Running a Public Housing Authority in 2022- 5 Ideas for the New Year-

Happy New Years everyone. Its been a while since I posted a blog on this site. However; I feel inspired to do a little writing on this Sunday.

The last two years have been insane right? Who would have thought that we would be trying to setup vaccination clinics in our public housing sites, figuring out distribution of PPE and food, all while drastically changing the way we do our day to day work. How about trying to support staff in what has been a very traumatic period in so many of their lives?

As we head into 2022, here are 5 things (no particular order) I am thinking about as an administrator of an extremely important public good- subsidized housing.

  1. Build Relationships with Health Systems- I’ve learned to stay away from politics in my writing and will do so here. Every State is in a different place and every community is in a different space. However; we will need to think about the needs of our staff and residents in relation to COVID. There might be the need to continue to provide PPE and different types of vaccination access; especially for our elderly/disabled sites. At a leadership level, it makes sense to build up relationships with your local health systems. It could be the County Department of Health or maybe a local health plan. Relationships forged now could be a benefit to your agency later. Discussions about COVID could turn to health clinics or improved healthcare access for your residents. If you have not prioritized forging these relationships, do so now!
  2. Staff Flexibility- Retaining great staff will continue to be a major emphasis for all of us. The pandemic introduced remote working for many of us and our agencies. In some cases, it was brilliant. In other cases, it introduced a lot of issues. As we attempt to attract and keep amazing staff, think about what is important for them. Sometimes we cannot afford major increases in benefits and pay if the budget allocation from HUD is simply not there. Remote working and flex work weeks are options we might want to consider keeping on the table.
  3. Diversity/Equity/Inclusion- Every agency is in a different place on this. Some housing authorities have been leading the way for years. Its amazing. By the way, reach out to me if you have. Maybe you can help me with a future blog on this topic. When I started working for the Seattle Housing Authority several years ago, they were already years into a Race and Social Justice initiative. Don’t be deterred if your organization has not started something yet. If you are a smaller agency that lacks resources, pair up with a local City or County. Reach out to a local Community College or University. If you are embedded in a government structure, there might be opportunities to work with their initiatives. If you are a medium or larger agency, bringing in a consultant to help you get started can be helpful. Again, this blog stays away from politics and I know this is read in different areas of the Country. DEI work is important and will impact your organization in positive ways.
  4. Prepare for Build Back Better (BBB)…but stay grounded- I think we all had high hopes for BBB passing. There are some generational funding opportunities in BBB that could really move the needle in helping our communities. We should all keep our eye on what is happening. If some version passes, we will all need to be ready to get funding out the door quickly. Lets face it, Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV) were great, but getting new incremental vouchers out quickly was tough. Our ability to scale and implement quickly was look good if other opportunities come up in the future. As a side note, we need to continue to advocate where possible for our bread and butter programs. Yearly funding for our public housing and voucher programs is extremely important.
  5. Continue to Modernize and Make it Easy for Residents- I think many of us ended up in line for different types of I.T. upgrades from our housing software enterprise systems. As leaders, do not underestimate the power technology can have to transform our residents lives. So many PHAs helped get wifi installed for buildings and communities. Bravo! I won’t call out any specific companies but there are some great products that are getting better by the year. If you updated your I.T. and Enterprise systems with CARES Act funding, keep it up. The world has changed. Residents are more mobile and doing more on their phones. Yes, that includes seniors (side note: someone tell my dad to quit texting me pictures of different pizzas he is eating). Let residents enter work orders on their cell phones, get mobile apps so folks can process interims electronically. Put kiosks in your lobby to speed things up when possible. Get your message and notices out via emails. let residents email you documentation to save a trip or envelope. Think about ways to build upon your I.T. upgrades this year. Automate where possible and make it easier for your residents to engage and utilize your cores services.

I feel a lot of gratitude for the opportunity to work with so many thoughtful and brilliant people the last couple years. I’ve learned a lot and am glad I could be a piece of the puzzle of helping the most vulnerable in our communities. Its nice to drop a blog after an extended period of time off. Hope all is well and looking forward to doing a little more writing in 2022. – JC

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