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The Technology Transformation of the Nation’s Largest Affordable Housing Community

The Technology Transformation of the Nation’s Largest Affordable Housing Community

Partnerships and planning power technological transformation at large Brooklyn community.

Make no mistake about it: Modernizing the technology and processes used to operate and manage Spring Creek Towers in Brooklyn was a massive undertaking. For starters, the property is the nation’s largest federally subsidized affordable housing community, encompassing more than 150 acres and featuring 5,881 apartment homes and 17,500 residents. It even has its own power plant.

On top of that, Spring Creek Towers was seriously behind the technological curve when it was purchased     in 2018 by Brooksville Co. and Rockpoint Group. Residents were not able to make their rent payments online. The resident recertification process was entirely manual and had to take place in person. The work order and inventory management systems were totally paper based. The property management software needed to be changed.

But despite the uniquely mammoth scope of the project, the successful technological renovation of Spring Creek Towers holds applicable lessons for any community implementing new systems and processes, according to panelists in the “Technology Transformation of the Nation’s Largest Affordable Housing Community” session at NAA’s Apartmentalize 2021.

Perhaps most important, owners and operators must work to create acceptance of new systems among associates, said Robb Napolitano, Chief Information Officer at Brooksville Co.

“Project management 101 says if you manage the time, scope and cost, you have a successful project,” Napolitano said. “There’s a fourth component, and that’s adoption and acceptance. Because if the people you are doing this for don’t adopt it, you don’t have a successful project.”

After purchasing Spring Creek Towers, the new owners, along with their supplier partners and project consultants, began preparing the community’s onsite staff for the technological upgrade. To promote understanding and acceptance of each new technology, the companies used a comprehensive process.

“We didn’t just train them. We showed them the product first. It was an orientation: ‘Don’t worry about taking notes but you are going to just see what you’re going to be working with,’” Napolitano said. “Then we had training. Then after we went live, we had follow-up support training. So, we made sure that they’re comfortable.”

Napolitano also recommended identifying those skeptical or even hostile to upcoming changes early in the process and working to bring them around.

“Get your squeaky wheels to the table early,” he said. “They’re your complainers. They’re the ones who are going to be most averse to change. Bring them to the table early.”

Also, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Napolitano added. “Find out what your key metrics are going to be after going live to say this was a success.”

Another foundational component of any successful overhaul of a community’s technologies and processes is for an owner/operator to work with supplier partners and consultants who are true partners, said Kevin Vertrees, Lead Managing Consultant with RealFoundations, which worked on the Spring Creek Towers project. 

“It was a very successful project,” Vertrees said. “We were able to implement everything we laid out in the roadmap, even with COVID and everything.”

However, says Vertrees, “Without the partnerships, without people being able to sit and work through some of these difficult things, it would not have been possible, especially in light of COVID. The partnerships really were key to the success of this project.”

Stephen Ursery is a Senior Account Manager at LinnellTaylor Marketing.