News & Research Listing
Operators are using new data to inform decision-making, enhance ROI and better position their associates to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
As technology evolves, so too do the metrics the rental housing industry uses to measure performance. The market already was already undergoing high-speed advancement, but when COVID-19 hit, the evolution of performance metrics kicked into overdrive. As the industry assesses conditions during the pandemic, some of the pre-existing metrics have continued to empower sound decision-making, but a new set also has emerged.
During “The Evolution of Performance Metrics” session at this NAA’s APTvirtual, panelists discussed some of the new data operators are using to make smart decisions, maximize ROI and better ensure success amid the global health crisis.
Virginia Love, Industry Principal at Entrata, said that one of the benefits of performance metrics is that they have given operators great direction, before, during and after the pandemic.
“Our teams have really stepped up to the plate when it comes to taking an unforeseen situation and using data to guide their decisions,” Love said.
It’s true that the most frequently used metrics such as occupancy, delinquency trade-out percentages and customer satisfaction haven’t changed much over time. But after the pandemic hit, operators also started to focus on internal metrics including employee satisfaction, retention and employee referrals.
Emphasis on Training
Having this data is one thing; making it accessible and actionable for onsite teams is another. Training is a fundamental component in ensuring that all associates understand where the data is housed and what each metric means.
“The key to any data is the training around it,” said Joe Coleman, Chief Operating Officer of Decron Properties. “Teams need to understand the ‘why’ and the business plan for the property. They need to understand what the business goals are, not just for this year, but in future years, so they can look at the data and understand where the action should be.
“There’s a big movement toward empowerment. We are really training our team members on how to be leaders and make informed decisions and not be afraid to make those decisions. So, by empowering them and providing them with the data, they can make those decisions and streamline the process,” Coleman said.
Changing Marketing Metrics
As new technology evolves and undergoes further enhancement, it allows operators to view more layers along the customer journey, creating a better understanding of how to market to customers. Ryan Perez, Vice President of Marketing at CF Real Estate, discussed how marketing metrics have changed over time and how marketers need to continually evaluate the metrics they use.
“A few years ago, multi-touch attribution was new, and that became a consideration of how we look at the data and their journey much differently,” she said. “What’s important is that we look at every angle and how we can help our customers through their journey and make it an easy and seamless process from the point at which they land on the site, through their experience, virtual or in person.”
One thing that has significantly changed since having to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic is the customer lifecycle. Almost all prospects are communicating with leasing teams digitally and choosing to tour virtually in some capacity. This has left marketers with a wish list of new metrics.
“I would like to measure the overall engagement,” Perez said. “Right now, our platforms can measure an engagement score based on an algorithm, but you can trick that score in a sense as long as you engage within certain parameters. But true engagement and attention, did they get the response they needed, was it accurate and timely? Did they feel they were fostered throughout their journey? We don’t have a metric that really tells us how the prospect feels about their interactions. And now that everything is virtual, it’s even more difficult.”
Good For The Team, Good For The Customer
Now that operators have spent the better part of a year redefining standard operating procedures, they are able to set future-forward performance metrics to measure productivity, the ROI of time spent in meetings and employee happiness.
All panelists agreed that the ultimate strategy for success involves focusing on team members, their morale, their health and safety, understanding what’s going on with them at home and doing what is most helpful to them so they can be productive.
“What is best for our team is even better for our customers,” Coleman said. “We spend a lot of time focusing on the mental health of our teams because then the performance scores take care of themselves. Happy associates yield happy residents.”
Samantha Chalmers is an Account Director for LinnellTaylor Marketing
Operators strive to give prospective residents certainty during uncertain times.
In 2020, the basic task of helping prospective residents feel confident that they’re making the right choice—while committing to a 12-month lease or longer—suddenly got a lot harder.
“This is a people business, and a critical part of it is building relationships with prospects,” says Breonna Scaccia, Property Manager at the Wellington, Fla.-based Bainbridge Companies, which operates 17,286 apartments. “But right now, you can’t shake hands. You can’t see facial expressions because of masks. You have less opportunity to connect in person.”
Amanda Miller-Torres, Regional Vice President for Atlanta-based Stonemark Management, says that currently, it’s all about making a personal connection despite the near total reliance on technology. “You’ve really got to learn and feel comfortable with the virtual sales approach, compared to being face to face.”
With uncertainty being the only certain thing about the future, here are the leasing techniques and strategies apartment industry thought leaders are using to fill their apartments today.
Connecting With Prospective Residents Where They Live: Online
From a marketing perspective, operators are relying more than ever than ever on active outreach and interaction with prospective residents.
“We’ve really increased our social media advertising and refined our digital assets and messaging,” says Dana Caudell, President of Property Management at Bainbridge. “People are spending more time on their phones, so it’s a powerful way to reach them. And if they can’t come for an in-person tour, that’s where they’re going to head to get a sense of the community anyway.”
But 2019’s advertising message about over-the-top amenities won’t cut it in attracting renters now. Instead, you’ve got to give them information about exactly what it’s going to be like to live at your community—and the level of safety you offer.
“Our advertising has really pivoted towards answering the FAQs of the day,” says Andre Washington, Regional Marketing Manager for Des Moines, Iowa-based BH Companies, which operates 97,000 apartments at 337 communities nationally. “We’re leading ads with information about tour offerings, hours and amenity status. That’s been key to drive prospects into the leasing funnel, whether they’re looking for a physical or virtual experience.”
Another reason operators are flexing their online presence today is because a mainstay of traditional leasing efforts—foot traffic—has for the most part been stripped from their toolbox.
“Walk-in traffic is all but nullified,” Washington says. “So you really need to be able to correspond with prospects through multiple online channels, with content that gives them an experience. We want our prospects to come away from interactions with our online content not only informed, but connected to the community as well.”
Options for Tours
Once those online and social media efforts drive prospective residents into your funnel, operators say it’s critical to meet them where they are mentally and emotionally while giving them the options to engage with you on their own terms.
“Our options for touring and leasing have really expanded,” says Lauren Campbell, Vice President, Asset Management, at Charlotte, N.C.-based Crescent Communities, which has developed more than 59 multifamily housing communities. “We really try to tailor them to that prospect’s comfort level with in-person contact.”
While some firms have resumed in-person tours where possible—with social-distance protocols in place—many potential renters today are still opting for a virtual tour first, not just for safety but as part of their process of elimination.
“A lot of potential tenants are using virtual tours to help narrow down their options and then following up with a self-guided or in-person showing,” says Aaron Galvin, CEO of apartment brokerage firm Luxury Living Chicago Realty. “I think that’s going to continue even after COVID. Especially for people relocating to a new city, it’s just more efficient.”
The Key Is To Give Them Options
“We’re offering a lot more options: Virtual, self-guided and in-person, socially distanced tours,” says Lee Ann Edwards, President at Boca Raton, Fla.-based Altman Management Co., which runs 8,000 apartments. “We’re also giving them better websites and strategies to make it easier for them to lease—texting, chatbots, Facetime, live feeds, social media, you name it.”
At Carlstadt, N.J.-based Russo Property Management, which operates 2,100 apartments, President Adam Pasternack is taking the all-of-the-above approach as well. “Today’s environment is still very much a hybrid,” he says. “We are actively inviting prospects into our communities and leasing offices, but doing it while adhering to all the proper protocols.”
Making the Connection
Once prospective residents commit to a tour, whether virtual, self-guided or in person, operators say that you have to do everything in your power to make a personal connection, despite Plexiglass sneeze guards, masks or whatever other barriers come in between you and them.
The reason? Many prospective residents are still unsure about what the future holds in the near term, says Caudell, “so it feels like a big commitment to sign a 12- or 15-month lease. You’ve really got to be attentive to their questions and proactively address their concerns—not just by telling them how you operate, but by showing them.”
Showing them includes making sure required cleanings are happening multiple times a day at apartment communities—which has become table stakes for prospective residents today. “They want to see staff wiping down surfaces and paying special attention to high-traffic areas like the pool,” Scaccia says.
They also want to know that you’re staying on top of protocols, enforcing mask requirements and observing social distancing when interacting with residents and prospective residents alike, even if it’s uncomfortable to do so.
For example, Galvin says prospective residents today have a keen eye, whether online or in person, and are constantly scrutinizing how closely communities adhere to the pandemic’s new social order. “Nearly every renter wants to know what precautions are being taken to ensure health and safety at a property,” he adds. “On tours, they notice the number of sanitizing stations, signs in elevators and in hallways about social distancing, and whether people wear masks. A lot of prospects get concerned if a pool has too many people at it.”
Pitching Amenities in 2020
At the start of COVID-19, amenities went from being enticing to problematic as residents complained that they were paying for features they couldn’t use. But now, more than seven months after initial shutdowns, observers say the drawing power of amenities has reasserted itself with prospective residents—if you operate them in the right way.
“How you’re managing amenities is important information to share,” says BH’s Washington. “Prospects look at it as an indication of how well-organized and well-run the community is.”
So you need to share exactly how you’re scheduling admittance to amenities for residents, and how often.
“Prospects really want to know how you’re prioritizing access to those areas during COVID-19,” says Bainbridge’s Scaccia. “Early on, we partnered with our vendor to create an efficient sign-up system that’s available through our portal. It makes sure as many residents as possible can use the amenity, while monitoring capacity. It also lets us thoroughly clean that area between visits.”
Emphasizing What They’re Looking For
Other areas that catch prospective residents’ attention today include the amount of outdoor space a community has—both in common areas and with apartments’ balconies and patios.
“Balconies and outdoor spaces have always been big sellers, but since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve become even more desirable,” says Kim Boland, Director of Digital Marketing at King of Prussia, Pa.-based Morgan Properties, which operates 75,000 apartments. “When stay-at-home orders went into place, people used their balconies and outdoor spaces as freedom from the indoors to relax and get fresh air.”
But space where residents can get away from others inside their apartments is increasingly important as well. “Since most employers are still doing work from home, renters are looking for affordable apartments with additional space to work,” Boland says. “It’s a real bonus if that space is separate from where they sleep.”
Indeed, while many operators say their leasing velocity has actually held up or even improved during the pandemic, the types of apartments that prospective residents seek has evolved.
“Unit preference is the thing that’s really changed,” says Crescent’s Campbell. “Apartments that include work-from-home spaces are in demand. It could be a thoughtfully placed desk in a one bedroom, a den or even renting a smaller two bedroom so they have that space.”
Real Estate’s New Mantra: “Three Times the Follow-Up”
Another big change has come in what prospective residents have been doing once the tour is over. Whereas real estate’s traditional thrice-uttered mantra about location still rings true, for multifamily housing professionals on the front lines of virtual leasing, another truism has entered their lexicons: Follow up, follow up, follow up.
“We’ve increased our follow-ups with prospects,” says Barry Saywitz, President of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based Saywitz Co., which operates 1,000 apartments. “With our serious prospects, we’re being diligent with staying in touch to try to make deals as quickly as possible. That means processing of their applications and running credit expeditiously to avoid any opportunity for them to look at other options or change their mind.”
At Bainbridge, Caudell encourages her team to use any follow-up contact as an opportunity not only to close the lease but to show prospective residents the attention they’ll get once they move in.
“It’s so competitive right now, it’s critical to not only follow-up with prospects and build those relationships, but also to make clear that you’re there for them every step of the way,” says Caudell. “Virtual or not, it’s about the connection that prospect feels. Being attentive to their questions and proactively addressing common concerns makes all the difference.”
Caudell’s team has been leveraging email follow-ups with a link to the actual recorded virtual tour they went on so they can easily review it again.
For Campbell at Crescent, it comes down to providing what she calls “extreme customer service” after the tour. “Our teams are spending a significant amount of time on follow-up with each individual tour,” she says. “The most significant trend we’ve seen among prospects since COVID is an actual craving for connection. They want empathy. They want reassurance. They want individualized attention. We are really trying to show them the onsite team is going to go the extra mile.”
But most of all, they need personal contact.
“There are just some things that can’t be replicated through a virtual experience,” says JoLynn Scotch, Managing Director of Operations at Greenbelt, Md.-based Bozzuto Management Co., which operates 71,000 apartments. So, onsite teams must communicate more than ever with prospective residents to answer questions like, “How far is my apartment from the elevator?”
“There’s just more follow-up required in virtual leasing, which is ultimately a good thing,” adds Scotch.
Getting to Close
Once you’ve given prospective residents everything they need to make a decision, it’s still up to you to make sure their next move is signing a lease—with you. To get to that goal, operators say you really need to tell them why the community is a good fit for them. Of course, to do that, you need to have engaged with them and heard their specific needs from the start.
“Closing techniques that acknowledge that prospect’s specific needs and how the community effectively meets them are what’s most effective now,” says Washington. “You can’t just recap what the community offers, because that leaves a chance for uncertainty. You want to reassure them it’s a good fit.”
But you can’t just focus on relationship building and your staff’s individual interaction with prospective residents either. Online reputation management was already critical to successfully operating an apartment portfolio. Now it’s even more important.
“Since a precedent for apartment hunting and leasing in a pandemic does not exist, prospects are trusting and relying on the recent experiences of other individuals in similar circumstances even more,” Washington says. “Reviews really shine a light on your community—or dim your chances.”
Savvy operators recommend managing your community’s reputation online by addressing any negative comments in a constructive way, and doing what you can to encourage current residents to carry the online torch for you in the form of positive reviews.
Increased Momentum From Digital Interaction
One of the positives to come out of COVID, operators say, is that even though the new environment demands more from leasing staff in order to close, the implementation of so many digital tools across the industry has actually sped up the pace of leasing for some apartment operators.
“We’ve had a lot of success offering a completely digital process, from viewings to contracts, that has actually allowed us to accelerate closings,” says Ron Melendez, Vice President of Development at the Miami-based Related Group, which has built and manages over 100,000 residential apartments. “New residents have a completely digital experience when processing their leasing documents, payment and contract.”
For Boland at Morgan Properties, that’s one of the bright spots to come out of the chaos of 2020. “Even though the pandemic has significantly changed the leasing environment, this has only encouraged property managers to prioritize the use of technology,” she says. “That was already happening, of course, but the pandemic really expedited it.”
Still Keeping an Eye on Screening
None of this means that pros are renting to just anyone today. Indeed, with some operators reporting more instances of application fraud since the start of the pandemic, the more background information you have on prospective residents, the better. It’s important to keep the fundamentals of leasing in mind—by attracting and building rapport with well-qualified renters. Don’t avoid the increased challenges of leasing today by kicking the can further down the road and accepting residents who will create a collection problem later on.
“With the combination of new rent-control laws, moratorium on evictions and higher concern for the spread of COVID, you need to make sure you’re renting to new residents who can actually qualify and pay the rent,” says Saywitz. “It’s become increasingly difficult to remove problem tenants, so you’ve really got to be careful with your decisions on the front end.”
By engaging with prospective residents where they are, giving them the options they want for tours and paying attention to their unique needs, multifamily housing operators can succeed when navigating today’s leasing environment.
Joe Bousquin is a freelance writer.
December's highly-anticipated COVID-19 relief package finally delivers rental assistance while extending the federal eviction moratorium. But how does it affect the apartment industry?
Navigate to a section:
Eviction Moratorium & Rental Assistance
- Extends CDC eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.
- Provides $25b through September 30, 2022 for rental assistance. The monies will be allocated through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), administered by the Department of Treasury.
- Allocation and distribution to grantees:
- States allocation will be based on population, no state will receive less than $200 million.
- Eligible grantees are defined as:
- A State; or
- A unit of local government, such as a county, municipality, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other unit of general government below the State level with a population that exceeds 200,000; or
- An Indian tribe or its tribally designated housing entity; or
- The Department of Hawaiian Homelands.
- Program requirements:
- Not less than 90 percent of the funds are to be used for current rent payments, rent arrears, utility payments and other pandemic-related housing expenses. Assistance can be provided for up to 12 months with an additional 3 months of assistance "if needed to ensure housing stability".
To the extent that applicants have rental arrears, grantees may not make commitments for prospective rent payments unless they have also provided assistance to reduce an eligible household’s rental arrears.
Eligible grantees may use up to 10 percent of allocated funding for housing stability services, including case management and other services intended to keep households stably housed.
- Eligible households are those:
- With a household income below 80 percent of area median income (AMI);
- With a demonstrable risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
- Have one or more household members who qualify for unemployment benefits or experienced financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.
- States should prioritize families with incomes below 50% of area median income (but no set percentage of funds distributed is required), as well as renter households who are currently unemployed and have been unemployed for 90 days.
- Income Eligibility is based on time of application and must be re-certified every three months.
- The application process requires renters to apply for assistance from their administrative agency managing the program. Payments are sent directly to the housing provider.
- Housing providers can also apply for rental assistance on behalf of the resident but must inform them and secure their consent.
- Residents may receive payment directly from the administrative agency and pay their provider if that provider does not want to participate in the program.
- NOTE: The bill puts loose parameters on state and local grantees as they craft or refine their rental assistance programs. Ultimately, eligibility requirements are at the discretion of grantees.
- Not less than 90 percent of the funds are to be used for current rent payments, rent arrears, utility payments and other pandemic-related housing expenses. Assistance can be provided for up to 12 months with an additional 3 months of assistance "if needed to ensure housing stability".
- Rental assistance will not be included in recipient’s income for federal tax purposes.
- $6,500,000 has been allocated to the Inspector General of the Department of Treasury to conduct monitoring and oversight of the receipt, disbursement, and use of funds.
State and Local Funding
- Extend by one year (until Dec. 31, 2021) the availability of funds provided to states and localities by the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the CARES Act.
- $21,777,439,000 for tenant-based rental assistance to remain available until expended, in addition to the $4,000,000,000 previously appropriated.
- $23,080,000,000 for expiring Section 8 tenant-based annual contributions contracts, including renewals of enhanced vouchers and other special purpose incremental vouchers.
- Up to $110,000,000 to be available for:
- Adjustments in the allocations for PHAs, after application for an adjustment by a PHA that experienced a significant increase in renewal costs of vouchers resulting from unforeseen circumstances; or
- Vouchers that were not in use during the previous 12-month period; or
- An adjustment for funding obligations not yet expended in the previous calendar year for a MTW-eligible activity to develop affordable housing for an agency added to the MTW demonstration; or
- Adjustment costs associated with VASH vouchers; or
- PHAs that despite taking reasonable cost saving measures would otherwise be required to terminate rental assistance for families as a result of insufficient funding; or
- Adjustments in the allocations for PHAs that:
- Are leasing a lower-than-average percentage of their authorized vouchers;
- Have low amounts of budget authority in their net restricted accounts and HUD-held programmatic reserves; and
- Are not participating in the MTW demonstration.
- PHAs that have experienced increased costs or loss of units in an area for which the President declared a disaster.
- $116,000,000 shall be for Section 8 rental assistance for:
- Relocation and replacement of housing units that are demolished or disposed;
- Conversion of section 23 projects to assistance under Section 8;
- The family unification program;
- Relocation of witnesses (including victims of violent crimes) in connection with efforts to combat crime in public and assisted housing;
- Enhanced vouchers;
- Choice Neighborhood vouchers;
- Mandatory and voluntary conversions;
- Tenant protection assistance including replacement and relocation assistance;
- Project-based assistance to prevent the displacement of unassisted elderly tenants currently residing in Section 202.
- At least $5,000,000 to be available to provide tenant protection assistance to residents residing in low vacancy areas and who may have to pay rents greater than 30% of household income, as a result of:
- The maturity of a HUD-insured, HUD-held or Section 202 loan that requires the permission of the Secretary prior to loan prepayment;
- The expiration of a rental assistance contract for which the tenants are not eligible for enhanced voucher or tenant protection assistance under existing law; or
- The expiration of affordability restrictions accompanying a mortgage or preservation program administered by the Secretary.
- $2,158,000,000 shall be for administrative and other expenses of PHAs in administering the Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance program, of which $30,000,000 shall be available for allocation to PHAs that need additional funds to administer their Section 8 programs.
- This includes fees associated with Section 8 tenant protection rental assistance, administration of disaster related vouchers, VASH vouchers, and other special purpose incremental vouchers.
- No less than $2,129,000,000 of the amount provided shall be allocated to PHAs for the 2021 calendar year funding cycle.
- $314,000,000 for the renewal of tenant-based assistance contracts under Section 811 of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act.
- Up to $5,000,000 for rental assistance and associated administrative fees for Tribal HUD-VASH.
- $40,000,000 for incremental rental voucher assistance through a supported housing program administered in conjunction with the Department of Veteran Affairs, i.e. VASH.
- $25,000,000 for the family unification program:
- $5,000,000 for new incremental voucher assistance;
- $20,000,000 for new incremental voucher assistance to assist eligible youth.
- $43,439,000 for incremental rental voucher assistance for use by individuals and families who are homeless; at risk of homelessness; fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; and veterans and families that include a veteran family member.
Public Housing Fund
- $7,806,000,000 for the operation and management of public housing, to remain available until September 30, 2024. Of note:
- $4,839,000,000 for 2021 payments;
- $25,000,000 for need-based application process to PHAs that experience, or are at risk of, financial shortfalls;
- $2,765,000,000 allocated pursuant to the Capital Fund formula;
- $75,000,000 for grants to PHAs for emergency capital needs, of which:
- $45,000,000 for PHAs under administrative and judicial receivership or under the control of a Federal monitor;
- No less than $10,000,000 for safety and security measures.
- $35,000,000 for competitive grants to PHAs for activities authorized under the Healthy Homes Initiative, which includes research, studies, testing, and demonstration efforts, including education and outreach concerning mold, radon, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other housing-related diseases and hazards.
- $15,000,000 to support the costs of administrative and judicial receiverships.
Choice Neighborhood Initiative
- $200,000,000 for competitive grants for the transformation, rehabilitation, and replacement of housing needs of both public and HUD-assisted housing and to transform neighborhoods of poverty into functioning, sustainable mixed income neighborhoods with appropriate services, schools, public assets, transportation and access to jobs. This funding is to remain available until September 30, 2023.
- No less than $100,000,000 shall be awarded to PHAs.
- $155,000,000 for activities and assistance related to Self-Sufficiency Programs, to remain available until September 30, 2024.
Native American Programs
- $825,000,000 for activities and assistance authorized under title 1 of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, to remain available until September 30, 2025.
Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Funding Program Account
- $1,500,000 for the cost of guaranteed loans, until expended.
Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant
- $2,000,000 for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program, to remain available until September 30, 2025
- $430,000,000 for carrying out the HOPWA program, to remain available until September 30, 2022.
Community Development Fund
- $3,475,000,000 for carrying out the CDBG program, to remain available until September 30, 2023.
HOME Investment Partnership Program
- $1,350,000,000 to remain available until September 30, 2024.
Homeless Assistance Grants
- $3,000,000,000 for assistance under title IV of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, to remain available until September 30, 2023.
- No less than $290,000,000 for the ESG Program.
- No less than $2,569,000,000 for the CoC Program.
- Up to $52,000,000 for grants for rapid re-housing projects and supportive service projects providing coordinated entry, and for eligible activities the Secretary determines to be critical in order to assist survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, or stalking.
- Up to $7,000,000 for the national homeless data analysis project.
- Up to $82,000,000 to implement projects to demonstrate a competitive approach to servicing homes youth, age 24 and under.
Project-Based Rental Assistance
- $13,065,000,000 for activities and assistance for provision of project-based subsidy contracts, to remain available until expended, in addition to the $400,000,000 previously appropriated.
- The amounts made available under this section shall be used for:
- Expiring or terminating Section 8 project-based subsidy contracts;
- Amendments to Section 8 project-based subsidy contracts;
- Contracts entered into pursuant to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act;
- Renewal of Section 8 contracts for units in projects that are subject to approved plans of action under the Emergency Low Income Housing Preservation Act of 1987 or the Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act of 1990;
- Administrative and other expenses associated with project-based activities and assistance.
- No more than $350,000,000 shall be for performance-based contract administrators for Section 8 project-based assistance.
- The amounts made available under this section shall be used for:
Housing for the Elderly
- $855,000,000 for capital advances, including amendments to capital advance contracts, for housing for the elderly; project-rental assistance for the elderly; and for supportive services associated with the housing, to remain available until September 30, 2024.
Housing for Persons with Disabilities
- $227,000,000 for capital advances, including amendments to capital advance contracts for supportive housing for persons with disabilities; for project rental assistance for supportive housing for persons with disabilities, including amendments to contracts for such assistance for up to a 1-year term; for project rental assistance to State housing finance agencies and other appropriate entities; and for supportive services. The funding will remain available until September 30, 2024.
Housing Counseling Assistance
- $57,500,000 for contracts, grants, and other assistance excluding loans, to remain available until September 30, 2022.
- Funds shall be used for providing counseling and advice to tenants and homeowners, with respect to property maintenance, financial management or literacy, and other matters to assist them in improving their housing conditions, meeting their financial needs, and fulfilling the responsibilities of tenancy or homeownership.
- $20,000,000 to remain available until September 30, 2023 for competitive grants to nonprofits or governmental entities to provide legal assistance (including assistance related to pretrial activities, trial activities, post-trial activities and alternative dispute resolution) at no cost to eligible low-income tenants at risk or subject to eviction.
- The Secretary shall give preference to applicants that include a marketing strategy for residents of areas with high rates of eviction; have experience providing no-cost legal assistance to low-income individuals, including those with limited English proficiency or disabilities; and have sufficient capacity to administer such assistance.
- Eligible tenants living in rural areas who receive legal assistance with grant funds shall not be less than the overall proportion of eligible tenants who live in rural areas.
Policy Development Research
- $105,000,000 for contracts, grants, and necessary expenses of programs of research and studies relating to housing and urban problems, as well as technical assistance. This funding is to remain available until September 30, 2022.
Fair Housing Activities
- $72,555,000 for contracts, grants, and other assistance, to remain available until September 30, 2022.
- The Secretary may assess and collect fees to cover the costs of the Fair Housing Training Academy and may use the funds to develop online courses and provide training.
- $350,000 shall be available for the creation and promotion of translated materials and other programs that support the assistance of persons with limited English proficiency in utilizing the services provided by HUD.
Lead Hazard Reduction
- $360,000,000 for the Lead Hazard Reduction Program, to remain available until September 30, 2023, of which $60,000,000 shall be for the Healthy Homes Initiative. This shall include research, studies, testing, and demonstration efforts, including education and outreach concerning lead-based paint poisoning and other housing-related diseases and hazards.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms in Federally Assisted Housing
- Tenant-based assistance, project-based assistance, public housing, Section 811, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, and rural housing are required to install carbon monoxide alarms or detectors in the dwelling unit in a manner that:
- Meets or exceeds the standards described in chapters 9 and 11 of the 2018 publication of the International Fire Code; or
- Any other standards as may be adopted by the Secretary of HUD, including any relevant updates to the International Fire Code, through a notice published in the Federal Register.
Paycheck Protection Program
- Appropriates $284.45 billion for PPP loans and $20 billion for EIDL Grants.
- Nearly $1 trillion has been allocated to the PPP since April, assisting more than 5 million businesses.
- Creates a Second Draw PPP that allows businesses to apply for a second forgivable loan of up to $2 million. Businesses must have 300 employees or fewer (or meets alternative SBA size standards) and experienced at least a 25% drop in gross receipts in 2020 as compared to 2019.
- A business may receive a maximum loan (for both first- and second-draw PPP loans) of $10 million within 90 days.
- Multifamily family firms remain largely excluded from the PPP under 13 CFR § 120.110 of the Small Business Administration’s lending statutes
- PPP borrowers who receive $150,000 or less in PPP loan money may submit a one-page forgiveness form online certifying their compliance with the program requirements.
- Extends the deadline for PPP “covered periods” in which a borrower may use loan proceeds through September 30, 2021.
- Expands qualified expenses to include the purchasing of PPE for employees;
- 501(c)(6) organizations are granted access to PPP funds if they have 300 employees or fewer, do not receive more than 15% of their receipts from lobbying activities and lobbying activities do not comprise more than 15% of their activities, and the cost of the lobbying activities of the organization did not exceed $1,000,000 during the most recent tax year.
- PPP funds cannot be used for lobbying activities of any kind.
- Repeals the requirement that borrowers who receive both an EIDL advance grant and a PPP loan deduct the forgiven amount of the EIDL grant from the forgivable amount of their PPP loan.
PPP Tax Forgiveness
- Allows for deductibility of business expenses paid for with forgiven PPP loans.
- Provides $7 billion for broadband internet access: $285 million for connecting minority communities.
- $3.2 Billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit for Low-Income Americans.
- $300 Million to Promote Broadband Expansion to Unserved Americans.
- $65 Million for the development of new, more accurate, and more granular broadband maps Tax Provisions (related to COVID).
- Low-income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is modified by the creation of a permanent, 4% floor for LIHTC that is generally used for the rehabilitation and renovation of affordable housing.
- There are two credits available under the LIHTC program.
- One is the 9% credit used for new construction.
- The second is the 4% credit, which is typically used for rehabilitation of older rental housing and the preservation of subsidized rental developments (in conjunction with tax-exempt bond financing).
- There are two credits available under the LIHTC program.
- An additional LIHTC allocation for disaster zones increases a State’s LIHTC allocation in 2021 by $3.50 per resident of a qualifying disaster zone. The allocation can carry over to 2022. Qualifying disasters are those designated by the President between 1/1/20 and 60 days after enactment, but do not include the nationwide COVID-19 disaster declaration.
- The Employee Retention Tax Credit is modified by:
- Increasing the credit rate from 50% to 70% of qualified wages.
- The eligibility is expanded by reducing the year-over-year gross receipts decline from 50% to 20%.
- Increasing the limit on per-employee creditable wages from $10K per year to $10K per quarter.
- Increasing the 100-employee delineation to 500 or fewer employees. o Allowing businesses with PPP loans to qualify.
- Extending the credit through June 30, 2021.
- Extends payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave enacted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act through March 31, 2021.
- Provides for the tax deduction of 100% of business meals (up from 50%) for 2021 and 2022.
- Corrects a technical problem in depreciating residential rental housing – under certain circumstances, some real estate businesses were forced to depreciate residential rental housing over 40 years instead of 30 if they elected out of a limitation of interest deductibility under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The recovery period is corrected to 30 years in the Act.
Tax Extender Provisions
- The exclusion from income for mortgage debt forgiveness is extended for five years (through 2025), but the maximum amount is reduced from $2 million to $750,000.
- The energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction is extended permanently, its efficiency standards are updated, and the deduction rates are indexed for inflation.
- The energy investment tax credit for solar and residential energy-efficient property tax credit is extended for two years (through 2023).
- The mortgage insurance premium deduction is extended for one year (through 2021).
- The energy efficient homes credit is extended for one year (through 2021).
- The nonbusiness energy tax credit (for qualified energy efficiency improvements) is extended for one year (through 2021).
Arlington, VA | December 22, 2020 — National Apartment Association (NAA) President and CEO Bob Pinnegar and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) President Doug Bibby issued the following statement on the passage of a roughly $900 billion COVID relief package.
“NAA and NMHC congratulate Congressional leaders in both parties on the passage of a COVID relief package that will provide desperately needed support to millions of Americans who call an apartment home. We look forward to President Trump signing it into law.
“For the better part of a year, NAA and NMHC have been at the forefront of calling on policymakers to pass legislation which includes rental assistance as well as a number of other key priorities. While there remains much work to do in the coming weeks and months, this effort is clearly a step in the right direction and will come as welcome news for so many households facing financial distress. Importantly, this package includes:
- $25 billion in dedicated rental assistance
- $600 in direct stimulus checks
- $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits through March. Expiring unemployment programs for gig workers and long-term unemployed were also extended
- $284billion for a second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan
“We are heartened that the legislation includes such critical resources that will allow those impacted by COVID and resulting economic distress to meet their financial obligations, including rent. Unfortunately, it also extends the current CDC eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021. Eviction moratoriums fail to address a renter’s underlying financial distress and do not address housing instability. The resources provided in this package, as well as future support that will need to be extended in 2021, are essential to addressing apartment residents’ financial challenges – not interminable moratoriums.
“NAA and NMHC will continue to work with policymakers on future legislation to ensure that residents and housing providers have the support necessary to allow for a sustainable and equitable recovery. As part of that recovery, targeted and limited liability protections for apartment firms will be a critical component of future COVID packages.”
For more than 25 years, the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) have partnered on behalf of America's apartment industry. Drawing on the knowledge and policy expertise of staff in Washington, D.C., as well as the advocacy power of 155 NAA state and local affiliated associations, NAA and NMHC provide a single voice for developers, owners and operators of multifamily rental housing. One-third of all Americans rent their housing, and 40 million of them live in an apartment home.
Apartment companies think outside the box to protect staff from COVID-19.
By Bendix Anderson
Apartments companies across the U.S. have worked hard to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But they have been just as focused on protecting employees—even as growing business activity brings their leasing professionals and maintenance teams into contact with residents or prospective residents.
“As the colder seasons approach and the pandemic continues, it will be critical that team members remain vigilant about safety practices,” says Mike Brewer, Chief Operating Officer of the RADCO Companies.
Many apartment companies are now sending staff members back to leasing offices that operated with skeleton crews during the height of the pandemic. Others are beginning to engage with residents in person and sending maintenance crews into apartments to address the backlog of problems that have piled up since the pandemic began.
“Most amenities and leasing offices were closed over the summer,” says Demi Sterling-Kinney, Vice President of Operations at Aspen Heights Partners. “We have since reopened many of these with policies in place that support social distancing.”
Leasing Offices Gradually Reopen
Numerous apartment communities closed their leasing offices to residents and potential residents in the first few months of the pandemic.
“Our existing technology gave us confidence that closing our leasing offices would not unduly interrupt business continuity,” says Brewer. A skeleton crew of property managers still showed up to work behind the closed doors of the leasing offices at RADCO’s communities, he says. They did the basic business of keeping the apartments safe and habitable, communicating with residents through phone, email and the internet.
“We remain closed to the public,” Brewer adds. “We have since returned to fully staffing our leasing offices with appropriate social distancing and personal protective equipment protocols in place.”
Apartment companies typically decide what their staff members can and cannot do by following the regulations set by local health officials to the letter. But some companies have gone beyond what local regulations demand to help keep their staff and residents safe.
“We began taking steps to ensure safe operation nationwide two weeks before the national emergency,” says Patrick Appleby, President of WinnResidential.
Experts now largely agree that COVID-19 often spreads through the air, especially indoors in spaces with weak ventilation where viral particles can hang in the air for as long as three hours. For safety in the pandemic, health experts recommend a tough standard of six to nine air changes per hour in rooms where people gather—at least twice the standard required by many building codes.
Apartment managers also have followed the level of infection increases in their areas. “Our local managers and their teams have followed infection rates closely as well to decide on a property-by-property basis if there were adjustments that needed to be made… in advance of and addition to local regulations,” says Elie Rieder, Founder and CEO of Castle Lanterra Properties.
Leasing Continues Despite COVID
These apartment companies have had to continue to lease new apartments—while keeping their employees safe—during the pandemic. They quickly learned how to conduct as much business as possible through the internet.
“Virtual or contactless leasing techniques will be an important option for everyone for the foreseeable future,” says Appleby. They include virtual tours and online applications. Many companies are also experimenting with self-guided tours.
Some companies had already planned to allow potential renters to lease an apartment largely online. The pandemic simply sped up their plans. “RADCO moved to 100 percent virtual or video conference-style leasing within days of pandemic-related closures,” says Brewer. The company hired its first digital leasing consultant two years ago, when the company first included virtual leasing tools in its technology innovation road map.
A virtual tour can be as simple as a video posted to an apartment community’s website. More complex virtual tours allow website visitors to explore a three-dimensional apartment model, similar to the three-dimensional environment of a computer game.
Apartment companies are also using “smart apartment” technologies like electronic door locks and online ID verification to let potential renters arrange a tour of an apartment through the community website and enter the apartment without ever seeing a leasing agent.
These technologies are likely to be important for apartment companies long after the pandemic is over. “Self-guided tours of apartments will become a more significant part of the sales process,” says Castle Lanterra’s Rieder.
Potential renters seem to have already gotten used to the new process. “Once our teams were past the initial learning curve, our same-store leasing and occupancy statistics began outpacing prior-year results,” says RADCO’s Brewer. “Consumer acceptance of virtual leasing signals that this is a trend that will continue.”
Virtual leasing tools will also give property managers more time to provide residents with new kinds of services. “In the near future, as technology takes more of the administrative burden away from frontline staff, we expect resident service menu to expand,” says RADCO’s Brewer.
Virtual leasing is also an important option for cautious potential renters. “There is a lingering reluctance for in-person leasing in the hard-hit markets, with a great deal of enthusiasm for virtual leasing techniques,” says Appleby. “Our priority through year-end is wooing reluctant consumers back into the leasing market.”
Maintenance Workers Take Extra Care
In the first months of the pandemic, many apartment companies sharply limited how often they would send maintenance teams into apartments to make repairs.
Spending a significant amount of time in someone’s home—long enough to fix a sink, for example—could be one of the riskiest things a person could do during a pandemic, if the resident happened to be infected with the coronavirus and the worker didn’t have access to the right protective gear.
“We limited in-unit work orders to emergencies only,” says Winn’s Appleby. More recently, Winn’s maintenance teams have been more productive—with the proper protective gear. “Our maintenance teams are at full strength, working hard to catch up on work orders and capital projects,” he says. “We have asked them to maintain the same vigilance about safety even as conditions have improved.”
These same issues have made it difficult to complete inspections. “RADCO had several properties in due diligence during the pandemic,” says Brewer. “That typically includes access to occupied units for inspection,” says Brewer. “Navigating the competing demands of buyers, sellers and residents requires open-minded collaboration.”
Some of the same technologies that have made contactless leasing possible—including simple video calls—were also helpful for some inspections during the height of the pandemic.
“The reliance on and performance of virtual tools has been incredible for inspections,” says Rieder of Castle Lanterra.
The Future of Work in Apartment Communities
Many apartment companies also shut down their corporate offices, sending workers home to work with their colleagues through email and video calls.
These companies have adopted new tools to help employees stay productive. “Our monthly virtual town halls have been exceptionally well-attended,” says Rieder. The company-wide intranet Castle Lanterra created in March, she adds, also continues to serve as an effective clearinghouse for the sharing of knowledge and techniques among employees.
Most of these companies expect to have staff eventually return to the office. “I am surprised by the growing expectation that companies will completely capitulate to a work-from-home model,” says RADCO’s Brewer. “I expect to see a new hybrid operations model, but not a full-blown forfeiture of the traditional in-office experience.”
In particular, Brewer looks forward to joining meetings in person. “The biggest lesson is that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real thing,” he says. “In-person meetings are 10 times more valuable in terms of moving the business forward.”
Bendix Anderson is a freelance writer.
With shared bathrooms and kitchens, older dorms may be rendered obsolete.
When COVID hit in March, colleges and universities quickly got students out of the classroom and switched to online learning.
“Obviously, operationally, they were not prepared to implement what would become the social distancing norms and all the CDC practices,” says Bill Bayless, CEO of American Campus Communities on CBRE’s The Weekly Take. “And so when you go back to March, there was really a panic…”
Over the past six months, Bayless says things have stabilized, and universities have adopted CDC social distancing standards. “They have all put infrastructure in place to have the flexibility to be online when they need to be in person when they can be…,” he says. “And so while it’s certainly not business as usual, higher education is underway again. Students are achieving their educational objectives and goals. And for the most part, they are back in their college towns…”
While universities seem to have put the proper structures in place, some students still aren’t getting the message. In late September, The New York Times reported that more than 35 colleges had at least 1,000 cases of COVID. Two hundred thirty colleges had more than 100 cases. The paper said that large university towns like La Crosse, Wis.; State College, Pa.; and Gainesville, Fla., have experienced sizable outbreaks at universities.
Jake Jarman, COO of Redstone Residential, says he has seen a surge of COVID cases among students in the last few weeks. Redstone is making an effort to educate residents about the dangers of COVID.
“We are being aggressive with our marketing campaigns to remind our residents about social distancing and good hygiene,” Jarman says. “Many of the college-aged students believe that their immune system is invulnerable to this virus.”
In some cases, student housing has seen demand increase after COVID hit. Bayless says his portfolio had 93% rent collection in April, May and June. During that time, ACC’s apartments picked up 1,000 new residents when colleges and universities told students to leave.
Bayless says older, on-campus housing, with its shared baths and kitchens, may be rendered obsolete in the future because it does not meet CDC guidelines. That should create an opportunity for companies that create modern student housing, where a pod of four students can share kitchens and can self-isolate.
“When you look at what are the real opportunities for companies like American Campus post-COVID, it is to continue and to modernize that housing,” Little says. “So, there is likely going to be a second building boom on-campus post-COVID as universities deal with the weaknesses of those products.”
How to know if you need a new roof or if repairs will do the trick.
Dear Maintenance Men:
How do I determine if it is time to replace a roof or just have some maintenance or minor repairs done?
Determining if a roof actually needs replacement or should be repaired is sometimes more of an art than a science. An old roof in good condition that has roof leaks may be as simple to solve as an inspection of the roof flashing system. The roof flashing is where the roof meets a different material or changes course. For example, roof flashing is found around the chimney, in valleys, where the roof transitions to vertical a wall or around vent pipes. Any roof transition area is a potential roof leak. Keeping the roof flashings in good order is the first line of defense. However, should your roof be experiencing leaks in several different areas, missing granules (bald spots) and pooling; might be an indication of a roof past its prime and ready for replacement. In the case of a shingle roof, the telltale signs are more obvious. For example, a shingle roof may exhibit curling edges, loss of granules and material brittleness. This roof may be beyond repairs and should be replaced. Tile roofs may present different issues as they may look great on the outside, but have hidden damage under the tiles, such as a rotted felt membrane or disintegrating roofing paper. These are much more difficult to solve and often times the repairs are more expensive than replacement.
When requesting a bid from a roofing contractor, always ask for a cost to repair the existing roof and a cost to replace the roof. When having multiple bids, always use the same scope of work for each roofer. A deviation in scope will make it harder to determine the correct course of action.
On September 24, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published its final rule, HUD’s Implementation of the Fair Housing Act's Disparate Impact Standard, effective October 26. It amends the agency’s 2013 rule and refines its interpretation of the Fair Housing Act’s (FHA) disparate impact standard to better reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) 2015 ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (also known as “Inclusive Communities”). Thank you to the thousands of National Apartment Association (NAA) members who participated in the association’s calls to action and made the industry’s voice heard. The revised rule is a direct result of this advocacy.
For years, NAA, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and their members have urged HUD to amend the Obama-era rule to bring it more in line with SCOTUS’ landmark decision in Inclusive Communities and to provide guidance that ensures housing providers may continue to execute necessary business practices without running afoul of fair housing requirements. Under disparate impact theory, a rental housing provider can be sued if the owner or operator implements a policy that is neutral on its face but nonetheless has an unintended, discriminatory effect on members of a protected class under the FHA.
While the rental housing industry remains committed to providing equal opportunity for all renters, housing providers voiced concern about their broad liability for disparate impact claims in light of HUD’s 2013 rule and subsequent guidance. Seemingly neutral and common business policies, such as occupancy limitations, criminal screening criteria and eviction screening policies could trigger discrimination claims under the disparate impact standard. Denial of Section 8 voucher holders also have been scrutinized under disparate impact theory as plaintiffs argue this practice disproportionately affects people of color, persons with disabilities, and families with children.
NAA is working on updated industry guidance and will update its affiliates and members shortly with its plans.
To learn more about disparate impact, contact Nicole Upano, NAA’s Director of Public Policy or visit the Disparate Impact page on the NAA website.
The community is scheduled for completion in April 2022, with rents likely to range from $1,500 to $2,400 per month.
Despite the pandemic, people are still starting apartments. A joint venture between American Landmark Apartments and Dezer Development held an official groundbreaking ceremony in September for Deseo Grande, a new $78 million, luxury Class A apartment community.
Deseo Grande will deliver 365 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartment homes featuring state-of-the-art technology and resort-style amenities. The community is scheduled for completion in April 2022, with rents likely to range from $1,500 to $2,400 per month.
Deseo Grande is American Landmark’s first ground-up, new-build apartment community. The company currently owns and operates over 33,000 garden-style apartments throughout Florida and the Southeastern U.S.
Deseo Grande will consist of a five-story, elevatored building and a four-story parking garage, on a 6.5-acre site. Apartment units will range in size from 754 square feet to 1,250 square feet, with all featuring 9-foot ceilings, walk-in-closets, patio or balcony and in-unit washer/dryer. Kitchens will offer stainless-steel appliances and quartz countertops. The pet-friendly community will also offer a central courtyard with resort-style swimming pool, summer grill, 24-hour fitness center, pet spa and bark park.
Many apartment community operators have responded to COVID-19-related staff challenges by trying to alleviate stress.
Many apartment community operators have responded to COVID-19-related staff challenges by offering employee counseling programs, virtual Zoom parties complete with deejays and costumes, and sometimes cash bonuses or gift cards to help alleviate the stress.
BH Management has paired employees together through an outreach program to keep workers positive through the crisis. “We provide employee assistance program services for our team members who need additional help working through the stress while going through the pandemic and have mentors along the way for them to lean on when times get too much,” says Senior Regional Vice President Melody King. “We try to remind them continually to have fun. We host parades, online reading clubs, virtual exercise groups, food trucks and provide pop-in surprises for our teams and residents to ensure that they know we are always here to support them in any way we can.”
Marcie Williams, President of Charlotte, N.C.-based RKW Residential also says her firm is helping employees cope through its own employee-assistance program. “We’ve really encouraged our employees to call and utilize the counseling services if they’re stressed about work,” she says, adding that the company is also considering cash incentives.
The Altman Companies has increasingly focused on keeping morale high as the pandemic has worn on, says Chief Operating Officer Tim Peterson. “We’ve been working hard to keep our teams connected. We can’t bring them together physically, but we’ve had a series of virtual hangouts that have included our top leadership calling out and recognizing success from our people in the field. We’ve had a deejay and themes for everyone to dress up and express themselves. The consistent message has been that we are all in this together, and that we are going to win, despite these obstacles.”
A favorite sports team party with staff members dressing as a University of Florida Gator and a Florida State University cheerleader; and a Fourth of July party where an American flag cowboy hat, boots and shirt were on full display.
Audubon held a video contest for staff at its different apartment communities so employees could show how they’ve been coping, with gift cards and dinner on the company as the main prize. “One of our teams did a video showing how they clean all day, wiping down every surface while wearing masks, and they had fun with it; it was hysterical,” says Tammy Shields, Chief Operating Officer. “People are trying to approach it with humor, and we’re doing stuff like that to keep people motivated and happy to be at work.”—J.B.