opportunity.
Your Opportunity to “Raise the Roof” on Housing Processes
Questions on qualifying for CARES funding or RAD opportunities? We’re helping nationwide PHAs capitalize on the CARES Act to build more accessible, comfortable and safer communities for the long-term.