By Glenn Stevens, NCHM President
The numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they don't reveal the entire truth either. Based solely on the number of attendees, the National Center for Housing Management is best known for its Certified Occupancy Specialist (COS) and Tax Credit Specialist (TCS) programs. Without question, those programs are essential to staying in compliance with federal occupancy requirements and thereby keeping revenue flowing. We are very proud of these programs and the impact that they have. But when we ask alumni who have taken multiple courses from us which ones have had the most impact on their careers, they overwhelmingly cite our Certified Manager of Maintenance (CMM), Certified Manager of Housing (CMH), and Certified Manager of Senior Housing (CMSH) classes.
Management companies and housing authorities routinely choose COS and TCS for corporate "specials" or private trainings. NCHM senior instructor James Waller, who teaches CMM and CMH, finds it baffling that more organizations don't also opt for a CMM, CMH, or CMSH class.
"COS is obviously important," says Waller, "but it addresses just one function. If properties get into financial or operational trouble, it is almost always due to a failure in the basic property management functions -- the stuff we teach in CMH, CMM, and CMSH, not COS."
Lately we have noticed an uptick in property management companies and PHAs booking CMM/CMH/CMSH specials, so perhaps the tide is turning. Cheryl Wickerson, director of housing services for United Church Homes, ran a CMM special for her staff in 2015. “Managers and maintenance staff got a lot out of it,” she said. Asked if she could describe the class in a one sentence she said, "it was about working smarter."
Indeed, our property management courses focus on management decision making, a function that has a tremendous impact on the financial and operational viability of a property. CMH, CMSH, and CMM are considered NCHM’s “performance” classes, as opposed to COS and TCS, which are considered “compliance” classes. Performance classes are designed to teach managers and maintenance staff how to, well, perform. That is, how to make good decisions that are not necessarily found in a handbook.
“If you don’t have management staff who are good decision makers, your property will go downhill. It’s inevitable,” says Waller. “The cost to correct the problem will be a hundred if not a thousand times higher than the cost to ensure you have competent staff in the first place,” says Waller.