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Technical Assistance Initiative - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Housing Authority of Salt Lake City
 -   Implementation
 -   Challenges and Lessons Learned
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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 outreach 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 weeks.

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.

Contact

Jill Riddle
Section 8 Director
Salt Lake City (UT) Housing Authority
(801) 487-2161 x 1209
E-mail: jillriddle@uswest.net
 
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