Top 8 Features to Look for a Housing Assistance App

At Kinetech, our journey in supporting State and Local agencies has been both extensive and rewarding. Kinetech and our clients have successfully aided the intake of over 500,000 applications and facilitated the distribution of more than $1.5 billion in aid. This experience has not only honed our expertise but also provided us with invaluable insights. Drawing from this wealth of knowledge, we present the top 8 features we believe are essential in any Housing Assistance App. Before you commit to a new solution, we recommend evaluating these key aspects and functions.

 #1: User-Friendly Interface for Applicants and Staff

For Applicants: The intake process must prioritize a mobile-first approach, providing an intuitive user experience that is easily navigable, even for first-time users, ideally with no training. 

Additionally, the app should facilitate the use of the built-in camera on users' mobile devices, simplifying tasks like document uploads. Compliance with ADA and WCAG standards is also crucial, ensuring the app is accessible and user-friendly for a diverse range of users.

For Staff: While staff members can receive training, an intuitive design is equally important for them. An application that is straightforward and simple to learn not only enhances efficiency but also reduces the time and resources spent on training.

#2: Flexible Application Process with Save and Resume Functionality

Any application that you consider should allow a user to start and stop their application as needed. We learned early on when our applications required a user to start and complete their application in one sitting that applicants often did not have their documents handy and were unable to finish in one session. Therefore, they needed a way to save their progress and resume once they were able to find their documentation. This dramatically improves completion rate.

#3: Efficient Document Management During Review

The process of document submission is a critical step in the application process. Applicants often need to provide additional documentation, such as income verification or proof of residency, as requested by a case manager. Documents should be able to be submitted securely and be automatically attached to their application. Any system that requires documents by email or other less secure method is likely a bad choice.

 #4: Comprehensive Audit and History Logs

In the complex workflow of processing applications, any app in this space needs to feature robust audit and history logs. These logs play a critical role in ensuring that each person involved in the process, from initial review to final approval, has a clear understanding of the application's history. Key actions should be recorded such as the submission date, any communications with applicants, edits to the application, and notes from case managers. This not only facilitates a transparent and efficient process but also aids in maintaining continuity and accountability across different stages of application handling.

#5: Reporting

Most agencies have required annual or quarterly reporting for their grant, state, city, or other stakeholders involved. They may also be asked to provide ad-hoc reports from their congressmen, governors, or mayors. If your team includes an Excel expert, you might have them do all of your reporting. However, for most agencies, your Excel wizard has another full-time job and you only want to go to them when absolutely necessary. Your housing application should help you achieve this by automating your routine reporting and allowing easy access to your data for those non-routine reports. It should also be limited to certain users to prevent the unauthorized exporting of sensitive PII.

#6: Self-Serve Status Updates and Notifications

People applying for assistance are often in a time of crisis. If they are not able to self-serve on status updates, they’ll call in which utilizes valuable time from case managers. This is especially important if you don’t have dedicated call center resources. An application should have a meaningful status that can be viewed by the applicant. Further, applicants should be notified as their application progresses via email or by text.

#7: Efficient Payment and Financial Management

Payments to creditors are a vital component of any housing assistance app. Often, these payments are managed through a separate system that isn't directly connected to the main app. This setup demands strong teamwork between the case management team and the payment processing team. Your app must facilitate this collaboration, making it as smooth and effortless as possible. Additionally, there should be an easy way to reconcile data between the case management system and the payment system.

#8: Rapid Deployment Capability

Time is of the essence when new funding is allocated. The ability to quickly set up and operate an application is crucial, as waiting 6 to 12 months for deployment is often not feasible. This urgency holds true even for Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) software, which can take upwards of 6 months to fully deploy. It's important to address deployment timelines early in your selection process, ensuring that the solution you choose can be operational promptly. This rapid deployment is essential to meet funding distribution deadlines and to provide timely assistance to the communities you serve. During the early days of COVID-19, our team demonstrated remarkable agility and innovation by successfully deploying an application in just 12 days. Read that full story, here.

The Choice is Yours

Navigating the complexities of housing assistance demands a solution that prioritizes efficiency, speed, transparency, and user-friendliness. At Kinetech, we specialize in crafting such solutions, leveraging our extensive experience to deliver transformative applications. If you're seeking a robust housing assistance app tailored to your agency's needs, get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can support you in achieving your goals.

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