Save My Spot

By on Mar 8, 2017 in Technology


Elaine Archer

Fairness and transparency are essential to every decision a public housing agency makes to determine which households receive housing assistance. Waiting lists, though often loathed by potential residents, are an important piece of keeping that process transparent.

PHAs follow complicated rules set by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to maintain waiting lists, which includes information like household income, veteran status, age, disabilities, and more. Depending on regional circumstances, it could be years before an applicant will be considered for housing assistance. PHAs typically open waiting lists to applicants for relatively short windows, since they could quickly become unmanageable if left open in perpetuity.

To make waiting lists more manageable, PHAs periodically correspond with households to confirm their interest in remaining on the waiting lists for public housing or voucher assistance. Without routine maintenance, waiting lists would be perpetually clogged with households that have had a change in status, which may affect their eligibility, or are no longer interested in that particular waiting list.

As important as waiting list maintenance is, it is also costly. PHAs have historically spent significant time and money on staffing, forms, and postage to keep waiting lists updated.

Yardi PHA clients can now take advantage of a cost-cutting solution. It’s called Save My Spot, and it is a new standard feature of RentCafe PHA. Yardi is the only PHA software provider offering a modernized waitlist management solution, bringing relief to a longstanding industry issue.

A RentCafe PHA Primer

RentCafe PHA gives public housing and voucher applicants, residents and participants, and landlords online access to communicate with their local PHA, without having to visit the agency’s office.

Households can sign up for a waiting list, submit applications, complete eligibility forms, upload documentation and more, all from a personal computer or mobile device. Once a public housing applicant becomes a resident, they can use their RENTCafé login to pay rent, request maintenance, schedule inspections and more.

Save My Spot waitlist management is the newest feature of RentCafe PHA. It provides waitlisted households online access to confirm their status or remove themselves from lists for which they have become ineligible. These easy, online transactions can eliminate the need for PHAs to mail forms and record applicant responses.

Gabrielle Van Horn, PHA client services manager for Yardi, shares her experience. “Clients are really excited about Save My Spot. As part of the RentCafe PHA web application, Save My Spot makes it possible to communicate with everyone on the waiting list with just a few clicks. It’s an innovative way for PHAs to save costs on printing, postage and staff hours,” says Van Horn.

The Product in Action

Among the first public housing agencies to implement Save My Spot is the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO). Located on California’s Central Coast, San Luis Obispo is situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is a charming, mid-sized community with a vibrant downtown, great weather and a state college. With a rental housing vacancy rate of under 2 percent, finding affordable housing can be a challenge for residents. A recent article in the Affordable Housing News profiled HASLO’s work, as well as what makes its mission equally vital and challenging.

HASLO was an early adopter of RentCafe PHA, and went live with Save My Spot in December 2016. The agency’s staff says they have already seen positive results and quantifiable cost savings.

HASLO Director of Housing Management Elaine Archer lists the two key functions Save My Spot has served thus far: getting more households to create a RENTCafé PHA login and clearly identifying which waiting lists applicants prefer to be placed on. Just over a month into implementation, HASLO has had more than 15 percent of its waiting list applicants create an online account and save their spot on preferred waiting lists.

“It was so encouraging to see applicants take the personal responsibility to choose to be only on waiting lists for properties that meet their needs. That alone makes waiting lists more efficient because we won’t have to work with households who are categorically ineligible for or uninterested in living at specific properties. That efficiency reduces the wait for qualified households and makes it possible for us to open waitlists more often to add new names,” says Archer.

Time Saving Functionality

Save My Spot includes the option to print bar codes on correspondence with applicants, which HASLO found to be a significant time saver. “Save My Spot is still new for us, and we haven’t gone totally digital yet. But, we did take advantage of bar code printing capabilities when we recently sent letters to households on the waitlist. When those letters come back, we scanned the bar codes and quickly updated their status. That alone saved us several days of work compared with manually updating the list,” says Archer.

Archer says that HASLO will reduce the number of forms it mails thanks to Save My Spot. “One big advantage is that applicants can easily state their preference for electronic communication. That means the number of forms we’ll need to send out in the future will continue to shrink over time without us having to do a lot of administrative work. It also makes us more responsive to clients’ preference for paperless communication.”

HASLO’s waiting list may be small compared with larger PHAs (less than 2,000 names), but the savings are already significant. “I expect we’ll save six to eight staff hours every time we update names on a waiting list, and those numbers will grow in the future,” says Archer.

Contact Yardi sales at 800-866-1144 for more information about RentCafe PHA, or go online to