The Future of PHA Financial Professionals
Industry Concerns: Change and Attrition
The affordable housing industry is changing. Over the years, studies by major universities and industry white papers show that housing authorities are woefully underfunded to operate their programs. As federal funding continues to decline, new programs and public/private opportunities have arisen– but these all come with their own specialized rules and accounting requirements. And as a generation of baby boomers prepares to retire, housing authorities nationwide will struggle not only with the loss of decades of institutional knowledge in the realm of financial operations, but also with an insufficient number of experienced financial specialists.
In order for housing authorities to manage their finances with high standards and ensure that their agencies are responsible stewards of federal funding, we will need a cadre of experienced financial professionals with industry-specific knowledge and experience. How will our industry fill this looming void? Preparing and promoting senior accountants from within the industry won’t be enough; we’ll also need an influx of new financial professionals from outside the industry. And both of these groups will need training that addresses the specialized and ever-growing financial requirements of housing authorities.
Housing authorities are sophisticated businesses with a social purpose. Among other things, finance professionals working at housing authorities must understand how to navigate the maze of HUD regulations and, more and more frequently, the related labyrinth of public-private project funding. Depending on their housing authority, they must know about processing the FDS, REAC, addressing the single audit, and VMS requirements. Achieving financial compliance can present a challenge for new external financial staff as well as inexperienced senior accountants who currently work at housing authorities.
NAHRO, Aprio, Gans, Gans & Associates, and the University of South Florida’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government have partnered to create a professional development series to address these challenges. Our mission is to develop a comprehensive curriculum that ensures that housing authorities nationwide have a qualified pool of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and finance professionals to draw from – both now and in the future.
Our goals are to:
- Create and train a talent pool of highly-skilled CFOs and financial staff who are equipped to lead and effectively manage the financial operations of a housing authority; and
- Provide the training and resources to aid in providing consistency of financial processing for all housing authorities.
Our CFO/Financial Management training series will achieve these goals by:
- Providing entry- and mid-level financial staff from housing authorities with the training and resources they need to master current requirements, gain exposure to new concepts and learn a broader set of operational requirements; and
- Helping experienced financial management talent from other sectors transition successfully into housing authority finance roles; and
- Giving current housing authority CFOs the opportunity to expand their familiarity with new or current HUD programs and requirements.
Over the past year, we’ve been working with both industry partners and housing authority leaders from across the country to determine the need for and nature of this training. In addition to hosting meetings and other learning opportunities, we conducted a nationwide survey of housing authority professionals. The survey sample yielded a cross-section of respondents from housing authorities, with a wide variety of educational backgrounds, positions, and levels of experience.
We then distilled all this data and intelligence into tow modules and six foundational pillars for training:
- Industry Knowledge & Updates
- Staff Development
- Increase Non-Federal Revenue
- Real Estate Deal Structure & Property Operations
- Cyber & IT Security
- Leadership Development
Aprio and Gans, Gans & Associates then partnered with the University of South Florida’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government to develop the course design and curriculum. Currently, we’re envisioning a series of two-day face-to-face sessions with some e-learning components – perfect for busy professionals.
We’re presently putting the finishing touches finalizing the curriculum. Watch out for our announcement at the NAHRO National Conference and Exhibition in early October, which will be followed by our first online course offering on October 17.
A Final Thought
As a former CEO, COO and staff member at several housing authorities with more than 20 years industry experience, this training will play an important role in maintaining and improving the financial stewardship of all PHAs today and for years to come. The CFO/Financial Management training curriculum is an investment in the future of the industry -- it will yield the next generation of CFOs and financial leaders and pave the way for them to serve communities nationwide.
Dr. Troy D. White is the Director of Public and Affordable Housing at Aprio, LLP in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aprio, LLP is a 65-year-old premier, CPA-led business advisory firm with over 450 employees. Aprio delivers advisory, assurance, tax and private client services to build value, drive growth, manage risk and protect wealth. With proven expertise and genuine care, Aprio serves individuals and businesses, from promising startups to market leaders alike. At Aprio, we advise clients and associates to achieve what’s next. Aprio has been serving the needs of public housing authorities for over three decades. During that time, the firm has performed over 2,200 public housing audits and provided housing authorities with a comprehensive range of compliance and consulting services to improve their efficiency, fiscal health and financial sustainability. Aprio strives to serve public and affordable housing authorities as true business partners, providing value beyond the annual audit.
Gans, Gans & Associates is a firm with thirty-two years of national human resource consulting, executive search, and extensive leadership training experience. Twenty-nine of those years has involved providing these services to large and medium-sized PHAs throughout the United States. gga has consistently been awarded opportunities through competitive RFP processes to conduct the most difficult or strategically sensitive searches to assist PHA Boards, CEOs and Executive Directors to build or rebuild executive teams or replace a strategically important executive team member. The most sensitive and difficult role to fill in recent times has become the PHA CFO position.
The University of South Florida’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government was created by the Florida Legislature in 1980 and subsequently designated as a Type I Institute by the Florida Board of Regents. The institute was later named in honor of John Scott Dailey, its founding executive director. The Institute provides training and technical assistance to code enforcement officers, city clerks, elected and appointed local and state governmental officials, volunteers, and the general public. We partner with university professionals of varied disciplines with organizational leaders charged with solving specific local issues to identify, evaluate, and implement effective solutions.
NAHRO, established in 1933, is a membership organization of nearly 20,000 housing and community development agencies and professionals throughout the United States whose mission is to create affordable housing and safe, viable communities that enhance the quality of life for all Americans, especially those of low- and moderate-income. NAHRO's membership administers more than 3 million housing units for 7.6 million people.