Did you know that extremely low-income households account for 25% of all renter households in the U.S., and that 71% of those households are severely housing-cost burdened? Now what if we told you that you could help change that using your current set of customer service or leasing consultant skills?
When you work in affordable, tax credit, and low-income housing, you not only get to pursue a fulfilling career in the property management and real estate industries, you are also helping low-income families get the support they need in finding housing and improving their quality of life. Below, we’ll define affordable housing programs, why they are important, and how you can start your rewarding career in Tax Credit and low-income housing.
Affordable housing programs are federally funded low-income housing programs. The government provides funding for and regulates policy at these apartment communities to ensure reasonably priced housing can be provided for low-income families. Tax Credit and Section 8/HUD are the two primary types of rental housing programs which require residents to be below a specified income level to qualify.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) – Section 42
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program encourages the development of affordable rental housing for low-income households by providing a tax incentive to developers and property management companies for constructing and managing such properties. In order to qualify to reside in a LIHTC apartment, residents must go through a detailed application and interview process, often referred to as the “initial certification”.
HUD – Section 8
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a government agency, funds the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). This program is an incentive provided by HUD which gives vouchers to low-income families to pay for their rent, allowing landlords to rent apartments and homes at fair market rates. All properties, including market-rate, must accept Section 8 vouchers.
“Housing affordability is a challenge in most markets across the U.S. Federal, state, and county authorities. Now more than ever, have made housing affordability a major priority. This career field suffers a shortage of talent. It’s the perfect time to gain the necessary knowledge to begin a successful and relevant career.”
– JoAnne Williams, Founder & CEO, JWilliams Staffing
The Affordable Housing Crisis
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the majority of the nation’s cost-burdened households are low-income, making them vulnerable to a wide variety of negative impacts caused by housing insecurity. In Enterprise’s report on the Impact of Affordable Housing on Families and Communities, they stated that in 2013, across the U.S. there were 10.9 million low-income renter households with 7.5 million of those homes severely cost burdened – paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs. Another estimated 610,000 people were homeless that same year. That number has only increased in the last decade.
You Could Help LIHTC Improve Lives
Many property management companies that offer LIHTC programs are non-profit organizations. They make it their mission to provide more affordable housing options for families and elderly individuals in need, improving the lives of millions.
Starting a career with a Tax Credit Community means you are joining the cause to help create a stable environment for families, children, and the elderly by removing them from the burden and fear of homelessness. You are reducing frequent family moves, providing a higher quality of life, a safer environment, financial relief, the opportunity to afford health insurance, pay off debt, save for an education, and, especially for the elderly, afford emergency room visits and care for geriatric health needs.
When pursuing a career in affordable housing, you are helping to provide more stable and suitable living conditions for those in need. It is a career you can feel passionate about while experiencing the fulfilment of being part of the solution to a dire housing crisis.
“If you care about the welfare and wellbeing of others, then this is an incredibly fulfilling career that gives you the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.”
– Marlo Brooks, Senior Regional Manager, JWilliams Staffing Northern California Multi-Family Division
Ready to get started in an affordable housing career? The first thing you should know is that because LIHTC and HUD programs are government regulated, the processes revolving around certifying potential and current residents is an intricate one, which takes a high level of attention to detail.
Much of the focus for the tax credit team revolves around tenant certifications and interviewing future and current residents. In addition, team members must also ensure consistent compliance with governmental fair housing and tax credit regulations. That being said, let’s dive into the type of background and skill sets that are best suited for the aforementioned responsibilities.
Education & Experience
Typically you need a high school diploma or GED. A college degree is not required. Most properties are going to want you to have some level experience – either with market rate leasing, or a temporary tax credit role. More on this under “Where to Start”.
Some training in the section 8 and section 42 affordable housing programs is ideal to start. A variety of certifications can be required or preferred as you gain experience and move up within the tax credit and low-income housing industry, which can include but are not limited to:
For more information and training and certification resources in Affordable Housing and Property Management, you can visit the National Center for housing management website.
The main responsibilities within an entry-level to senior-level role in affordable housing include:
In order to jump into an HUD or Tax Credit role, you will most likely need to start by gaining experience in a leasing consultant role at a market rate property or a temporary role with a staffing agency. Experience working for a housing authority is also another option for transitioning into a tax credit assistant role. The following is the typical career path for someone looking to work in property management for affordable housing and a basic overview of responsibilities for each role.
1A. Leasing Consultant
A leasing consultant typically requires basic customer service experience and provides customer support for current residents, greets and tours prospective residents, and maintains property value by placing maintenance and service requests. Consultants are experts on their community’s policies, procedures, and rental lease agreements as well as the local community features and amenities.
1B. Temporary Leasing or Tax Credit Role
Similar to a leasing consultant, a temporary leasing consultant role requires customer service or hospitality experience and performs similar duties as a leasing consultant. However, instead of working in a single community, the temporary role allows you to gain experience in a variety of communities. If you work with a staffing agency like JWilliams Staffing, we offer you free training that will allow you to work as a Temporary Tax Credit Assistant (more on these responsibilities in #2). Working in a temporary role lets you work in properties that vary in size and procedure from market rate to affordable housing.
“Many of my temporary leasing consultants come from hospitality or customer service backgrounds and are provided with our live intro to tax credit property training course, which helps them get their foot in the door with affordable housing properties.”
– Marlo Brooks, Senior Regional Manager, JWilliams Staffing Northern California Multi-Family Division
2. Tax Credit Assistant or Assistant Property Manager – Tax Credit/Affordable Housing
Someone in this role will have a background or experience in affordable housing and leasing and the necessary training or certifications in LIHTC and/or HUD. The primary job function in this role is to conduct annual re-certifications for HUD and Tax Credit programs. They also assist in ensuring proper compliance with affordable housing programs and community standards.
3. Property Manager – Tax Credit/Affordable Housing
To achieve this role, you typically need one to two years of affordable housing experience and at least one year of management or supervisory experience. A property manager in an affordable housing property performs similar tasks to a Tax Credit Assistant with additional managerial duties such as managing the on-site team (including any leasing and maintenance team members) and ensuring all standards are set and maintained.
Resident Services Coordinator
Facilitates entry of new residents and new staff with orientations to the community. Provides listening and advisory services to residents. Assists residents with locating support services and provides support to residents when a higher level of care is necessary. This role typically requires experience in social services, coaching, or counseling and fulfills a similar role within the property.
Assists with monitoring and providing business support to all of the Affordable Housing communities and/or Income Restricted communities that have Regulatory Agreements with the City, County and/or State Agencies. Must possess an understanding of relevant Fair Housing Law and the Section 42 Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) & requires experience in Leasing/property management.
Senior Compliance Specialist
Reviews applicant and resident re-certification files to ensure program compliance. They also monitor regulatory and company policy and provide support at a handful of communities. This position typically requires 2+ years of experience in property management or a housing regulatory agency. Certified Occupancy Specialist (COS), Certified Profession of Occupancy (CPO) or Tax Credit Specialist (TCS) certification is preferred at this level but is not required.
Ready to jump-start your Affordable Housing career today? Apply online with JWilliams Staffing for immediate consideration! Click here to get started.
Enterprise Community Partners. (2014). Impact of Affordable Housing on Families and Communities: A REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE BASE. Enterprise. https://homeforallsmc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Impact-of-Affordable-Housing-on-Families-and-Communities.pdf
National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2020, March). The GAP: A Shortage of Affordable Homes. NLIHC. https://reports.nlihc.org/sites/default/files/gap/Gap-Report_2020.pdf