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PD&R@50: A Short History of PD&R

PD&R at 50
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PD&R@50: A Short History of PD&R

A conference room wall displaying official portraits.Photos of each assistant secretary of PD&R since its founding adorn PD&R's main conference room in its Washington, DC, headquarters.

In the inaugural article of this year-long series, Todd Richardson (at PD&R from 1991 to 1997 and 2000 to present), Jill Khadduri (at PD&R from 1973 to 2000), and Sahian Valladares (at PD&R from 2022 to present) reflect on PD&R’s first 50 years.

In 1973, then-HUD Secretary James Lynn combined the Office of Research and Technology and the staff of the Deputy Under Secretary for Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation, adding in duties held by the Economic Advisor to the Secretary, to create the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). Staff were also transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity, which the Nixon Administration had disbanded. PD&R also hired new staff. As implied by the staffs that were merged and the PD&R name, the purpose was to combine the research and policy functions to make research more relevant to policy and policy more grounded in empirical evidence.

A future column will delve into the history of PD&R’s predecessor research organizations. This article focuses on the years following the passage of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1970, which replaced the authorizations for those parent offices with a single new authorization. That language remains the authority under which PD&R currently operates, and it broadly defines the scope of PD&R’s responsibilities.

The accomplishments of the past 50 years outlined in this summary stem from the hundreds of dedicated PD&R staff members who, along with the office’s skilled leadership, have devoted their time and talents to helping HUD fulfill its public service mission.

On the eighth floor of HUD’s L’Enfant Plaza headquarters in Washington, DC, is PD&R’s main conference room, which is lined with the photos of each assistant secretary of PD&R since its founding. Each assistant secretary over the decades contributed significantly toward PD&R’s research, data collection, data analysis, and policymaking support efforts. These leaders are listed below, along with a description of some of their most noteworthy achievements.

  • [Harold B. Finger — Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, 1969–1972.] Although Harry Finger was not the first assistant secretary of PD&R, he served as the head of one of its precursors, the Office of Research and Technology, and was instrumental in implementing the merger of his office with that of Charles Orlebeke, the Deputy Under Secretary for Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation. During his tenure, Finger initiated the Operation Breakthrough demonstration and the Experimental Housing Allowance Program (EHAP). 

  • Michael H. Moskow — 1973–1975. Michael Moskow was the first Assistant Secretary of PD&R. Under his tenure, PD&R launched the Annual Housing Survey (now the American Housing Survey). He also directed the Housing Policy Review Force, leading to the landmark publication Housing in the Seventies; expanded EHAP; initiated the Public Housing Management Improvement Program and a neighborhood preservation demonstration; and tested computer technology for local government operations. PD&R’s research initiatives under Moskow’s tenure included research on fire safety, resistance to natural disasters, the prevention of lead-based paint poisoning; and energy efficiency measures for condominiums. EHAP was celebrated as the largest social experiment ever supported by the U.S. government.

  • Charles J. Orlebeke — 1975–1976. Under the leadership of Chuck Orlebeke, the emphasis of the research program continued to shift from housing technology to program evaluation and basic research related to HUD’s core responsibilities. The first housing discrimination study based on paired testing (audits) was launched. A study of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula led to the current dual formula. The first National Urban Policy Report produced by PD&R was released. A predecessor of the Picture of Subsidized Housing was started, based on HUD administrative data.

  • Donna E. Shalala — 1977–1980. Much of the research begun under previous assistant secretaries — most notably, the final reports for EHAP and first housing discrimination study — were published during Donna Shalala’s tenure. Under Shalala, PD&R created HUD User to disseminate the office’s research to the public, shifted its focus to emphasize public finance and hiring staff, evaluated the programs created by the 1974 Act, launched the Section 8 and CDBG programs, implemented the Residential Solar Demonstration Program, and supported the President’s National Urban Policy report of 1978.

  • E.S. Savas — 1981–1983. The Reagan Administration cut the budget for PD&R. Dollars for external research were sufficient only to keep the AHS and related surveys going. The AHS became biannual rather than annual and was renamed. Cuts in salaries and expenses led to a reduction in internal staff. PD&R staff were embedded in the Department’s budget and legislative processes. Under Savas’s direction, internal research focused on approaches to privatizing the public housing program. A proposal to change the Section 8 Existing Housing (certificate) program to make rent setting more like EHAP led to the Freestanding Voucher Demonstration.

  • June Q. Koch — 1984–1987. Congress mandated a major study of public housing capital needs. June Koch launched a series of Quality-of-Life demonstrations that included sales of public housing units to residents and a predecessor of the Family Self-Sufficiency program. She also promoted housing industry trade with the Soviet Union. The earliest Worst Case Needs reports were published, mandated by Congress and based on analysis of AHS data.

  • Kenneth L. Bierne — 1988–1989. The first capital needs study was published. PD&R provided staff support for the newly created Interagency Council on Homelessness and conducted the first effort to measure the extent of homelessness.

  • John C. Weicher — 1989–1993. In response to a need for greater program oversight, PD&R was reorganized under John Weicher to create the Program Monitoring and Program Evaluation divisions. That was supported by an expansion of budget and staffing that was part of the HUD Reform Act. Weicher also initiated the signature “Not In My Back Yard” research report, a product of the Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing, as well as research on the housing needs of Native Americans. PD&R assisted with the launch of programs created under the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, including the development of the HOME Investment Partnerships program funding formula. In addition, under Weicher, PD&R began publishing the Picture of Subsidized Households report series and dataset and the Fair Housing Act Design Manual. The Moving To Opportunity program was proposed.

  • Michael A. Stegman — 1993–1997. Under Michael Stegman, PD&R created the journal Cityscape and the Office of University Partnerships. PD&R also began the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing demonstration and evaluation. Stegman funded the Jobs Plus Demonstrations as a joint effort with philanthropy. He created a database on properties placed in service funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. PD&R developed new funding formulas for the Indian Housing Block Grant and CDBG-Disaster Recovery programs. PD&R developed and led President Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy.

  • Xavier Briggs, Acting — 1998. Xavier Briggs initiated the Effects of Housing Choice Vouchers on Welfare Families study, an evaluation of the Welfare to Work Voucher Program.

  • Susan M. Wachter — 1999–2001. Susan Wachter initiated the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing program, the Housing Discrimination Study of 2000, and the Interim Evaluation of the Moving To Opportunity demonstration.

  • Alberto F. Treviño — 2002–2003. During Treviño’s tenure, PD&R followed up on its “Not In My Back Yard” research begun under John Weicher with the report “Why Not In Our Community?” Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing.

  • Dennis C. Shea — 2004–2005. Dennis Shea initiated HUD’s partnership with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to aggregate USPS administrative data on vacancies. Shea also recognized and elevated problems with the CDBG formula.

  • Darlene F. Williams — 2005–2009. During Darlene Williams’ tenure, PD&R began the Family Options Study. The office also partnered with the National Academy of Sciences to explore ways to rebuild HUD’s research capacity.

  • Raphael Bostic — 2009–2012. After several years of limited research funding, funding for research increased dramatically under the leadership of Raphael Bostic. During Bostic’s tenure, PD&R initiated HUD’s 2012 national study of housing discrimination, including testing housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and launched several large new research demonstrations, including the Rent Reform Demonstration, National Family Self-Sufficiency Evaluation, Small Area Fair Market Rent Demonstration, First-Time Homebuyer Education and Counseling Demonstration, and Sustainable Construction in Indian Country initiative. PD&R also launched the monthly Housing Scorecard as well as the publications Evidence Matters and PD&R Edge. In addition, PD&R began developing HUD’s enterprise geographic information system.

  • Erika Poethig, Acting — 2013. As Acting Assistant Secretary, Erika Poethig initiated the Research Partnership and Data License programs; created the Research Roadmap, which has become the Learning Agenda; led technical assistance efforts for the department; and designed, led, and supported the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities.

  • Katherine M. O’Regan — 2014–2017. Katherine O’Regan developed the Small Area Fair Market Rents final rule. During O’Regan’s tenure, PD&R initiated data-matching opportunities for researchers using HUD administrative data on tenants, data from several HUD demonstration programs, and data derived from partnerships with the U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies managing national health surveys. She also initiated the Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing Demonstration and plans for Moving To Work expansion research.

  • Vacant — 2018. 

  • Seth D. Appleton — Assistant Secretary, 2019–2020. Seth Appleton oversaw PD&R’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020, including the development of many novel funding formulas. PD&R was also a major contributor to the Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall. PD&R staffed the President’s White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. He also jointly served as President of the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA).

  • Vacant — 2021. 

President Biden has nominated Solomon J. Greene, who has been serving as PD&R’s principal deputy assistant secretary since mid-2022, to be PD&R’s next assistant secretary. Earlier in his career, Greene worked in PD&R under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act agreement in the then Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation, and we’re glad to have him back! See Greene’s Leadership Message in this issue of PD&R Edge to learn more about his commitment to evidence-based policymaking and his take on how innovation and evidence can impact people and communities. 

Throughout 2023, PD&R Edge will feature articles on policy areas over the past 50 years in which PD&R has had a particularly significant impact. Some examples include PD&R’s work with the Office of Public and Indian Housing to develop, revise, and implement the Housing Choice Voucher program; the office’s long history of advancing research on industrialized construction and promoting it to the private sector; and much more.


Published Date: 7 February 2023

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.