Recently we had the opportunity to interview Anna Dolmatch, Housing Planner in the Community Development Department for the City of Cambridge, a city of about 105,000 people.
Briefly tell us about you and how you use HomeKeeper to quantify the impact of your department.
I’ve worked here for about eight years and I oversee the home ownership program, which has more than 500 permanently affordable home ownership units. We wanted to do a better job managing the information and get a better understanding of how our programs were working HomeKeeper allows us to better manage all of our information. It has eliminated multiple spreadsheets and we no longer have to search through paper files for information. HomeKeeper has also simplified management of our waiting list.
You can customize HomeKeeper to your needs–which is whole another topic–but it supports our unique process. Our program has some unique features and HomeKeeper handles them.
How has HomeKeeper has impacted your operation?
Questions from city council meetings
When we receive data inquiries from the City Council or other entities, we can gather data much more readily. We had the information before, but it was really time consuming to find the answers. When we used to track things in multiple spreadsheets, we would have most of the information but it always seemed to lack one piece, which meant we had to go back through all the paper files for one piece of data.
Managing our wait list
Once we started really looking at what HomeKeeper could do, we realized we could manage our wait list. We have people coming in and out of the wait list, we have people viewing units and rejecting units. We have people in all these different stages of the process, and we were using spreadsheets and paper to record and track these changes. It was inefficient. In our case, as properties turn over, we have to determine who’s eligible for the properties, based on their income and household size. So each property has a unique list of potential buyers. I used to have to put together these lists on a separate spreadsheet and now HomeKeeper manages the list for each property as it becomes available. We can generate a new list in minutes, versus half an hour before HomeKeeper. Our process has to be transparent and now the eligibility lists are clearer and easier to review. We have 200 people on the waiting list and using HomeKeeper has had a big affect on my job and our department.
We just did a big data project for to look at how people come into our program. Were they coming from public housing? Were they coming from the market? Were they coming from other affordable housing programs? We did a big report on that and it really helped us understand who our buyers are based on real data, not a small anecdotal sample.
Connecting to a community
HomeKeeper brings together people from across the country in community webinars that lets me connect with and learn from other practitioners facing the same challenges. It’s been wonderful, because you can become a little isolated just working on a small team in a municipality. Now we have ready access to a much larger group of colleagues managing affordable housing programs. It’s been nice to compare notes and get different perspectives from others in this community.
Would you say it’s easy to use and learn?
It’s an intuitive program that is easy to start using. We had evaluated other software options–because we are a municipal function we went through formal procurement process–and HomeKeeper was by far the most “common sense” to pick up and quickly use. You can customize HomeKeeper to your needs–which is whole another topic–but it supports our unique process. Our program has some unique features and HomeKeeper handles them.
Would you recommend HomeKeeper to others? Absolutely
Thank you very much for your time. We really enjoy working with you.