Blog January 24, 2020

Take the stress out of affordable housing waitlist openings

By Chris Vroman

How much preparation and hard work go into the opening of your affordable housing waitlist? Maybe this question is already making you feel stressed as you think about the answer. For many public and affordable housing authorities, the process of opening a waitlist is weighty; it’s an “all hands on deck” nightmare scenario that requires the full attention of your organization. Notices need to go out to the public, staff has to prepare for lines that could be thousands of people long, and extra security personnel need to be on-site at all times.

The stress of opening an affordable housing waitlist

This was certainly the case for Housing and Community Development (HCD) in Orange County, Florida. When they opened their affordable housing waitlist in 2002, approximately 25,000 people lined up in order to try and get a spot on the waitlist – some of them had been camping out for days. Applicants had to fill out printed paper forms, and the local police were doing their best to manage the line.

The work didn’t stop after that day, however. The agency needed to manually upload all of the information from the paper forms into a database. A full ten years went by before HCD’s next waitlist opening, and in that time, numerous people were always placing calls to the receptionist’s desk, wanting to make sure they were still on the waitlist.

HCD needed a solution that could help them make opening an affordable housing waitlist easier. Demand for affordable housing has grown significantly, and as such, they needed to open up their waitlist more often, but the sheer amount of work required made that prospect seem too far away.

How to make waitlist openings easier and efficient

When HCD opened their waitlist in 2012, they took a new approach. Instead of trying to operate in the same way they had in 2002, they utilized WaitListCheck, an affordable housing application management software that took the entire process online. As Kim Boettner, Program Development Supervisor at HCD, says, “WaitListCheck unquestionably improved our ability to serve clients in a fair and efficient way.”

Taking the waitlist process online made almost everything easier for both the HCD staff and those wanting to make it onto the list. Applicants didn’t have to wait in a line that was thousands of people long. Instead, they simply had to click on a link, fill out the application in their language of choice, then receive an email confirmation. The whole process took place online, which meant that once applicants were added to the waitlist, they were able to check their status on the list instead of calling the receptionist’s desk. In addition to all of this, HCD used WaitListCheck in a way that would allow a lottery system to ultimately decide which applicants would get added to the list, making the process fairer.

Having the ability to carry out waitlist openings online served as a major boon to the HCD staff. Since first using it for their opening in 2012, HCD has been able to open the list more frequently and with a greater sense of preparedness. For their opening in 2018, they were able to spend approximately 30 days getting more notifications out to more people through flyers, webpage updates, and more. In addition to all this, Administrative Specialists did not have to manually enter data from paper forms after the close of the waitlist.

Want to learn more about WaitListCheck? Read more about HCD’s experience with the waitlist management software.

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