Overcoming Risk in Affordable through a Learning Management Platform
Published on: Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
By: Tim Blackwell
The path to a successful career in the Affordable Housing industry doesn’t always start in a college or university classroom. Only a handful of the 80 or so institutions that offer undergraduate, graduate and doctorate degrees in real estate or residential property management focus on the Affordable side.
The truth is that most people who manage properties that cater to a wide and growing demographic of renters with low incomes learn on the job. Many turn what they envision to be a temporary job stop into long careers in what’s perhaps the most passionate rental housing sector.
Because the Affordable industry is faced with a talent deficit, RealPage Senior Vice President of Affordable Gustavo Sapiurka recently spoke to the University of Georgia’s property management class about government-subsidized housing but it ultimately turned into a recruiting trip. While students were poised to enter multifamily or other residential housing sectors, some expressed interest in Affordable but faced a learning curve.
Like others before them, they’d likely have to learn from the school of hard knocks if taking the Affordable leap.
Shoring up the Affordable learning curve
RealPage Vice President of Product Learning Solutions Katie McCaslin can relate. She found her way into the property management industry a few years after graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2003 with a degree in business administration.
“Many of us start out as a part-time job, in college or on the way to another career, but then we fall in love with the people and find a passion in what we’re doing on-site,” she said. “And what’s crazy about this destiny most of us share, is that many of us learned on the job. There wasn’t any formal learning process, it was on the go.”
But the learning experience is changing.
McCaslin and RealPage are helping industry players sink their teeth into all that’s Affordable through the easy-to-use EasyLMS learning management system. The employee training program provides instruction unique to the property management industry, helping new employees onboard and provide existing Affordable professionals to have a greater understanding of what is property management’s most demanding residential occupation.
The learner is motivated and engaged through gamification of course content. The learning management system teaches them Affordable property management skills that include navigating government regulations and policies inherent to the housing vertical. An array of content is offered, from an introduction to TIC’s and compliance reviews to low income tax credits. It can be tied to tailored learning paths or employee performance reviews and integrate specific learning recommendations for each employee.
Reducing risk through proper training
McCaslin said the capability of the learning solution is particularly beneficial for Affordable given the complexities and associated risks. A new employee – or even an existing one – who isn’t properly trained may not be up to speed on the latest policies.
“If you dig into the tax credit side, there are so many complexities there,” McCaslin said. “That’s where a lot of customers are exposed to the most risk because their associates need to have a full background of knowledge in terms of processing a TIC or verifying annual income, re-certifying residents and just processing x, y and z. There are a lot of different layers to that.”
The LMS software offers an introduction to Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) that provides a solid overview, including types of eligible properties and how to qualify applicants. Additionally, professionals gain a greater understanding of individual roles in an LIHTC project.
“If you don’t know those regulations are or you calculate things wrong, then you’re putting the owner or management company at risk,” McCaslin said.
Changing the game with the right e-learning content
Winn Residential, the country’s largest Affordable Housing operator and fifth largest manager of multifamily housing, recently onboarded RealPage’s solutions and launched EasyLMS so employees can gain greater understanding of managing all of the company’s assets. Vice President of Operational Support Services Jennifer Coberth said at RealWorld this summer that the learning management platform has been a “game changer” for onboarding new employees.
“E-learning courses are presented in short, digestible snippets of 15, maybe 30 minutes, along with webinars and other tools,” she said. “It also allows us to put together an initial training session for new employees that has them actually working productively on the system within a few hours.”
McCaslin said that while EasyLMS’s online training has a great integration for customers who use some or all of RealPage’s products, the online learning solution is offered as a stand-alone solution. The platform includes content relative to other rental housing types and offers industry-specific product training.
Navigating Affordable means knowing the industry
McCaslin said RealPage’s goal is to provide its Affordable customers a better understanding of navigating the industry through more than four hours of quality LIHTC and HUD content assembled from the latest research and most effective learning methods available.
Thus, the trials and tribulations that come with the school of hard knocks are no longer means for learning government-subsidized rental housing. Learning management can begin even outside of RealPage’s Affordable property management software.
“We can help educate customers that we have a learning management platform that’s specific to their market and their niche world, but we also have all this content to support them that’s not specific to our product,” she said. “We really want to make sure we’re promoting that Affordable customers need learning, we have all the content they need, not just on the product side.”