In an earlier blog in our Rapid Re-Housing Know-How Series we mentioned the three core components of rapid re-housing: housing identification; rent and move-in assistance; and case management and services. This week we will focus on the first component: housing identification.
The goal of housing identification is to find housing for program participants quickly. Here are some important resources to get you started with housing identification:
- Webinar: Housing identification
- Toolkit: Checklists, sample materials and strategies
- Webinar: Housing search, location and landlords module
- Best Practices: Rapid re-housing performance benchmarks and program standards
- Tookit: Engaging landlords risk mitigation funds community profiles
Three key activities to focus on when identifying housing
Develop and maintain relationships with landlords.
Recruit landlords continuously, even before you have participants that need housing. The more partnerships with landlords you develop, the more opportunities your program participants have to rapidly obtain permanent housing. You can recruit landlords through:
- Word of mouth
- Cold outreach in response to posted ads
- Looking for “FOR RENT” signs in prospective neighborhoods
- Soliciting references from partners
- Presenting at local service clubs, religious organizations, and landlord associations
- Collaborating with local elected officials and government agencies
- Sending brochures to a broad mailing list of rental property owners
- Making presentations at local real estate and property management organizations
- Attending or holding your own realtor or landlord networking events
- Posting ads on Craigslist.
Once a landlord is recruited, you will want to provide them with contact information for appropriate staff. Maintaining this relationship is important to the success of your program. We recommend you:
- Respond to their calls within one business day
- Mediate disputes between program participants and landlords
- Pay for damage caused to units
- Assure rental payments are made on time.
Defining staff roles and responsibilities.
Your rapid re-housing program should designate housing identification staff members who can identify and recruit landlords, and encourage them to rent to homeless households served by the program. A former realtor may be a good candidate for this position. They will have a deep knowledge of the housing market and be adept at building relationships with landlords.
It is also important to separate the case management role from the housing specialist role. Some rapid re-housing programs describe themselves as having two clients: the landlord and the formerly homeless household. Separating these roles allows the program to be responsive to each group.
Helping families and individuals find the right housing.
The final step is matching participants to appropriate housing. Appropriate housing is housing that is decent, safe, meets the particular needs of the formerly homeless household, involves participant choice and is affordable to your participants after financial assistance ends.
Note: If your program is located in high cost, low-vacancy area, you may find additional challenges in identifying housing for program participants. Tips for those communities can be found at Rapid Re-Housing Tips for High Cost, Low Vacancy Communities. Programs should provide a variety of housing options in a number of neighborhoods and serve as a resource to households during the housing search and application processes. Your housing identification staff can help your participants consider their options in terms of unit size, costs, subsidies and location.
Rapid re-housing programs should offer to identify housing or negotiate with landlords unless the participants choose to conduct these housing search activities on their own. If participants do choose to search on their own, your staff should check in regularly to assess their progress, offer advice, and allow the client to accept more help if needed.