Everett Housing Authority Revamps Their Recertifications
The Everett Housing Authority (EHA) wins a 2019 Award of Excellence in Administrative Innovation for creating an online Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recertification process to reduce paper usage and streamline the recertification process. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.
Dwindling Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) administrative fees have severely impacted public housing authorities (PHAs) across the nation. Completing all annual HCV recertifications in a timely manner while achieving full budget and voucher utilization, maintaining high-performer SEMAP status, and producing clean audits with severely limited resources is a laborious and time-consuming task for most PHAs.
The Everett Housing Authority’s annual recertification process for voucher holders was paper-based, time-consuming, and inconvenient for residents, who needed to make in-person appointments at the housing authority. A solution was needed, and the housing authority committed to developing and implementing a more streamlined process.
EHA’s Director of Voucher Programs worked with software provider Yardi to develop a new product that matched EHA’s established processes and needs during the recertification process and to train both staff and clients on the new system. The result was RentCafePHA, which allowed clients to complete their applications, upload supporting documents, consult with EHA staff and check for errors online.
In 2018, EHA launched the new recertification system, implementing it over a 12-month period according to their regular monthly schedule. Staff notified clients of the new process as part of their regular review, and provided one-on-one meetings to register clients in the new system, walk them through the process, and demonstrate how to upload documents with a scanner or smartphone.
These one-on-one meetings resulted in both time and cost savings for both EHA and their clients. Since the online product is available in seven languages, EHA reduced their use of interpreters' services to assist clients with limited English proficiency; family members or service providers who are proficient in English can also assist clients remotely. Clients who work during EHA’s business hours no longer have to take off time from work for in-person meetings.
In 2018, 50 percent of EHA’s HCV clients recertified online. The housing authority expects that more than 90 percent of their clients will use this new process in 2019, sending them along the road towards a completely paperless HCV recertification process in the future.
EHA is using the time and resources freed up by this new process to reduce the actual costs of the program. The agency is implementing online recertifications for other housing programs as well, including Project-Based Voucher (PBV) and Section 202 housing. The housing authority will also advocate for extending this application for use in interim recertifications.