Enhancing Communication with Residents: Best Practices for Housing Organizations

Effective communication is the foundation for establishing strong relationships between housing organizations and their residents. By implementing robust communication strategies, both parties can collaborate to foster an environment built on understanding, inclusivity, and transparency.


The ramifications of poor communication are significant, according to HAI Group Risk Control and Consulting Manager Mary Ciccaglione.


"When messages lack clarity or fail to reach residents, they may miss essential information concerning their living arrangements, leaving them feeling frustrated and isolated," she said. "Insufficient communication places additional burdens on housing management personnel, who must invest time in clarifying messages and potentially reissuing communications."


Key strategies for improving communication with residents


1. Deliver clear and accessible messaging


Ensure critical information such as policy changes, maintenance schedules, and upcoming meetings is readily available and easily comprehended. Ciccaglione recommends distributing notices and announcements in multiple languages to promote inclusivity and accessibility.


Simplify communication using plain language that your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it.


"Begin messages by stating their purpose upfront to capture residents' attention and avoid misunderstandings," Ciccaglione said.


She also recommends limiting sentences to 15-20 words, organizing paragraphs into 3-5 sentences, and incorporating headings and bullet points for clarity.


"Opt for the active voice whenever possible, enhancing readability and conciseness," Ciccaglione said. 



Passive Voice

The responsibility for the scheduling of the kitchen remodels will be done by the Property Management Department.

17 words

Active Voice (Recommended)

The Property Management Department is responsible for scheduling kitchen remodels.

10 words



Take a crash course on plain language by watching the recording of our 2023 Risk Management Conference session with Dr. Deborah Bosley, founder and principal of The Plain Language Group.


Enhance comprehension, particularly for residents with varying literacy levels, by supplementing messages with visuals and infographics. Visual information is processed faster and more easily retained, Ciccaglione noted.


2. Maintain consistency 


Ciccaglione said it's critical to build trust by consistently delivering timely communications.

"Avoid last-minute updates and ensure residents receive information well before deadlines or changes," she said.

Leverage a variety of platforms such as social media, websites, resident portals, SMS, and email newsletters to disseminate information efficiently. Evaluate past communication strategies to identify effective approaches for your organization.

3. Demonstrate empathy and transparency

Acknowledge resident concerns and emotions, particularly during challenging situations.


"By adopting a compassionate tone and avoiding condescending language, you're more likely to foster positive relationships with residents," Ciccaglione remarked.


Build trust by providing honest and transparent communication, even when delivering unfavorable news.

Residents value sincerity and appreciate open dialogue regarding changes affecting their living arrangements.


"Engage in meaningful conversations, ask open-ended questions, and paraphrase to ensure mutual understanding," she said.


Respond to resident inquiries and concerns in a timely and professional manner. Avoid ignoring messages and demonstrate a commitment to resolving issues promptly. Ciccaglione recommends providing frontline staff regular training to help manage difficult conversations and situations.


"Empower your staff to address resident concerns professionally and provide support as needed," she said.


4. Listen, follow up, and act


Create platforms for residents to voice their concerns, share insights, and engage in constructive dialogue. Encourage open communication channels between residents and management to promote transparency and inclusivity.


"Solicit feedback from residents to gain insights and identify areas for improvement," Ciccaglione said. "Proactively addressing concerns helps prevent escalation and fosters a culture of continuous improvement."


Take appropriate action in response to resident concerns or complaints. Investigate issues thoroughly and implement corrective measures to address residents' needs and enhance their living experience.


Bottom line:


Clear and transparent communication is essential for fostering community, promoting understanding, and facilitating problem-solving within housing organizations. It's crucial to ensure that communication is clear to residents and employees, minimizing the risk of misinterpretation and fostering consistency in policy application. Housing organizations can cultivate positive relationships and enhance the resident experience by prioritizing effective communication strategies.


This article is for general information only. HAI Group makes no representation or warranty about the accuracy or applicability of this information for any particular use or circumstance. Your use of this information is at your own discretion and risk. HAI Group and any author or contributor identified herein assume no responsibility for your use of this information. You should consult with your attorney or subject matter advisor before adopting any risk management strategy or policy. 

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