The mission of the Lakeland Housing Authority (LHA) is to provide quality affordable housing and self-sufficiency opportunities in Lakeland and Polk County, Florida. To accomplish that mission, LHA oversees Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, affordable housing ownership, rental programs and support service programming for residents.
Outdated PHA Processes
In the face of crippling budget cuts, housing authorities must rely on innovation, resourcefulness and technology to generate new streams of revenue and cut operating costs. Carlos Pizarro serves as Vice President of Housing at LHA. Pizarro leveraged decades of private sector experience to transform LHA’s fiscal outlook into a model of success for other PHAs. “Public housing and Section 8 must change. The private sector and the public sector must work together to create something new. I don’t see the government able to support Section 8 and public housing forever,” says Pizarro.
RENTCafé PHA is an innovative online portal for households to apply for housing without paper forms. Once applicants become residents, they can continue to use RENTCafé PHA to interact with the housing authority. Electronic applications reduce the costs, clutter and risk of storing physical files. Applicants can log in from anywhere, anytime to update their application or review its status, minimizing phone calls to the housing agency.
Creating Savings with Technology
RENTCafé PHA offers multiple ways for public housing agencies to cut costs. Applicants use RENTCafé PHA to submit their information online without an in-person interview with staff. Updating waiting lists is less costly with RENTCafé PHA because transactions are done online and via email – there is no need to print letters, stuff envelopes or pay for postage. Online payments between residents and landlords are also more efficient than paper-based methods. Residents can log in to pay rent, submit maintenance requests and more. Landlords can update the status of available units and download compliance forms without having to contact the PHA office.
“RENTCafé PHA allows us to do much more with less overhead. Our Section 8 department is already paperless. The resident portal is helping a lot with that process. RENTCafé PHA is going to allow us to process the applications and certifications faster, and also give the users a smoother experience,” says Pizarro.
RENTCafé PHA can also help housing agencies reduce exposure to fair housing claims. Applicants accessing RENTCafé PHA are always presented with a fair and consistent process. Because agency housing specialists are not involved with the process, there is no chance for the perception of coaching, which can factor into fair housing claims.