In April we completed a laundry list of smaller items: continued to develop the helpline, gave feedback the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Section 8, reordered the website sign-up flow, upgraded the core website server (discussed at length in this edition), and set up monitors for key policy pages.
The helpline received its first over-the-phone payment in April, and every indication is that the service is both valued and helpful. Attorneys play a critical role and are needed at the state-average rate of over $200/hr for court cases. And now with the helpline, we are able to offer business advice and legal information, with referrals to attorneys for legal advice, for just $90/hr. Members who are interested in receiving unlimited phone support (in 45-minute daily blocks) can sign up online at the member home page. Anyone, including the general public, can contact us to schedule a helpline session at the hourly rate.
On April 6, HUD attended the City of Worcester’s Health and Housing Block Party on the Hill. MassLandlords volunteers operated a free window screen repair booth, and staff gave talks on landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities. Thanks to Jim Brooks, Director of Housing Development and Healthy Homes for the City, I was invited to be one of about 30 speakers at a private listening session with HUD’s Matt Ammon. I spoke about the need to make Section 8 lease-up times as fast as market lease-up times. Ammon said of Worcester’s event, paraphrasing, “I attend a lot of these neighborhood revitalization celebrations, this is the best such event I’ve ever been to.”
Last month we also reordered our sign-up flow. We now ask new members to consider four of our long list of services, including basic membership, the helpline, print newsletter subscription, and property right supporter donations. This new sign-up flow is performing at least as well as the old. (Statistically speaking, it may be performing the same, but it looks and feels a lot more professional.)
Finally, we have expanded our monitoring of various key public notice pages, including bills at the statehouse and at various municipal hearings. If you are interested in reviewing email notices of page changes and alerting staff to scheduled hearings, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “grassroots watch.”
In May we hope to make one more change to our website sign-up flow: asking for zip code to present the one most relevant chapter, instead of presenting a long list of perhaps obscurely named choices. After this improvement, we will return to the service provider directory and expand on this to build out the first level certification for MassLandlords members.
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