The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is relevant to navigating the affordable and senior housing industries. That’s not to suggest that either rental housing sector is green behind the years – affordable began crawling in the 1930s when given birth by the federal department now known as HUD. But each has become so complex that it takes the communities within to work through the many challenges.
So what are the challenges and opportunities for operators in the affordable housing industry?
That, says RealPage Senior Vice President Gustavo Sapiurka, is the million-dollar question. Actually, $7 million question – a buck for each low-income apartment that the industry lacks to meet demand. The need is so great that the current system of building and renovating housing can’t possibly keep up, experts say.
“It’s imperative that we create public/private partnerships,” Sapiurka said in an interview at RealWorld 2019.
Finding and Retaining Talent a Top Priority
The senior market has challenges, too.
“There is a major concern about the ability of people to pay for good care,” he added. “And also our customers have major challenges on the operational side as we’re seeing a major need for new talent.”
That need also exists on the affordable side as well. Finding and retaining talent is a top priority. Sapiurka has been visiting colleges and universities that offer housing courses to appeal to upperclassmen to consider a career in student or affordable housing.
Other challenges for the senior and affordable markets include managing all the paperwork involved and just trying to understand what federal agencies need.
It’s a lot to manage and overcome. And that village is stepping up.
Understanding Needs and Providing Solutions
At RealWorld, a few representatives from the Department of Housing of Urban Development were on hand to share challenges that the agency is facing as well as help guide affordable housing operators through rules and regulations.
Learning from and understanding each other is one way that operators can stay ahead, says Sapiurka. Inviting government officials to mingle with the affordable community aligns the players with the government, which can increase the likelihood of the formation of private/public partnerships.
“It’s about listening to them about the challenges and opportunities in the field and how we can help them become a better organization,” he said. “Also, our teams are here to learn from our customers. What a great opportunity to create partnerships. Without partnerships, no one can succeed.”
Also, reducing the amount of paperwork necessary to fulfill federal requirements in affordable and senior speeds communication and creates efficiencies in day-to-day operations that foster forming those partnerships. At RealWorld 2019, RealPage rolled out Document Director, a new document management solution that reduces paperwork and allows necessary stakeholders to retrieve data and reports without sending the copy machine and courier service into overdrive.
“The affordable and senior industries are incredibly paper-intensive,” Sapiurka said. “For us to provide these types of solutions not only do we become greener but there is no need to copy a document but also allows partners to be able to reach those documents 24/7.”
Collaboration Helps Strengthen Affordable and Senior
Creating greater visibility leads to collaboration, which ultimately leads to solutions that overcome industry challenges, he added.
“It brings value to customers, value to investors and other customers,” Sapiurka said.
And it saves trees. But more importantly, it strengthens the affordable and senior industries.