There’s nothing like a government program to generate paperwork. Since President Carter passed the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 it seems the need for forms of all kinds has exploded. So goes the affordable housing industry.
The paperwork burden for housing applicants has increased for reasons beyond the increase in paperwork that is typical for everything from a home mortgage to insurance. Ten years ago a housing agency could often put a project together using as few as two “pots” of money. As resources have dwindled we now have to layer funding from multiple sources. We need grants to build or renovate housing and we need other grants to operate it on low rental income. All these sources of money have their own set of rules.
My agency, ICAN Housing Solutions, obtained seven different capital grants to buy and renovate four buildings in a recent project. Each grant defines income eligibility, disability, and length and type of homelessness, among other things. We have to track and file reports for all of them.
At the same time we patched together operating support from four other sources so we can keep rents affordable, even as low as zero. In fact over 50% of our tenants enter our housing with no income at all.
This means we have to collect all the data for record-keeping from your clients. The more data we have to collect the more forms you and your client will have to complete.
ICAN Housing Solutions is no different from other affordable housing providers. Our checklist for information and requisite forms can serve you well in most communities. If you and your client gather all this information in advance your client may get on a waiting list in record time. I wish I could tell you it means your client will get housing without a wait. That is unlikely in most communities. But, the more quickly they get on the list, the faster they will move to the top of the list.
Over the next few posts we’ll review forms that cross over the requirements for a wide range of grant programs. Today let’s start with the most obvious: the initial Application. Pursuant to the HEARTH Act your Continuum of Care has or is developing a centralized assessment and intake system. Find out the status of your local system. If done properly you and your client will provide all information that any program may need. The designated intake agency can match your client’s needs and homeless history to the right program, saving you from application overload.
Housing providers have a variety of application templates available to them they can adapt for their own use. It’s possible your Continuum of Care administrating agency has a standard form it wants all publicly funded housing agencies to use even if it doesn’t have a centralized intake center yet.
Beyond that, each housing provider is likely to have their own forms. You may find you and your client have to spend the time to complete one for every possible housing application.
Once you collect the information, though, you have it as reference material to fill out forms to use over and over. Just to get ahead of the game we will review HUD issued forms that all of its grantees must complete. Whenever possible I will provide links to HUD forms and review them.
Forms aren’t a fun topic to read about, or to write about for that matter. But you may as well get used to them. HUD’s pile of paperwork is not getting shorter or easier any time soon.