Rochester Housing Authority

The Rochester Housing Authority serves more than 26,000 low-income families through public housing, Section 8 and family self-sufficiency services. RHA’s Resident Commissioner identified that the Public Housing lease agreement was difficult to understand and asked Tipping Point to define a solution. The result, executed on a shoestring budget of $5,400, was an easy-to-understand instructional video that continues to be a major asset for the Public Housing team and has reduced lease violations by 25%.

Situation: The Rochester Housing Authority serves more than 26,000 low-income families through public housing, Section 8 and family self-sufficiency services. RHA’s Resident Commissioner identified that the Public Housing lease agreement was difficult to understand and asked Tipping Point to define a solution. The result, executed on a shoestring budget of $5,400, was an easy-to-understand instructional video that continues to be a major asset for the Public Housing team and has reduced lease violations by 25%.

Planning

Objectives: (1) Make lease-up meetings between Housing Specialists and new residents easier and more productive (2) Ensure residents with low-reading abilities can understand the lease agreement they are signing (3) Reduce quantity of lease-breaking incidents by better communicating the rules to new residents

Research: ProLiteracy.org states that 43% of adults with the lowest literacy levels live in poverty, with 36 million reading at a third-grade level or less. The Public Housing Lease was evaluated and found to have an approximate 10th-grade reading-level, which meant that the language was likely too advanced for those expected to agree to the rules outlined within it. Tipping Point also assessed the value in using video verses another medium. Scarborough Research data states that residents in Monroe County with a low HHI (below $35k) index high for heavy TV use (146), higher than any other media. 20% of RHA’s residents listed Spanish as a primary language.

From this, we determined an instructional video, produced in both English and Spanish would be the most effective tactic. It would walk through the lease agreement sections in order, so Housing Specialists (HS) could play, then pause to further explain as needed during Lease-up meetings.

Execution

We wanted the video to be less than 25 minutes and highlight just the most critical and frequently violated topics. To do this, we worked with the Director of Public Housing to reduce sections to 15 points. An official script was then created to be read with a teleprompter (see Lease Script). Language used was simple, informative and conversational. The Public Housing Director as well as three HS reviewed to ensure the language was appropriate.

Next, we went point-by-point to determine the best visuals for each topic. Like a flight safety video, it would be simple and straight-to-the-point (see Shot List). Filming took two days, one for the English/Spanish voiceovers, and the second for required visuals. Using volunteer residents and staff actors significantly reduced expenses.

Results/Evaluation

The videos were posted to RHA’s website in September 2018 to provided easy access for HS during Lease-up Meetings and enabled new residents to reference videos later if needed. Since then, the video has been used during 135 Lease-up meetings. In total, the video has been viewed 515 times. An added value of the videos was a reduction in translator needs for lease-up meetings, which significantly reduced meeting time and confusion (as self-reported by HS).

Feedback from the HS team was pulled to gauge the perceived value to-date, with extremely positive results. “It has helped the Housing Specialists tremendously. Not having to read the lease point-by-point during lease-ups and having the visuals to support us really makes a difference,” noted one HS. “Residents are taking notes during the video and asking really great questions after,” said another. “We’re all thrilled to have this asset to make things quicker and easier for both parties.” A non-invasive resident survey is currently being planned for year’s end.

In addition, we pulled baseline data on the Authority’s Public Housing lease violations from Sept. 2017 – Feb. 2018 (1,134) and compared to Sept. 2018 – Feb. 2019 (842), a 25% decrease over the six-month period (see Service Report).

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