Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) residents no longer need to mail or drop off their monthly rent payments thanks to the arrival of the new BMHA online portal, a web-based service available via smartphones and home computers. The online service portal will streamline the rent payment for both residents and authority staff.
“We have been using an old-fashioned cashier system, with our residents mailing or dropping off their payments, and our clerks physically handling and processing more than 3,800 checks and money orders every month,” BMHA Executive Director Gillian D. Brown said. “With the easy-to-use portal, a majority of the residents will be able to make their payments digitally, and our finance department staff will be able to focus on more complex tasks.”
Residents can make electronic payments using their checking accounts or debit cards.
The new portal also enables residents to submit work orders online, rather than calling the authority’s maintenance office or going to their development’s management office to make repair requests.
“In our 2021-22 fiscal year, we completed nearly 22,000 work orders. Clearly, there will be major efficiency gains for our staff by having them come in through the portal. Our residents will also be able to check on the status of their requests and view their work order history via the portal,” Brown said.
A press release noted the authority-wide portal launch followed months of fine-tuning through a pilot program that included residents from both family and senior developments.
BMHA MIS Director Susan Lynch-Kane said, “A main focus of the BMHA is to implement technologies that enhance service to our residents. Our goal was to offer a service that was easy and convenient to use for all our residents allowing for maximum participation. The process is broken down to four easy steps for initial registration, payments, and work orders.”
Kane and other BMHA staffers are holding portal training sessions throughout BMHA developments this week to get residents registered and comfortable using the new system. Future training events will be scheduled after the initial rollout period.
Leonard Williams, a former tenant commissioner and a long-time resident of Kenfield Homes, participated in the portal pilot program.
“I think this will make paying the rent a lot easier for all BMHA residents, especially our seniors. It’s a simple and secure process to use and it reduces resident costs for stamps to mail a check,” Williams said. “As a former resident commissioner, I also appreciate how it will give BMHA staff time to do more important things than sort thousands of checks and money orders every month.”
The BMHA anticipates offering “paperless rent invoices” via the portal when residents gain experience with the online payment system.
Brown said, “At the current metered postage rate of 55 cents, we spend over $25,000 a year to mail out monthly rent invoices, plus additional postage costs associated with late notices. By moving a large percentage of our residents to paperless billing, those costs, and the labor involved in preparing those mailings would be significantly reduced.”
Another future portal function will be rent recertification, an annual requirement where residents provide the BMHA with their income information.
Residents without personal computers or smartphones can now make rent payments using any of the 13 BHMA self-service kiosks. The Dynatouch kiosks, which were purchased using a nearly $500,000 grant from the federal CARES Act, are already linked to a menu of BMHA services, and more than 70 local, state and federal financial, social and human services agencies.
Located at nine BMHA sites and four community centers in every part of the city, BMHA residents and non-residents can use the kiosks to:
√ File state and federal tax returns;
√ Purchase NFTA bus and rail passes;
√ Submit disability and veteran benefits claims, and Social Security forms;
√ Pay City of Buffalo parking tickets; and
√ Sign up for job training programs or apply for student loans.