Envolve LLC is a vertically integrated multifamily real estate company engaged in third-party management, ownership, and redevelopment. Its diverse portfolio of more than 33,000 units consists of affordable, tax credit, conventional, layered and HOME communities. Envolve’s family of companies includes Envolve Communities, its investment division based in Montgomery, Envolve Client Services Group, its property management services division based in Memphis, and Ross-Envolve, its property management services division for the Rocky Mountain region based in Denver. Through a culture of innovation, collaboration, and initiative, Envolve effectively lives out its tagline of “Making Communities Better Together” each day.
Applying Modern Technology to Compliance
Affordable housing properties can often be more complicated to operate than market rate properties. Each unit requires qualified residents vetted by restrictive eligibility reviews, and are often chosen from a long waiting list of interested households. Envolve has a vast number of affordable housing properties and units under management, which calls for a streamlined system to make the numerous compliance processes more manageable. By adopting new technology, Envolve sought to make its compliance workflows faster, less likely to see data errors, more efficient in filling units with qualified residents and reducing days vacant.
RENTCafé Affordable Housing
Streamline the way households sign up for waiting lists, qualify for your properties and communicate with your staff. RENTCafé Affordable Housing replaces handwritten notes, physical file storage and lengthy applicant interviews with a private user experience.
Due to its properties being spread across the country, Envolve must ensure its compliance data gets to the right team members in a timely manner. This information would typically be acquired through extensive, in-person intake interviews with applicants at Envolve offices. Staff would spend time going through a packet of forms to ensure that the applicant had included everything necessary to determine eligibility.
Applicant packets would then be sent to Envolve’s centralized compliance teams of housing specialists. After receiving the paperwork, staff would conduct a deep-dive review into the household under consideration. Affordable housing programs require housing providers to certify income, assets and other demographic details about every applicant. Housing specialists cannot make an accurate, defensible determination without all required information. If any information was flagged as missing from a review, the housing specialists would have to contact the applicant or community manager to fill in the gaps.
Envolve expressed that timeliness and removing the potential for human error were of utmost importance. While the Yardi Voyager Affordable Housing platform offered reminders of overdue tasks and calendars with upcoming deadlines, Envolve wanted more enhanced schedule-keeping measures. These wish-list items were met—and exceeded—when Envolve implemented RENTCafé Affordable Housing.
“RENTCafé keeps compliance on track by making everyone aware of deadlines and offering the right tools to complete all remaining tasks,” said Jennifer van Arcken, Director of Business Applications for Envolve Communities.
Making Things Easier for Applicants and Residents
Residents of affordable housing properties expect their community managers to leverage technology, just like renters in every vertical of the real estate industry. Envolve has embraced technology, and has made things much more convenient for their applicants and residents. For example, with RENTCafé Affordable Housing, Envolve residents receive online notices of when it’s time to recertify eligibility. They can use their personal computer or mobile device to log in, upload compliance data and submit interim and annual certifications without going into an office.
“RENTCafé helps ensure we send up-to-date forms to our residents with workflows that collect all required information. It’s as simple as logging in using an app on a phone or computer for current and prospective residents to start the process. We can send those forms out in all major languages using the built-in translation feature, which greatly reduces calls for our bilingual staff to translate conversations,” said van Arcken.
Optimizing Staff Resources
Automating compliance enables Envolve staff to perform higher value tasks. Community managers see fewer interruptions dealing with incomplete applications. All RENTCafé applications submitted for approval are vetted for completeness by automated data checks. Correcting incomplete applications early on also benefits Envolve staff.
“It’s a shift of legwork. Instead of tracking down information that applicants forgot to submit, our compliance teams can spend more time doing advanced compliance work, such as auditing files and monitoring changing program guidelines. That creates a lot more value for Envolve but allows us to maintain our existing structure,” said van Arcken.
Boosting Property Management Services
A portion of Envolve’s operating structure is managing properties owned by their clients. Envolve’s Client Services Group (CSG) oversees accounting, maintenance and affordable housing compliance requirements for thousands of units. Van Arcken expects Envolve Communities’ first-hand experience with RENTCafé Affordable Housing will put CSG in a prime position to take on new clients.
“Being an early adopter of RENTCafé, as well as a long-time Yardi Voyager user, is a feather in our cap. Our history with advanced technology has proven successful when providing property management services, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect it will put us in a prime position to attract new properties,” says van Arcken.
With the addition of Yardi RightSource to the Yardi Affordable Housing Suite, affordable housing providers have the option to outsource certain compliance tasks such as forms management and file audits. “Our team is great at compliance, but we want to take advantage of available technology to make our services even better. We are glad that RENTCafé is integrated with RightSource to standardize and build more automation into the process, particularly forms management and audits. Therefore, our team can be even more efficient and able to take on new projects that will help our organization perform and grow,” said van Arcken.