Chris Voss is currently a vice president at Yardi, but he’s been working in affordable housing for over 20 years. In that time, he’s worked on the investor side of the business, putting together tax credit deals to help developers get their properties built. He later shifted gears and spent a number of years working directly with operators. He’s experienced in helping property management companies optimize and modernize with the help of affordable housing and compliance software. Chris is the perfect person to discuss the future of affordable housing. Keep reading to see how he’s helping Yardi revolutionize affordable housing and simplify compliance.
What’s the goal of Breeze Premier?
We’re looking to bring everyone on our legacy systems over to Yardi Breeze Premier. This will help us better support our clients with newer software and get upgrades out faster. It also provides a portal for applicants and residents to apply online, make payments and enter work orders.
Are there any features that tend to convince people to switch or migrate?
One of the bigger points of interest for our residential clients is the ability to launch branded corporate and property websites with RentCafe. This is our marketing and leasing solution built into Breeze and Breeze Premier to support online leasing. It also includes options for integrated screening and renters insurance.
Historically, rent collection and work order management have been done manually, so to have an integrated system is really compelling. The most-used feature of RentCafe is probably the resident portal, which automates rent collection and centralizes online maintenance requests. And residents love the RentCafe Resident app.
Looking back, what made the previous generations of Yardi software relevant in their time?
Years ago, Yardi Genesis and Yardi Genesis2 were some of the most powerful property management systems around. This was especially true for small to mid-sized companies. They didn’t need everything a system like Yardi Voyager had to offer. However, a lot of that functionality was built in to help clients with activities in the back office such as bookkeeping, financial reporting and resident tracking. The reality is that a lot of employees at smaller affordable companies wear multiple hats. They do more than back-office activities. That’s where Breeze Premier come in.
What’s making Breeze Premier relevant in our time?
In addition to accounting, operations and reporting, our latest property management software includes built-in marketing and leasing tools plus a host of optional add-on solutions to do even more.
We’ve implemented text messaging to better communicate with residents and introduced a CRM queue to track customer communications and initiate follow-ups. We leverage artificial intelligence to communicate with potential residents using our RentCafe Chat IQ chatbot. We provide the option for clients to outsource their utility billing and utility invoice processing, among other features. Not to mention, we just rolled out maintenance call center services to Breeze Premier clients with RentCafe Connect.
If you were to reimagine affordable housing, what might it look like?
Reimagining the future affordable housing is really about finding ways to reduce the costs and complexities of operations. It starts by reducing the friction that is involved with finding and applying for an affordable home today.
RentCafe.com is an internet listing service available for our residential clients. Even a person who wants to move to a different state can now easily apply online. They can also complete the entire certification process without ever having to walk into that out-of-state property.
We’re also trying to eliminate fair housing complaints from even arising. With RentCafe Affordable Housing, the certification and application process are done online, so the manager never has influence over the application process. So even if that household ends up being denied, they can’t point back and say the property manager was discriminating against them.
Put it this way: In every respect, the future of affordable housing has arrived! When it comes time to sign paperwork, neither party needs to come into the office. Where permissible, they can do everything on their computer, tablet or smartphone with esignatures. This changes the way that we handle applications, and it leads to a lot less friction and wasted time. It also improves the experience for everyone overall.
Are there additional tools Breeze Premier clients can use to manage compliance?
Yes, we offer Yardi Rightsource, a way for Breeze Premier clients to save time and gain confidence in their affordable housing programs by outsourcing compliance tasks.
Does Yardi offer any guarantees that the compliance information we process with RightSource will be correct?
We provide two things that are critical. One is a 24-hour turnaround for all file reviews and decisions. This is industry-leading, and as a consequence, it allows households to move in faster.
The second thing we offer is an indemnification policy. If we make a mistake, we protect our clients up to $200,000 per apartment. To be frank, we’ve never had to use it. Our processes are built with redundancies in place to catch any and all potential errors.
What are the differentiators between Breeze Premier and other affordable housing software?
We can digitize the entire application and certification process. We’re not just sending a PDF and having people fill it out, sign it and send it back. With RentCafe Affordable Housing, the rule checks are being performed as the forms are being completed to make sure everything is filled out correctly. It’s a much more efficient, accurate and secure process. No other solution out there has the integration of a compliance service. As a partner, Yardi can augment or serve as a compliance department for our clients.
How new is this functionality in affordable housing?
What we’re delivering to affordable housing is what Apple delivered to the world with the iPhone. You didn’t know that something like this was possible until it was. This sort of revolutionary tech is crucial to future of affordable housing.
What are the adoption challenges to a process this new?
One challenge is to let the world know, then be the best provider we can be for our clients, residents and applicants. But the biggest challenge we face is change management. In some cases, we’re training on-site team members that have been doing business the same way for many years. Showing them that there’s a different way and getting them comfortable with the technology can be a hurdle to adoption.
Let’s move to a slightly different topic. How has income verification changed for affordable clients?
When it comes to income verification, we’re excited that we have the integration within Breeze Premier and RentCafe. We use a verification tool called The Work Number, which is a wonderful tool. With the click of a button, you can quickly verify income and employment at nearly half of all businesses in the United States. This is the largest database that exists.
It cuts down the verification period from a week or more to just a few minutes, saving site teams up to 25 minutes per certification. It eliminates the need to fax, call, mail or hand-deliver income verification letters to employers. For a manager of a 100-unit property, this is giving them back nearly a week of time each yea. They can now spend that time on resident services and asset management. As another benefit, households are qualified faster and can move in sooner.
Where do you see Breeze Premier and its role in compliance?
We’re streamlining business processes using software that can reinforce those processes. The biggest challenge that our clients were facing was around compliance. Affordable housing is unique in that operators have to qualify households based on whether it’s a local state or federal affordable housing program.
In the Section 8 program, you have over 1,000 pages of rules that you’re asking a site manager or somebody working at the property to know. It’s a very daunting task, and it’s one that leads to burnout. It also leads to extraordinarily high costs for any property management company that makes an honest mistake.
Looking into the future of affordable housing, how can we solve compliance issues?
One way to solve this is through software with a built-in process that allows for a team of specialized people to review certification files in real time and make sure they’re correct. Plus, the software has built-in rules and procedures, making it a lot like TurboTax™. You don’t need to be a CPA to complete your taxes in TurboTax, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with RentCafe Affordable Housing.
With full integration and support of RightSource compliance services, site teams can call and ask compliance-related questions. This helps them gain the knowledge and confidence to make the right decisions and get certifications done on time.
Property management can be a wonderful career for folks, and we want our software to make this career more approachable and rewarding. That means that we want to make the job as easy as possible. We’re helping our clients address the challenges they face with inflation and the ever-rising costs of property operations. It can be a challenge to find good people to work in affordable housing, so we’re excited that our suite of software and services can help property management teams become more efficient.
We partner with the industry to innovate and address the most pressing issues facing our clients. Ultimately, we want to improve the quality and availability of affordable housing in this country.