DCI has hired Senior Project Manager Michael McNeill to lead temporary relocation services under the firm’s Right of Way department. Project owners can now consider this new service when relocating building occupants during renovation, particularly those living in aging affordable housing structures. DCI’s new services will include cost estimating, scheduling, project management, tenant communications, compliance, budget tracking, and advisory services.
Over the last eight years, Mike and DCI’s Associate Principal Roxanne Grimm have seen an uptick of housing authority groups in Portland, San Francisco and Seattle seeking a variety of temporary relocation services ranging from explaining federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant application requirements to handling logistics of relocating tenants (and their belongings) per specific regulations. Temporary relocation is a vast subject matter about formalities, and many affordable housing project sponsors and property management professionals do not fully understand what needs to be done officially. So Mike and Roxanne became quick-studies about the topic, while also educating others on when clients might need this type of advisory service.
How temp relocation protects funding for affordable housing
Mike’s insight into federal agency contracts, constitutions, and grant money allocation can guide project sponsors on how to comply to federal guidelines and oversight audits. He can help clients understand: grant writing requirements; due diligence practices when renovating affordable housing with government funds; renovation budget paperwork; tenant displacement regulations; and what property situations trigger official relocation. The formality is necessary when dealing with grant money for affordable housing.
“HUD and their oversight representatives are very particular about how taxpayer money is distributed and spent,” Mike said. “Otherwise, they can lose their funding. I’ve been hired in many situations when the HUD representative relied on my services to walk through the paperwork process with the project sponsor so they could maintain their program funds.”
Federal money going toward building renovations can start as a simple window replacement project, he said. But the project scope broadens because of new mandatory municipal seismic upgrade codes, especially applicable to unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings. A kitchen renovation with new linoleum can lead to a larger project because the renovation permit also instigates building upgrades for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.
“The name of the game is that you have to successfully complete the project,” Roxanne said. “When you are a project sponsor, you have an obligation to protect the taxpayer funds – it’s a big responsibility. If your past project was unsuccessful, you don’t have the ability to go after another grant. Grant agencies don’t want to work with project groups who can’t use their money wisely.”
It’s no wonder why directors of affordable housing agencies, non-profit organizations, and property managers encourage their staff to visit every vendor at public agency conferences, such as the ones sponsored by local chapters of the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA). You never know what new services are available now in the A/E/C industries, they both said.
“Temporary relocation is a very specialized field and there aren’t many contractors who are just readily available,” she added. “It’s a very specific role to fill when you need someone on a project.”
In many cases, temporary relocation is brought into a project as an afterthought and very little grant money is left to complete the services. Temporary relocation expenses are considered part of the total construction/renovation budget, Mike said. Luckily, he is familiar with this situation and is still able to provide basic consulting services or training with a limited budget. His mission now is to educate as many agencies, non-profit representatives, and property managers as he can about the common “unknowns” of affordable housing renovation projects.
“A lot of these guys haven’t dealt with a renovation like this before, so they may not know what they need in the first place,” he said. “They may not know that displacing tenants makes them eligible for fair and equitable compensation – which undergoes HUD compliance as well.”
Mike has seen too many affordable housing agencies and groups unprepared for renovation projects. It’s for this reason he and Roxanne added temporary relocation services to DCI’s repertoire of services, especially in the western United States where seismic events are more common and older buildings either need upgrading or to be torn down.
“What I like to say is: ‘Let’s make sure you do this project right so you have another opportunity to acquire a grant for another project,” Roxanne said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
About the Author
Rose Bechtold, Communications Specialist | Rose comes from a journalism and technical writing background. She is in her element while in research mode and naturally immerses herself in expert knowledge by interviewing staff members about new subjects. In her spare time, Rose practices plein-air sketching of buildings and random scenes around town.