A new, comprehensive guide to the Client Management Systems (CMSs) approved by HUD has just been released by Housing Action Illinois, a statewide coalition of 150 organizations working to protect and expand affordable housing, in partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS).
The resource guide, which is available for free online, assesses the 17 different publicly available CMSs approved by HUD for use by housing counseling agencies. Agencies rely on CMSs to manage their work with clients and track their outcomes as they help households seeking to make informed home purchase or rental decisions, repair credit, and budget for the future. Figuring out which system is best for an agency can be difficult, especially since there has been no side-by-side comparison of the CMSs until now.
“This guide is a first of its kind,” says Sharon Legenza, Executive Director of Housing Action Illinois. “Trying to compare these complicated systems can be daunting to a housing counseling organization, especially since many don’t have an IT department to help evaluate a new system. It’s important for agencies to have access to a breakdown of what the different systems offer, which can help them make the best decision for their own organization.”
Barbara Waymire, head of C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation in Effingham, was glad to find that the guide narrowed her search. “Being a small agency with limited IT resources, I especially like the ‘Best Suited For’ comparison,” she shares. “It allowed me to review just those suited to our needs. Product cost comparison was made easy with this format.”
Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, is proud to have supported the development of the guide. “It’s an invaluable tool for housing counseling agencies trying to figure out what system is best for them,” she says. The creation of the guide was made possible through a National Foreclosure Settlement Award made by the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
“Even just the research conducted to identify the 17 CMSs that have been updated to meet HUD’s reporting standards is invaluable,” states Derek Adkisson, Director of Finance and Operations at South Suburban Housing Center in Homewood, Illinois. After going through the available CMSs to identify those that are both publicly available and HUD-approved, Housing Action Illinois and NHS conducted interviews and product demonstrations with each of the CMS developers to assess the systems and create an overview of each. This helps users learn at a glance which CMSs might not be well suited for their programming, and which they might want to investigate further.
The guide is available in its entirety online, and Housing Action Illinois will be hosting a webinar on July 20 to help agencies understand and use the resource, as well as conducting one-on-one training with interested agencies.