Whether you’re a for-profit or non-profit housing organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has created operational difficulties. Even leaving aside the problem of closures during lockdowns, running your organization in the context of safety concerns and new legal requirements is no walk in the park. But the need to adapt to these conditions also presents opportunities for improving your day-to-day housing co-op or property management operations beyond the pandemic.
As an organization that is also the living environment for members and depends on the well-being and strength of their members, housing organizations have faced exceptional difficulties in continuing their day-to-day operations during the pandemic. New digital technologies present innovative opportunities for solving these problems. But these solutions aren’t just quick fixes. Rather, they present the possibility of addressing longer term concerns about sustainability and efficiency.
Prior to the pandemic, we completed a unique project that included a website redesign and the creation of a custom intranet and app for Marigold Housing Co-op. While these fixes were intended to help Marigold update their existing website and address member concerns about security and efficiency prior to the pandemic, our solutions have also helped them manage their day-to-day operations over the past year.
Online Visibility with a Modern Website
Websites are increasingly important for property management and housing co-ops. Not only do they allow you to show off the benefits of being a part of your community, but they help you to stand out from other property managers or housing co-ops in your area. They are also easily accessible to people considering a move from outside your city that might not have otherwise heard about you.
A modern website is a place where your organization can really shine. Share the benefits of your community, along with high quality images of housing and the neighborhood. This gives site visitors who can’t currently visit, whether due to COVID or distance, an idea of what makes it a great place to live.
The best option for both cost and growth is to create a WordPress site. This will handle public information, private gated content and application submissions with ease. For Marigold, we built a public-facing website that also has a private community intranet, and integrates with a custom administrative app to manage applications and operations.
A Safe Alternative to Facebook Groups: Secure Information and Communications Through a Private Intranet
In addition to a public-facing site we recommend creating a private community intranet. A private intranet allows communities to maintain a more secure, centralized, and private space for members and their data. A common way that housing co-ops try to do this is through using social media, like Facebook Groups, to connect with other members online. The issue is that there are privacy concerns related to member information and communications. Having a place for reading Committee meeting minutes and submitting requests and complaints that would be kept private and secure within the co-op is ideal. This is not information you want a social media platform to have access to or control.
We securely migrate all existing data to a custom intranet to make admin processes more efficient. It’s imperative that an intranet and its tools be accessible for people with all levels of technological comfort. For Marigold, we designed it to have a prominent events calendar that would show any upcoming social activities or meetings, a side navigation menu, most recent notices, and large eye-catching buttons. Additionally, we added a “Make a Request” section where forms are created in the intranet to process any type of co-op request. This ensures that the correct individuals receive requests directly, eliminating the need for a middle person co-ordinating the requests, but with the ability to provide oversight as needed.
Certainly, not all of these features will be accessible for everyone – not everyone in a housing organization has computers, smartphones, access to internet, or technological know-how. But providing this can improve the co-op or property management experience for many members. Moreover, even in the context of co-ops needing to run hybrid meetings that involve both online attendance and in-person socially distanced members, having an intranet that maintains your data privacy is imperative.
Going Paperless: Automating and Digitizing Operations
Many housing organizations that operate on physical paper copies and manual processes are trying to move towards modernized and zero-waste operations. This includes going paperless for their everyday operations to avoid waste in terms of physical applications, record archives, management for organizing committees, meeting notes, and managing maintenance requests and staff.
While many housing co-operatives are looking to move to a paperless system out of a concern for sustainability and efficiency, the pandemic has highlighted other operational benefits. First, there is an increased feeling of safety due toa reduction in the need for physical visits to the Co-op office to drop off paper applications. Second, the automation of maintenance requests via the community intranet allows members to put in maintenance requests digitally, simplifying the process. Staff can then easily assign these tasks digitally via the administrative application. As a result, the members tasked with processing these requests can do so from the comforts of their own home, without having to physically go into the management office to check for them.
Using Zoho Creator, a low code web application builder, we created an incredibly robust and efficient experience that covers everything a housing organization needs to manage member and unit information (including assets), as well as track work orders, hours, and staff. This includes webform and PDF submissions for documents like membership applications. In addition to avoiding waste, these paperless solutions save the members running the day-to-day operations hours of labour in terms of time spent on emails and filing, records management and maintenance logs, organizing meetings, and sending member-wide communications and updates.
Automating and Digitizing your Housing Organization with RFDM
If the strength of a co-op or housing organization depends on its members, providing members with the best tools to run their operations is imperative. We provided Marigold with a solution that was completely custom to their needs. While there are upfront costs associated with these types of solutions, in the long-term these solutions provide a great savings in terms of money and member time, while also providing a more efficient, secure, and safe operation.
For more information on automating and digitizing your housing co-op’s operations, contact us for a free consultation.
Learn more about Marigold Housing Co-op’s website and custom intranet solution here.