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Lessons from the Field on the Implementation of Section 3, 1996


Report Acceptance Date: November 1996 (90 pages)

Posted Date: November 01, 1996

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As the clock starts ticking on time-limited welfare benefits, pressure is mounting on public housing authorities (PHAs) to find more innovative and aggressive strategies to move larger numbers of public housing residents toward employment and self-sufficiency. One strategy available to them is Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, which requires PHAs to ensure that their residents have access to opportunities for employment, job training, or contracts generated by most HUD-funded investments in public housing. Lessons From the Field on the Implementation of Section 3, a new report from HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research, explores the potential of this tool by examining its implementation at seven PHAs: Tampa, Florida; Jersey City, New Jersey; Los Angeles, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Fort Worth, Texas; and Macon, Georgia.

Although it once was seldom enforced, a series of legislative amendments and administrative changes in the early 1990s strengthened Section 3 considerably. For example, 1994 regulations created goals for employment of public housing residents, which PHAs could meet through resident outreach activities, job training and counseling, hiring residents inhouse, working with contractors to hire residents, and contracting with resident-owned firms. However, the report finds that even the most aggressive PHAs face several challenges to meeting those goals, including:

Contracting/Procurement. HUD and often State or local laws mandate that PHAs accept the lowest responsible bid for contracts. Such mandates are unclear about the weight that may be given to the quality of competing firms' Section 3 plans.

Scale, Duration, and Types of Jobs Available. Relative to the need for jobs in public housing, strong Section 3 strategies appear to generate only a small number of employment opportunities. This is due in part to the types of jobs typically available through Section 3: construction jobs that are short-term and highly seasonal. These jobs may be only as general laborers, in which residents learn few marketable skills.

Residents' Preparation for Work. At the studied sites, PHA administrators, contractors, and residents noted that residents were frequently deficient in work-readiness skills such as attendance, accepting supervision, getting along with coworkers, and problem solving -- underscoring the need for pre-employment training. PHA residents are also often hampered by low self-esteem and a lack of support for dealing with personal problems such as child care and transportation. Despite these barriers, four of the seven sites studied appeared to be implementing strong individual program components.

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