Affordable housing is a cornerstone of any strong community. And while affordable housing and subsidy programs are often deemed successful by the number of tenants served or high evaluation scores, often times the most successful programs reach this achievement because of an ability to effectively communicate with all stakeholders. Quadel Senior Manager, Julie O’Connor, travels across the country to help strengthen affordable housing programs build resident organization capacity, and improve tenant relations. O’Connor has worked with many executive management teams and all types of stakeholders on compliance standards, program management and resident engagement. She offers her tips on communicating with stakeholders – and the importance of it – below.
Understand Each Stakeholder
There are at least five different stakeholders a housing authority or agency must work with to make its programs successful and a true asset to the community it serves. These groups include tenants, owners/landlords, the Board of Commissioners, political leaders and representatives and the local community at-large. Communication methods should be tailored to the unique needs and priorities of each stakeholder.
“The number one thing is to make sure you are communicating effectively with your stakeholders,” O’Connor said. “You present things to tenants in a different way than from a landlord’s perspective because you want to make sure you convey ‘how does this impact me?’ Communication style should match who you are working with while at the same time capturing your personal understanding, compassion and empathy. Equally important is to make sure your messaging remains consistent with all stakeholders.”
Communicate Now for Fewer Headaches Later
Lack of communication with stakeholders can have dire consequences. When a housing agency is not transparent with its activities or decisions, especially in regards to affordable housing development, management spends too much time communicating reactively rather than proactively. O’Connor says this can waste time and can cause more problems.
“Your phone calls increase. Your complaints increase. You start getting more inquiries from outside entities because people aren’t happy with the way things are going,” O’Connor said. “You’re having to do a lot more explaining on a regular basis because you haven’t communicated effectively with your stakeholders in the beginning. Transparency is paramount. I’ve conducted numerous trainings for resident councils and tenant engagement hearing feedback that early participation is wanted, but this continues to be traffic jam moment for housing administrators.”
Don’t Forget Frontline Staff
Sometimes housing authorities are so focused on getting important, pertinent information out to stakeholders, they can forget to inform the most important people of all – the frontline staff. It is important for management to relay any new policy or procedural information to frontline staff as these individuals interact with the agency’s stakeholders on a daily basis. According to O’Connor, the most successful agencies operate in a mode that “speaks to all stakeholders with one voice and consistency.”
“One of the bigger mistakes I see is managers make is not consistently disseminating information with frontline staff and creating a disconnect. High functioning agencies are consistent and effective communicators. With so many tech options available, there are countless platforms to help facilitate this. It takes a commitment from leadership, though.”