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|Graduate Degree: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Undergraduate Degree: Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Area of Interest: Housing Issues
Mentors: Amy Dain, Dain Research and Ellen Ward, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development
Agency: Cambridge Housing Authority
Supervisor: Kathleen Evans, Senior Program Manager for Policy and Technology
Project Description: During her Rappaport Summer Fellowship at the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA), Tara investigated rent payment alternatives and incentives for public housing residents’ to use mainstream financial services. CHA identified three goals for the project:
• Provide convenient rent payment options to residents, while supporting residents’ use of mainstream financial institutions.
• Identify cost effective solutions that save residents and CHA time and money.
• Streamline processes to harness technology better, including timely posting of rent.
Tara reviewed CHA’s current practices, researched alternative technologies, and spoke with other housing authorities to identify alternatives and potential pilot programs. These included designing a clearer ledger, changing reporting software that will save significant staff time, and considering policies to avoid unnecessary delinquency proceedings. She worked with staff to propose three pilot programs including incentivizing direct draw, creating an online rent payment system, and reducing paper statements. She also helped initiate a plan to host a financial education fair to improve residents’ financial literacy and to solicit feedback on CHA’s rent payment initiatives.