If you’re a high-achieving housing agency looking to continuously improve your operations, getting accredited with the Affordable Housing Accreditation Board (AHAB) is a great next step. AHAB, an independent organization, has been accrediting affordable housing providers nationwide since 2018 based on eight standards developed by the housing industry. To help you learn more about the benefits of accreditation, along with the process, HAI Group’s Staci Canny sat down with Jeff Weslow, assistant director of AHAB, to get a closer look.
Staci Canny: Jeff, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. How does AHAB accreditation work, and who is it for?
Jeff Weslow: My pleasure. It’s for any housing organization with a vested interest in putting in the work to meet high-quality standards. They must be willing to communicate, collaborate, and self-evaluate to fill in the gaps where they have shortcomings. And above all, they want to make a difference in their community. AHAB developed a screening process to save people time at the outset, whereby the housing organization completes a short readiness survey to determine whether they’re eligible for accreditation. If they are, they’re directed to complete an application. Our staff reviews the application, conducts a site visit, and the board ultimately determines whether the organization will receive accreditation.
SC: What happens at the site visit?
JW: On the site visit, our staff will meet with the agency’s leadership team to discuss their application, get any remaining questions answered, attend a board meeting, and speak with residents.
SC: How long does the process take?
JW: We break down the accreditation process into five steps: 1) determine whether you’re eligible, 2) register, 3) complete and submit application, 4) AHAB staff conducts review process, 5) AHAB board determines whether your organization gets accredited. From application to board consideration and determination, the entire process averages between 75 to 120 days, with most agencies needing about a month to initially gather materials to submit their application.
SC: What happens if an agency doesn’t pass? Do they get another shot?
JW: Before an agency even submits their application, they should have a good idea of whether they will get accredited based on their readiness survey score and simply from talking to our staff as they review our standards. Plus, an agency is given ample opportunity to provide documentation to the reviewers, answer questions, or clarify outstanding concerns during the entire process. If an agency does not get accredited after all of this, they have an opportunity to submit an action plan to address measures identified by AHAB’s board during their review.
SC: Now, knowing that agencies are already required to be evaluated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS), what makes AHAB’s evaluation process different?
JW: HUD’s PHAS regulations focus on four areas: governance, financial management, compliance, and operational performance. AHAB evaluates agencies against these same four standards and then goes even further with four additional standards: executive leadership team, community engagement and improvement, quality of life for residents, and customer service. When you consider these eight standards, it paints a comprehensive, holistic view of the agency’s performance.
SC: Sounds great. What would you say to agencies hesitant about the application process when they’re already stretched thin with time and resources?
JW: I totally understand because it is a voluntary process after all. But what I would ask is whether doing just enough is adequate. The environment in which affordable housing exists today is much more competitive, between high demands from stakeholders and a far-too-often lack of respect from the public. This process has you bringing together business partners, regulators, residents, and community members, which helps your operation become more effective, more communicative, and a more integral part of the community. And, when you can get a well-rounded view of your organization’s successes and areas in need of improvement, the intel that’s awaiting is too invaluable to pass by.
SC: That makes sense. From all of the organizations you’ve worked with, what have you found to be the most common roadblock when going through this process?
JW: Most organizations already have policies and procedures in place, and some may even exceed our criteria. However, we’ve found there can be a lack of documentation with written-out, up-to-date practices. Employees may be performing all necessary duties, but if they’re not recorded somewhere that’s easily accessible for the accreditation application, it can cause significant delays.
SC: Thank you, Jeff. All great information to share. Where can our readers go to learn more about AHAB?
JW: No problem. I recommend downloading and reviewing AHAB’s eight standards or taking our readiness survey, which is a self-assessment tool designed to help you evaluate whether your organization is ready to apply for accreditation. And of course, you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-253-4006.
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