Rental Access Network

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					                                                Georgia Department of Community Affairs/Georgia Housing and Finance Authority
                                                                                              Initiative: Rental Access Network
                                                                              Category #14: Communications Innovative Media
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                                         Rental Access Network
                                      (www.rentalaccessnetwork.org)

One of the key barriers to an individual’s success in locating affordable rental housing is a lack of
information as to the location of quality, affordable rental units. This issue is of particular concern for
individuals with disabilities who often require units with accessibility features to accommodate their
physical needs. Through research we determined that prospective renters with disabilities faced extreme
difficulty in identifying units meeting their physical needs within their community.

There was a clear disconnect between a person with disabilities needing an apartment and the properties
with the accessible units. This disconnect posed a significant barrier to meeting the affordable housing
needs of individuals with disabilities. The Rental Access Network (RAN) was created to bridge this gap.

RAN provides an easy, convenient and inexpensive way to link prospective renters who have a disability
to quality, affordable, and accessible State funded units in their community. The added benefit of RAN is
that even persons without a disability, but who are low to-moderate income renters, can also utilize RAN
to find affordable units.

Currently, more than 50,142 total affordable units are identified in RAN, making it an attractive resource
for all prospective renters to locate housing, regardless of their ability. RAN’s popularity has been
increasing since it was launched, receiving over 1,000 hits on some weeks.

When searching for available properties, prospective renters can search by city, county, and zip code; or
by the type of accessibility feature sought; or even if the community targets only seniors. Individuals with
disabilities have the opportunity to specialize their search for appropriate rental units. Individuals can then
call to make appointment or just send an email directly from the RAN site. They can even get directions
to the property by utilizing the direct link made available to MapQuest.com.

Property managers love it too! RAN is an excellent marketing tool for managers to identify prospective
tenants from a population pool that has a lower turnover rate than the general tenant population as a
whole. As one property developer stated, “RAN is a strong advocate for affordable housing and we
constantly refer clients to the website. We are planning a link to the RAN website from our homepage
because of the business the system has generated. Renting requires a personal touch and RAN puts clients
directly in touch with our communities. It is a wonderful resource.”

The popularity of RAN continues to grow, as more and more families realize the great tool that is
available to them. Not only is RAN easy to use, it also helps take the guess work out of whether the
apartment chosen will be well maintained or not. Since the properties listed in RAN are funded through
the HOME and Tax Credit programs, the properties are monitored by our Compliance staff to ensure
adherence to quality control standards. Properties must be maintained in good condition for a period of at
least 15 years - an added benefit to prospective renters that even market rate apartment renters can not
expect.

In addition, RAN is having a definite impact with advocacy groups. As stated by Mr. Johnson, the
Advocacy Coordinator with a large rehabilitation center in the state, “A working database, which also
includes an important accessibility component, is significant. In addition, the future opportunities for
agency collaboration and resource sharing are promising.”

RAN currently includes information on 2,244 accessible units at 490 properties located in 118 of the
State’s 159 counties. One of the secrets to RAN’s success is that the Agency continually seeks creative


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                                              Georgia Department of Community Affairs/Georgia Housing and Finance Authority
                                                                                            Initiative: Rental Access Network
                                                                            Category #14: Communications Innovative Media
                                                                                                                            -

ways to encourage property registration. This year we altered the Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) to
include a threshold item that required a development’s registration on RAN. With this change in the QAP,
the overall registrations of properties listed on RAN increased from 294 to 490, and the number of units
more than tripled.

In addition, we maintain an on-going marketing effort to ensure that the properties in the database stay
current. Our Compliance staff markets the system to representatives at each of our funded developments
during on-site visits and we continue to solicit participation through regular contact with the property
management firms.

To reach our target audience, staff regularly markets RAN through various presentations to city and
county government officials, at workshops and events targeting individuals with disabilities or those
entities that provide support to the target population, as well as at regional and statewide housing
conferences. RAN is also linked to many different web sites including, but not limited to the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans Administration, the Statewide Independent
Living Council, Shepherd Spinal Center, local entitlement communities and housing authorities, and the
Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.

RAN also has been linked to search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft Network Search.
Linking to an internet search engine has proven to be very effective for RAN. Our research indicates that
47% of visitors located the RAN web site through an internet search engine, 24% located RAN from our
agency’s home page, 13% through other government agencies, 4% through support service agencies, and
12 % from word of mouth.

Costs to manage RAN are minimal. We use in-kind staff support to develop and manage this initiative.
Following the successful system roll-out, one computer support staff member and one program staff
person each focus approximately 25% of their time to maintain the system, respond to inquiries and
perform marketing related outreach.

Beyond the personnel costs incurred over the past year, printing of brochures has been the most
significant cost outlay – totaling approximately $6,000 since inception. We created two different
brochures to describe the features of the system – one targeted to “Renters” and the second to “Property
Managers.”

Overall, RAN has been a significant step forward to making affordable and accessible housing available
to low and moderate income residents with disabilities. RAN helps to eliminate the communication
barrier that prevented access by those most in need to an important and critical housing resource in their
community.

Though RAN was initially created to assist persons with a disability find accessible units, it has far
exceeded its purpose. RAN has grown into a special tool that helps bridge the gap to finding decent
affordable housing within the state and provides a much needed service to a segment of the population
who has traditionally been underserved. RAN also helps us to identify which areas are currently
underserved and where we need to focus future marketing efforts. With the development and continued
oversight of RAN, individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and low to moderate income households can
better find access to quality, affordable, and accessible housing throughout our state.




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