DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: IMPROVE SECTION 8 CUSTOMER SERVICE

10-C
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT:
IMPROVE SECTION 8 CUSTOMER SERVICE
Problem Identification:
Section 8 has low credibility with program applicants and participants, rental property owners, and the broader Baltimore community. Telephones are routinely not answered, voice-mail messages often cannot be left because staff mailboxes are full, and calls are not returned promptly, if at all. Documents are routinely lost, and routine program activities are not completed in a timely fashion.

Recommended Actions:
Improve Section 8 customer service by establishing specific customer service goals, extending customer service hours and developing informational materials for participants and owners. Specific steps should include:- Auditing telephone response in key areas (waiting list, housing counselors, inspections, owner checks, general administration), collect baseline data, and develop plan for improving response time and adequacy of information provided;- Establishing service goals, and monitor timely conduct of initial and follow-up inspections, monthly HAP payments, annual re-certifications, and Section 8 Housing Quality Standards (HQS) compliance/ abatement activities;

– Pro-rating initial HAP payments to allow unit leasing throughout month;

– Extending customer service hours consistent with employee schedules;

– Providing indoor waiting area for participants, and a secure process for accepting participant documents, between 8:00 and 9:00 AM;

– Developing informational materials for participants and owners on new program requirements. Priorities in this area include:

1. Merger of certificate and voucher programs (effective 10/01/00).
2. Revised procedures for lead-based paint (effective 9/15/00).
3. Mobility options under the Section 8 program.

– Expanding Section 8 coverage on HABC website to include basic program information, contact names and telephone numbers.

Classification:
Organizational, Service Improvement

Function/Operational Area:
HABC/Section 8

Estimated Annual Impact:
Cannot be Estimated

Estimated Implementation Costs:
$10,000 – $12,000 for customer service training and associated printing costs.

Barriers to Implementation:
None

Projected Implementation:
180 days – 1 year

Next Steps:
Issue request for proposals (RFP) for customer service training. Appoint a staff task force to participate in development of evaluation criteria and selection of trainer. Develop effective procedures for receipt of hand-carried leasing documents between 8:00 and 9:00 AM.

Analysis:
This recommendation is based on widespread community concerns about low levels of service and responsiveness within the Section 8 division, as expressed to, and by, project team members and on the March 2000 findings of HUD’s review team.