Tennessee HAF Program Highlighted in the Treasury’s Article on Promising Practices

In mid-April, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released an article on its websitePromising Practices for HAF Programs. In the article, the Treasury focused on two topics—Helping Homeowners Determine Their Best Options and Strategic Outreach—and listed early promising practices the Treasury has witnessed among several states.

Helping Homeowners Determine Their Best Options

Under the first topic, the Treasury reiterates the importance of involving housing counseling services in Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) implementations. One of three state programs listed by the Treasury as a promising practice was the state of Tennessee. The state’s program, known as TNHAF, uses the state’s network of HUD-certified counselors for early intervention to review loss mitigation options with homeowners.

TNHAF has two objectives in their use of counselors. First, counselors educate homeowners about funding programs and loss mitigation options beyond the HAF program. Second, counselors prepare homeowners for the time when assistance ends. The HAF assistance is temporary in nature and therefore it is important to set homeowners up for success in the long run.

In the recent HAF webinar hosted by ProLink Solutions on April 20, Denise Hutchinson, Assistant Director of Mortgage Assistance and Compliance with Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA), gave an example of how they provided a homeowner with a sustainable, long-term solution, combining both HAF assistance and a loss mitigation solution presented by the homeowner’s servicer.

In addition, THDA has also deployed a homeowner education video and requires homeowners to watch it as part of their HAF application process. The video educates homeowners on loss mitigation options as well as regular and crisis budgeting. Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

Strategic Outreach

Under the topic of strategic outreach, the Treasury reiterates the importance of reaching low-income and socially disadvantaged homeowners in HAF implementations. TNHAF was again highlighted as one of three promising state programs. TNHAF program managers can monitor the impact of HAF dollars in real-time, using the executive dashboard built into ProLink+, a HAF deployment technology solution provided by ProLink Solutions. The access to real-time data and analytics enables THDA to assess the impact of the program particularly in high-need areas and to refine their HAF deployment strategy on an ongoing basis.

You can learn more about ProLink+ by clicking here.

 

Software Procurement Best Practices

Whether you like it or not, Request for Proposal (RFP) is likely an integral part of your software procurement process, particularly if you are with a larger organization or  government agency. Writing an RFP is a daunting task as you’re trying to incorporate all your organization’s procedural requirements while developing functional requirements across multiple teams that will benefit from the new software.

However, before diving right into the RFP itself, you might want to consider a couple of steps to help save time and effort down the road. We’re talking about the Planning Stage and Business Analysis Stage.

The end goal of the Planning Stage is for you, as business lead, to get a buy-in from the committee or the executives. Start with writing a plan that outlines what you are trying to achieve with the new software you are seeking; call it a value prop. If a project intake process exists in your organization, you will use the intake form to document your business case. You should describe how the new software would help your organization achieve its business goals. Include business and operational objectives, measurable outcomes, and estimated budget. Don’t forget to identify potential stakeholders, sponsors, and resources you will need to successfully implement the project. Keep it at a high level. Take advantage of sites such as Capterra.com or Softwareadvice.com to get a sense of products on the market and price points. Use your market research to sharpen your case.

The committee or executives should review and approve this plan before you move to the next stage, Business Analysis. In this stage, you’re diving deeper into discovery. Gather functional requirements from the impacted business lines and technical requirements from your organization’s IT group. Start working on your organizational readiness and change management strategy. Anticipate that many of your team members will undergo a cycle of emotional responses in reaction to changes in business processes due to the new software.

Once you take these steps, you will be in a much better shape to take on the actual RFP itself. Your software procurement journey will move faster, with less challenges.

If you would like more information about software procurement best practices, contact ProLink Solutions.

 

Workflow Management for Housing Finance Agencies

Let’s admit it; work can be stressful with the countless number of tasks piling up every day. For state Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) who have the mission to meet affordable housing needs of residents in their states, managing large portfolios of affordable housing assets with multiple funding programs can be overwhelming.

In today’s virtual workplaces, many cloud-based workflow solutions can help organizations increase productivity by automating many routine tasks. ProLinkHFA, ProLink Solutions’ enterprise platform that serves HFAs, has the workflow functionality to help agencies with workflow management.

Let’s consider one routine asset management task, which is collecting audited financials from each property in the agency’s asset management portfolio. Without a workflow tool, the agency would have to gather up a contact person for each property, create a template email, send an email to each contact, make sure they follow up before the deadline, send another email if they don’t hear back, and so forth. You get the drift.

With ProLinkHFA, the agency stores all relevant data in a central database such as contact information, number of days after the period end, frequency of data collection, and so forth. With all data stored, the agency can set up logic using the workflow functionality that says something to the effect, “for all properties in my portfolio that have the annual audited financials box checked, send an email notification to a person who has the property manager role with a message providing the date when the financials are due.”

Once you have the logic stored, a certain action gets triggered when a condition is met. Then the system fires up notifications. That is the power of a workflow tool.

You can learn more about ProLinkHFA by clicking here.

The Importance of Running a Pilot Program for Your State HAF Plan

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has begun approving plans for states and territories to use their shares of funding. States are  now opening their Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) programs now as a result of the Treasury approving state HAF plans. As of today, the Treasury has approved HAF plans for a total of 23 states. These states have gone live with their full programs; however, several states are still in the pilot phase and expected to go live soon. You can find a map showing the current progress of state HAF plans here on NCSHA’s website.

Tennessee recently went live with its full program on January 10 alongside a number of other states. The state was allocated with $168M in funding by the Treasury, and on June 9, 2021 Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) chose ProLink+ as the deployment platform. With the very first homeowner being funded on September 20, it took 103 days from contract signing to fund deployment. ProLink is also playing a leading role in HAF implementation for THDA, including coordination with service providers as well as assisting in homeowner education. If you are a homeowner living in Tennessee and in need of assistance, please visit the THDA website for more information.

When navigating through a pilot program, you’re able to address unanticipated issues and are better equipped to go live afterwards. Tennessee is one of the first states in the nation to have executed a pilot program. Going through a pilot helped THDA address a few challenges they faced, including mortgage servicer coordination and program outreach to the public. When asked what motivated them to move so quickly with their pilot program, Denise Hutchinson, Assistant Director of Mortgage Assistance and Compliance at THDA, said “We handled our other programs in-house, software included. This was going to be new for us, so we felt like we needed that pilot in order to work out the kinks. It has been extremely beneficial.”

Highlights from ProLink Technology Live 2021

This year, ProLink Solutions held an all-virtual conference, ProLink Technology Live 2021. The conference featured a number of guest speakers from all areas of the affordable housing industry and was split into two separate tracks, one for ProLinkHFA (multi-family) and one for ProLink+ (single-family). If you participated in the event, you can use this link to access the Attendee Hub for up to 90 days after the end of the event.

Keynote – Washington Update

We started the conference with a special keynote from Jennifer Schwartz,  the Director of Tax and Housing Advocacy at the National Council of State and Housing Agencies (NCSHA). Jennifer provided an update on Washington, and also touched up on a variety of topics including:

  • Using the Housing Credit to finance housing for extremely low-income households
  • Preserving housing credit properties
  • HUD programs and the Home Investments Partnership Program

8823 Compliance Panel

Kelly Encinias, the Customer Adoption Manager at ProLink, was joined by several speakers for a panel discussion on 8823 compliance and asked a number of questions, including:

  • Are there financial implications for agencies if a property fails to meet compliance?
  • What are some challenges that have been reported with maintaining compliance from property managers to HFAs?
  • Has compliance gotten more complicated over the years?

During this panel, Josh Brown, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at E&A Team, addressed various challenges that are inherent in compliance and affordable housing programs. “Generally, the nature of program compliance is that it continues to increase in complexity, and it’s constantly evolving. Programs will also compete and conflict with each other, adding to that complexity”.

ProLink+ What’s New and HAF Lessons Learned Panel

Bri Kreuter, the Executive Vice President at ProLink, was joined by several panelists to discuss the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) and lessons learned during the implementation of their HAF programs in Tennessee and Arkansas. Ro Arrington of Arkansas Development Finance Authority spoke passionately on the subject: “Let’s talk about people that are losing sleep at night because they are worried about losing their homes. And I’m fool enough to think that what we are doing here makes a big, big difference. And if we don’t have a sense of urgency, think about what one day, one week, and one month means for the people who we’re trying to get the money out.”

What to Expect from ProLink in the Coming Year

In 2022, ProLink plans to host a brand-new webinar series beginning in January. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest news from ProLink as well as news about the affordable housing industry.

Insight into the U.S. Treasury Update for Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) Allocation

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2021 and has been last updated on November 3, 2021 for accuracy.

Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced a new deadline for a Tribe, Tribally Designated Housing Entity (TDHE), or the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to submit a notice of funds request to be extended to November 15, 2021.

For state agencies, in August the Treasury announced a new deadline of August 20th by which they were required to submit the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) plan or notify the Treasury of the date they planned to submit a completed plan. The Treasury has provided an online portal where state agencies can upload their plans.

This notice is the latest of the series of HAF Plan submission deadline extensions the Treasury has allowed since June. In their late July announcement, the Treasury indicated that the deadline will be extended beyond July 31st but left it open-ended. With this latest update, state agencies are closing all loose ends on their HAF plans and preparing for the complete plan submissions. As noted by the Treasury, state agencies can choose not to submit the plan but notify the Treasury the date by which their plans will be submitted.

State agencies are busy analyzing available emergency fund deployment software solutions, and ancillary services from call service providers, loan processors, underwriters, and file audit and compliance processors. ProLink offers all services required for many states and we have been providing national webinars to apprise states of the software and services we can provide to assist in the administration of their HAF plans.

 

About the Homeowner Assistance Fund

The Homeowner Assistance Fund provides $9.961 billion in assistance nationally related to mortgages and housing, including:

  • A minimum of $50 million for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
  • $498 million for Tribes or Tribally designated housing entities and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
  • $30 million for the territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

You can read more about it on the U.S. Treasury website.

Loss Mitigation, a Hot Topic with the Treasury

Most states have submitted their Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) plans to the U.S. Treasury in August. As of the publication of this blog, various states are engaged in active dialogues with the Treasury regarding their HAF plans. A hot topic of the discussions is the issue of integrating HAF into loss mitigation options that are already in place.

In a recent webinar hosted by the Urban Institute, panelist Stockton Williams, Executive Director of the National Council of State Housing Finance Agencies (NCSHA) explains, “Homeowner Assistance Fund really shouldn’t be seen as a stand-alone thing. It’s really a part of a suite of tools that are going to be available.” Williams was referring to loss mitigation options that are already available to homeowners who have mortgages with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), or the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

William Corbett, Senior Advisor at the Treasury, concurs with Stockton’s view. William said, “You have much better and, in some cases, very streamlined federal loss mitigation options that are available to homeowners. That won’t work for every homeowner… There will be some homeowners who will be able to get success from that…and homeowners that might not be able to get success from that. That’s one area where housing counselors can assist.” You can find a recording of the webinar on the Urban Institute’s website here.

At the upcoming industry event, ProLink Technology Live 2021, ProLink Solutions is hosting a panel with industry experts to discuss the latest HAF implementation issues including loss mitigation. The event is free and is open to all public agencies.

All session and speaker information can be found in the registration site.

Check out the site and register today!

Announcing ProLink Technology Live 2021!

ProLink Solutions is opening our annual user conference to all public agencies nationwide this year. Join ProLink Technology Live 2021 on November 9 and 10. It’s a two-day virtual event with multiple tracks:

  • Track 1 – ProLinkHFA Multifamily is a 2-day track filled with software training as well as an 8823 Compliance panel made up of industry experts. Open to all public agencies.
  • Track 2 – ProLink+ HAF is a single day track (November 9) focused on Homeowner Assistance Fund implementation. Open to all public agencies.
  • Track 3 – ProLinkAIM is a single day track (November 10) and open only to ProLinkAIM users in the LIHTC syndication and investment space.

On November 9 at 11AM Eastern, we will kick off the conference with a special keynote speaker Jennifer Schwartz, Director of Tax and Housing Advocacy with the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA), to provide affordable housing industry updates from Washington!

All session and speaker information can be found in the registration site.

The event is free. Check out the site and register today!

Tackling the Digital Divide in Urban and Rural Colorado

Five percent of Colorado’s K-12 students lack access to affordable and reliable internet at home according to the study published by Colorado Futures Center (Access the full report here: https://www.coloradofuturescsu.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/colorado-remote-learning-impact-region-final.pdf). Housing Colorado, a non-profit organization in Colorado with a mission of promoting the preservation and production of quality affordable housing statewide, is hosting a webinar on September 21 to address the issue of the digital divide in urban and rural Colorado.

Ryan Kim, ProLink Solutions’ Director of Product Marketing, will be moderating the panel with two speakers, Jesse Burne with Denver Housing Authority and Josh Wehe with Jade Communications. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, many of us conduct our day-to-day business virtually and take our access to high-speed internet for granted. Imagine if you or your kids didn’t have access to internet. How would you effectively compete whether at work or at school?” says Ryan.

In the webinar, the panelists will share their success stories in filling the digital gap. Denver Housing Authority has run a program called ConnectHome Denver, which tackles the issue in the urban area by creating local partnerships encompassing government agencies and multiple Internet Service Providers (ISP). Jesse Burne, Strategic Initiatives Manager with the Housing Authority, will tell the story. Josh Wehe, Operations Director with Jade Communications, a smaller ISP in Southern Colorado, will provide a rural counterpart presentation. Jade Communications has assisted half a dozen school districts in low-income communities in the San Luis Valley region.

The webinar is scheduled for September 21 at 1 p.m. Mountain Time. Register here:
https://www.housingcolorado.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1548714&group=#

ProLink Integration Video Featured at NCSHA Annual Conference

ProLink Solutions is a proud sponsor of the National Council of State Agencies (NCSHA) annual conference for 2021. Our video will be featured during the “Implementing the Homeowner Assistance Fund” panel on Monday, September 27 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

This video showcases new ProLink+ integrations with both DocuSign and Amazon QuickSight. With DocuSign eSignature, homeowners can sign the Hardship Affidavit quickly and easily. Amazon QuickSight allows agencies to view real-time reporting on critical fund distribution metrics, such as “Percent of Funds Disbursed,” “Average Days in Stage,” “Number of Applications per Stage,” and “Total Amount Disbursed by County.”

We invite you to watch our video about these exciting integrations below:


Register for the conference today to learn more about how ProLink+ can assist homeowners in your state.