Housing authority of Salt Lake City:
four steps to successful lease-up
The Housing Authority of Salt Lake City (HASLC), a medium-sized
PHA, received an award of 200 WtW vouchers. It succeeded in leasing
96 percent of its vouchers within six months of the effective date
of its ACC. An early and well-organized planning and implementation
effort was the key to HASLC's success.
Its lease-up strategy included the following components:
- Strong Support from Executive Director and Board
Senior management recognized the importance of the WtW voucher
program and the leasing challenge it posed. It made WtW program
implementation a high priority and delivered this message to all
agency staff. For example, management approved overtime and the
use of administrative reserves to pay for start-up costs and transferred
public housing staff to support Section 8 staff.
- Financial Investment
Using administrative fee reserves, HASLC invested approximately
$10,000 to support the lease-up. These funds covered items such
as overtime pay, equipment rental, and hosting a recruiting luncheon
for landlords. The investment paid for itself within two months!
- Thinking "Out of the Box"
HASLC completely changed its procedures for intake and leasing.
The new processes improved upon its standard processes for the
regular housing choice voucher program.
- Cooperation of Section 8 Staff
HASLC faced the dilemma of neither having the time nor the financial
resources to hire and train additional staff to support the leasing
effort. To demonstrate the importance of the program and to recognize
the extra work that would be required of staff, management approved
overtime pay to Section 8 staff at the rate of time and a half.
This allowed staff to continue its regular processing to avoid
major backlogs, and provided the needed incentive for them to
work the extra hours required to lease up the 200 WtW vouchers.
Implementation: Four Steps to Successful Lease-up
HASLC took the following steps to lease up:
Step One: Community Press Conference to Promote Program
HASLC sponsored a press conference that was widely covered
by the local news media. Local newspaper and television reporters
were present at the event, as well as the mayor, other city officials,
and HUD representatives. The press conference announced to the
larger community that these special vouchers would provide much-needed
affordable housing to disadvantaged families attempting to move
and stay off of the welfare rolls. The press conference succeeded
in positively promoting the WtW voucher program.
Step Two: Outreach to Owners
HASLC contacted the president of the Apartment Association
of Salt Lake, an active organization with a large membership of
local landlords, and proposed a landlord
luncheon to promote the WtW voucher program. The association
sponsored the luncheon, while HASLC paid for the lunch and found
a location for the event, which was provided free of charge. An
letter to landlords was published in the Apartment Association's
journal before the luncheon to help spark landlord interest in
the Section 8 program.
As part of the luncheon, HASLC organized a panel that included
senior PHA staff as well as an attorney that represented landlords.
The panel educated landlords about and promoted the Section 8
program and the WtW voucher program. Handouts
were also distributed that provided information about the program.
These efforts served to break down negative stereotypes of the
Section 8 voucher program and eased landlords' many fears and
misgivings about participating in the program.
At the end of the luncheon, HASLC asked landlords to sign a "Willing
Landlord Participant List" that included contact and unit
information. Ninety landlords attended the luncheon and each one
signed the list. HASLC gave a copy of this list to each WtW voucher
holder at issuance, and this up-to-date information proved to
be extremely valuable to voucher holders searching for units.
Step Three: Mass Intake
Letters of program invitation were written especially for
the WtW program and sent to every potentially eligible family
on the HA's waiting list. HASLC set aside three days for mass
intake and cleared out its maintenance building, which served
as the intake location. Well in advance of the mass intake, staff
coordinated with the local TANF agency so that verification request
forms could be faxed to the TANF agency while the family was being
interviewed. The TANF agency responded immediately so that there
were no delays verifying a family's TANF eligibility status. In
addition, staff was given a deadline of two weeks to complete
all other verifications.
Step Four: Mass Orientation
HASLC used a specially
designed invitation to invite eligible families to a mass
orientation where they were briefed about the program and issued
a WtW voucher. The orientations were held off-site at the Horizonte
Training Center, the home of an ESL/GED program that assists many
HASLC clients. In all, there were three briefings of 100 people,
and 250 vouchers were issued. All intake and leasing staff were
available at the briefing to answer questions. In order to motivate
families during the housing search, families were made aware that
only 200 slots were actually open for the program. This incentive
for quick lease-up worked. HASLC received an average of 10 completed
requests for tenancy approvals/leasing packets per day for three
Challenges and Lessons Learned
The agency also faced many challenges during the course of its
issuance and leasing process, such as a tremendous influx of calls
and walk-ins, a backlog of initial inspection requests, and bottlenecks
in HAP processing. An additional staff person was assigned to handle
phone calls and walk-ins. The Section 8 Director indicated that
if she had it to do over again, she would have assigned more staff
to leasing tasks, and provided more support to her inspector by
hiring a fee inspector to assist in completing inspections.
For more information on this program, view the HASLC Learning
from Each Other page.
Section 8 Director
Salt Lake City (UT) Housing Authority
(801) 487-2161 x 1209