Skip to main content

Expanding Housing Choices for HUD-Assisted Families


Posted Date: March 30, 1996

Publication Icon


The five sites have all made substantial progress in implementing the MTO demonstration. Although the initial start-up process took more time in some cities than originally anticipated, all five of the MTO non-profits are now successfully placing families in low-poverty neighborhoods. Exhibit 4 summarizes preliminary data on MTO placement rates and non-profit costs for the five demonstration sites.

MTO non-profits are consistently achieving placement rates that are as high or significantly higher than the 25 percent average success rates typical of the Gautreaux demonstration. Preliminary data suggest that providing intensive counseling and search assistance to public and assisted housing families costs between $1,300 and $1,700 for every family assigned to the MTO experimental group. But because not all of these families are successful in finding housing in low-poverty neighborhoods, the cost per household moving to a low-poverty neighborhood is higher, averaging between $2,100 and $2,900. However, the cost data presented here should be regarded as preliminary and subject to revision. At the time these data were collected, only two of the five sites (Baltimore and Boston) had reached a "stable" point in their operations. As a result, expenditure patterns may be dominated by one-time start-up and enrollment costs, including program design, family enrollment, and initial landlord outreach activities.

More reliable and comparable cost data will be available when all five sites have completed their MTO placements. The remainder of this section provides more information on each site's progress (Appendix B summarizes key data for all five sites).


The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) administers the Baltimore MTO demonstration in cooperation with the Community Assistance Network (CAN), a Baltimore County non-profit. HABC currently administers 18,000 public housing units and more than 6,400 certificates and vouchers in its regular Section 8 program. CAN is a private, non-profit community action agency with over 30 years of experience providing assistance to low-income people, including day care, housing counseling, weatherization, and self-sufficiency counseling. With HABC's approval, CAN's offices for MTO are housed in the same building as HABC's Section 8 offices.

Five census tracts, with an average poverty rate of over 67 percent, were targeted for Baltimore's MTO program. These five tracts contained a total of eight public housing projects (four low-rise and four high-rise family projects), which were home to a total of 3,807 households. Residents had an average household income of only $6,880, and 46 percent received public assistance. Virtually all of the project residents were African-American (99.6 percent), and 84 percent were female-headed.

As soon as the Baltimore MTO demonstration began operation, the HABC conducted an outreach effort by notifying resident associations and public housing managers of the targeted developments, as well as sending 2,300 letters to potentially eligible families. At the same time, CAN began landlord outreach. CAN and HABC also initiated efforts to coordinate with the six other PHAs operating in the suburban counties of the metropolitan area, in anticipation of serving families who would consider moving outside the city.

CAN's staff provides intensive counseling for roughly 30 to 40 experimental group families per month. In the first 60 days after assignment to the experimental group, before housing search is initiated, Baltimore MTO families must attend seven training workshops. In addition, housing counselors spend considerable time providing individual assistance to each family. For example, CAN counselors average over 10 housing search trips per family, although MTO requires only three. CAN drives small groups of MTO families to outlying communities in a van, so that they can see areas where they might consider moving. Families who have leased-up in low-poverty communities participate in orientation classes for new MTO participants, and tell them about their experiences with the program.

Opposition from community organizations and elected officials in one portion of the Baltimore suburbs delayed the early implementation of MTO in Baltimore. Efforts to allay community concerns required extensive outreach, and resulted in decisions to intensify CAN's screening and counseling services and to ensure that MTO does not create new clusters of poor families.

HABC began to process applications for assignment to CAN in October 1994. By the end of February 1996, 222 families had been randomly assigned to the MTO experimental group and, with CAN's assistance, 98 of these families had found and rented apartments in low-poverty areas throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. About half of the MTO families moved to low-poverty neighborhoods within the City of Baltimore, with the remainder locating in the surrounding suburbs, including Howard, Ann Arundel, and Harford Counties. The MTO lease-up rate in Baltimore is roughly 60 percent, dramatically higher then the 25 percent lease-up rate experienced in Gautreaux, and relatively close to the lease-up rate of 71 percent for comparison group families. CAN's average operating cost is $1,665 per family served, or $2,844 per family leased up.

Back to Top


The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) administer the Boston MTO program. The BHA operates over 14,000 units of public housing and administers 6,300 certificates and vouchers in its regular Section 8 program, with approximately 800 in use outside the city of Boston. MBHP is a regional organization which provides housing counseling, search assistance, and landlord outreach for the MTO experimental group families. MBHP has extensive housing program experience, including the Housing Opportunity Pilot Program and a family self-sufficiency program. MBHP also administers almost 3,000 Section 8 certificates and vouchers for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 34 cities and towns in the Boston area.

Seven Boston census tracts containing eight public and assisted housing projects were targeted for the MTO demonstration. These tracts had an average poverty rate of nearly 50 percent (49.2), and the targeted projects served a total of 2,578 households with an average income of $10,230. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of project residents received public assistance. Half the project residents (51 percent) were white, including Hispanics, and 45 percent were African American.

MTO outreach efforts in Boston began in April 1994, with an informational meeting for managers of the targeted housing developments. After a series of family outreach meetings in late June and early July of 1994, BHA received more than a thousand valid applications, and random assignment began in October.

MBHP's role includes providing MTO families with counseling and information to help them find housing in low-poverty areas. The "resource room" MBHP operates for MTO and other families in its programs contains information on schools, jobs, transportation, and services in city and suburban communities throughout the Boston region. MTO families come to the resource room to learn about unfamiliar communities, identify available housing units, and place calls to landlords. MBHP also shows units to families and works directly with landlords to facilitate placements.

MTO lease-ups in Boston began in December 1994, so some families have already lived in their new units for more than a year. A total of 450 families have enrolled in the Boston MTO demonstration; 225 have been assigned to the experimental group, and 99 families have leased apartments in low-poverty areas with MTO assistance. The lease-up rate for experimental group families is 55 percent, while 73 percent of comparison group families have leased up. MBHP's average cost per family assigned is $1,569; the cost per family leased up is $2,816.

Back to Top


The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities administer the Chicago MTO demonstration. CHA is a very large housing authority, administering more than 16,400 Section 8 certificates and vouchers in addition to over 40,000 units of conventional public housing. Due to severe and protracted management problems, HUD took over management of the CHA in the spring of 1995, and the Section 8 program has since been privatized. The private contractor, the Quadel Consulting Corporation, assumed responsibility for the administration of the CHA's tenant-based rental assistance program in December 1995 and now provides all necessary support for the MTO demonstration.

The Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities provides counseling, search assistance, and referrals for MTO experimental group families in Chicago. Although the Leadership Council also administers the Gautreaux program, MTO's main precursor, the two programs are separately staffed and administered. The Leadership Council's primary mission is helping families find affordable housing in low-poverty neighborhoods inside and outside the city, so that they can become self-sufficient members of the community.

The four Chicago census tracts targeted for MTO had an average poverty rate of 67 percent and contained six public and assisted housing developments, which housed a total of 2,197 households. The average income among residents of the six targeted projects was $7,114, and over 75 percent of residents received some form of public assistance. Virtually all of these households were African American (99.4) and 70 percent were female-headed.

CHA began its initial MTO implementation steps in September 1994. CHA conducted informational meetings with tenant councils and mailed out nearly 3,000 applications to potentially eligible families. CHA also held two follow-up meetings for interested families. Progress was delayed by CHA's management problems, by HUD's takeover of the housing authority, and by the privatization of the Section 8 program, including the need for new staff to be identified and begin correcting CHA's former management problems. Since privatization of Chicago's Section 8 program, MTO is regaining momentum.

A total of 351 families have entered the demonstration program in Chicago, and 175 have been assigned to the MTO experimental group. Because of delays and problems with the operation of the Chicago Housing Authority only 18 MTO families have been leased-up to date, although more rapid progress is now being achieved.

Back to Top


The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) operates the MTO demonstration in cooperation with the Fair Housing Congress of Southern California (FHC) and Beyond Shelter. HACLA administers over 41,000 Section 8 certificates and vouchers, 10,000 of which are special disaster certificates issued after the Northridge earthquake. HACLA operates 21 developments with over 8,700 units of conventional public housing.

The Fair Housing Congress is responsible for conducting landlord outreach and housing searches, preparing families to move, educating families about low-poverty neighborhoods, and providing relocation assistance to help place families into appropriate housing. Beyond Shelter, a non-profit agency which provides housing and supportive services to homeless and at-risk families, is responsible for providing comprehensive social services to help families stabilize in the new communities after they move. Services provided by Beyond Shelter include: budgeting education, family counseling, crisis intervention, liaison with schools, provision of furnishings and household items, and referrals to child care and job training. In short, FHC helps MTO families move, while Beyond Shelter helps them stabilize and achieve greater independence in their new communities. Both organizations participated in HUD's landlord outreach and mobility counseling effort in the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake.

Nine high-poverty census tracts were designated as Los Angeles' MTO target area, containing 11 projects and 3,634 eligible families. The average poverty rate in these tracts was 54 percent. Residents in the targeted projects had an average yearly income of $9,607, and 61 percent received public assistance. Almost 60 percent of project residents (58.4 percent) were Hispanic and just under 40 percent (38.5 percent) were African American.

MTO implementation in Los Angeles was initially delayed by the burden of administering the relief effort after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and by the subsequent tight housing market conditions. Therefore, outreach efforts did not begin until October 1994, when HACLA began to hold informational meetings in the targeted high-poverty tracts. HACLA also mailed out information flyers and pre-application forms to all potentially eligible families in the eleven targeted housing projects. HACLA began enrolling MTO families near the end of February 1995. To date, a total of 258 families have entered the MTO demonstration in Los Angeles and 128 families have been assigned to the MTO experimental group. Of these, 63 have leased-up. The overall MTO lease-up rate is 62 percent, compared to a success rate of 83 percent for comparison-group families. In Los Angeles, the non-profit costs per family assigned average $1,308, or $2,111 per family leased-up.

Back to Top


The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest public housing agency in the country, managing more than 156,000 units of public housing. NYCHA also administers the largest Section 8 program in the country, with over 68,000 certificates and vouchers. The non-profit organization implementing MTO in New York, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC), is a multi-service community-based organization providing services to the Washington Heights-Inwood community in Manhattan. NMIC has experience providing housing search assistance to homeless and formerly homeless families as well as community development and housing-related legal issues.

New York's MTO program targeted 14 public and assisted housing projects in 12 census tracts, with an average poverty rate of 47.3 percent. The targeted projects were home to 15,934 households, with an average income of $11,771 and 32 percent of residents receiving public assistance. Almost half of these project residents were Hispanic (45.2 percent), and 57.5 percent were African American.

NMIC works extensively with each family in the program. In addition to holding workshops on a variety of topics including fair housing, landlord/tenant relations, and finding an apartment in New York city, NMIC facilitates group sessions for families who have moved and for those who are actively looking. NMIC also works closely with each individual family on a variety of social and economic issues that affect their ability to move through MTO.

The New York demonstration began its outreach in August 1994, when NYCHA mailed letters to about 2,000 potentially eligible families. After additional outreach was conducted, NMIC received its first families for counseling in December 1994. Enrollment has grown steadily since then, and 309 New York families have enrolled in the MTO demonstration to date. Of the 157 families assigned to the MTO experimental group, there have been 34 lease-ups. The lease-up rate in New York is 25 percent, while the rate in the comparison group is 16 percent. Previous research on the implementation of Section 8 tenant-based assistance in New York city consistently yields success rates significantly below the national average, due, at least in part, to the complex and tight rental housing market. New York's MTO operating costs per assigned family average $590, or $2,501 per family leased-up.

Back to Top

Table of Contents


All Publications
Search for Publications
Search for Ongoing Research