FOUR HOUSING AGENCIES SELECTED FOR ELITE PROGRAM
TO IMPROVE FEDERAL RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS Columbus, Ga.; Fairfax, Va.; Holyoke, Mass.; and Reno, Nev. gain distinct status
WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today that public housing agencies in Columbus, Ga.; Fairfax, Va.; Holyoke, Mass.; and Reno, Nev. have been selected to participate in HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) program. HUD selected these housing agencies for this innovative program that Congress authorized in 1996 through a competitive process. The MTW program is designed to provide local housing authorities with added flexibility to create and test innovative strategies to use Federal funding more efficiently to assist families either living in public housing or who are assisted through HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Congress authorized four additional designations in 2011 and 2010.
HUD’s MTW program has given selected housing agencies the opportunity to create and study original, locally-developed housing and self-sufficiency strategies that encourage public housing or HCV families to become self-sufficient. The housing agencies selected today will join 35 others across the U.S. that have flexibility to use their Federal funds to help families “move to work” by providing incentives such as job training and educational programs that lead to employment and, ultimately, self-sufficiency. The agencies were selected from among a dozen that applied for MTW designation earlier this year.
“These housing agencies are already forging community partnerships and exploring new and exciting ways to more effectively utilize HUD’s rental assistance programs,” said Donovan. “The agencies will join the other MTW agencies across the country in the mission to empower low-income families to achieve self-sufficiency.”
Ultimately, the program aims to make HUD’s largest rental assistance programs more cost effective, while providing families with children more housing choices and incentives to move toward economic self-sufficiency.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to sustaining homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.govand espanol.hud.gov.
Moving to Work (MTW) Competition Selectees
Housing Authority of Columbus, Georgia
The Housing Authority of Columbus Georgia (HACG) administers public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers in west Georgia. Its proximity to Fort Benning and other military installations have sparked HACG’s desire to better serve the affordable housing needs of military families and homeless members of the community, in addition to the current populations that it serves.
HACG has a long history of collaboration with local and national entities. HACG plans to leverage these partnerships in order to create a successful and inclusive MTW program. Under its new MTW status, HACG will conduct a mobility study that will seek to test whether introducing voucher families to better neighborhoods improves outcomes and whether voucher families given the option to move to better neighborhoods will do so. HACG also proposed a controlled rent reform study that will set rents at a lower percentage of income for newly employed residents and then modestly raise this percentage each year, regardless of changes in income. This model will encourage residents to save more and take away disincentives to increase earnings.
Fairfax (Va.) County Redevelopment and Housing Authority
The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) has a vision to reinvent the way it does business through its MTW status by connecting individuals and families to the services they need to overcome barriers to success.
Specifically, FCRHA seeks to create a housing continuum which allows individuals and families to move from homelessness, to subsidized housing, to moderately-priced living, and finally away from housing assistance. The continuum will meet the resident where they are and provide a clear path and motivation to move forward. In addition, the model will provide shallower subsidy as residents move towards self-sufficiency, therefore allowing more individuals to be served with the same limited resources. The controlled rent reform study will be a key piece of the housing continuum, as the alternate rent setting structure will allow FCRHA to gradually move residents from high levels of assistance and access to services to greater levels of independence.
In addition, FCRHA proposes to conduct a detailed evaluation of the MTW block grant. The evaluation will quantify how savings are achieved through streamlining initiatives and then point those savings to fill gaps in the MTW program. The evaluation will quantify the extent to which fungibility will allow FCRHA to more effectively administer programs. FCRHA has established partnerships with George Mason University to evaluate both the rent reform and block grant evaluations.
Holyoke (Mass.) Housing Authority
Despite the small size of the Holyoke Housing Authority’s (HHA) inventory of public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers, the agency has shown innovation in both development and energy efficiencies, demonstrating that it is well situated to be an MTW agency. Key elements of HHA’s MTW program include: increasing the number of HHA residents who are working or actively engaged in educational/job training; implementing incentives for resident economic self-sufficiency; increasing high school graduation rates and improving educational attainment; reducing homelessness; supporting sustainable development and community-wide neighborhood revitalization efforts; streamlining and reducing the cost of HHA operations; and leveraging non-HUD resources to respond to the housing and related service needs of Holyoke’s low-income households.
HHA commits to a controlled rent reform study to analyze its Career Advancement Program (CAP). This program pairs access to job training with the ability to disregard portions of earned income as participants establish their careers. HHA also commits to conduct a detailed evaluation of the block grant that will design a method to quantify effects and savings of the MTW program. HHA has engaged a team from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) to evaluate both studies. HHA believes that this partnership will benefit the agency, the university and the industry, as it will ensure that a statistically viable study design is established at the outset of the activities. The UMass team will also work with HHA in measuring other aspects of its MTW program.
Housing Authority of the City of Reno (Nevada)
The Housing Authority of the City of Reno (RHA) has received numerous commendations from the San Francisco HUD Field Office for its programs, including the 2008 PHA of the Year Award; a Special Achievement Award for performance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the 2011 Low Rent Public Housing Program of the Year Award.
RHA proposes to conduct a controlled study on mobility. RHA’s region has suffered large numbers of foreclosures. In this unfortunate situation is an opportunity for RHA to purchase homes in neighborhoods of opportunity at a very low cost. RHA will seek to acquire these properties to house families under HUD’s project-based vouchers program. RHA will also couple these desirable properties with self-sufficiency requirements to improve resident outcomes. RHA also plans to conduct a rent reform study that will compare a graduated rent model to a set rent program. These two treatment groups will then be compared to residents paying traditional rents. This ambitious controlled study has the potential to offer insight on how different rent models work within one community. RHA has established a partnership with the University of Nevada at Reno’s Center for Regional Studies to design evaluation criteria for these studies and the MTW program as a whole.