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Moving to Work Retrospective

Moving to work Retrospective


The HUD-sponsored Moving to Work (MTW) Retrospective Evaluation produced six reports that together provide the most comprehensive description to date of the housing assistance provided by MTW agencies, the households served by MTW agencies, and the success of MTW agencies in relation to the demonstration’s statutory objectives of cost effectiveness, self-sufficiency, and housing choice. The Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration allows selected public housing agencies (PHAs) to test new ways of providing housing assistance to low-income households,including changing rent rules and occupancy requirements. Yet, there are very few studies of how well the MTW agencies as a group have performed in relation to the demonstration’s objectives. To learn more, HUD sponsored a retrospective evaluation of MTW designed to assess the success of the demonstration based on administrative data. The evaluation produced an interactive feature hosted by the Urban Institute and six reports.


The U.S. Housing Act of 1937 created the public housing program and provided that federal funds go to local housing agencies, entities authorized by states to “engage in or assist in the development or operation of low-income housing.” (See the U.S. Housing Act of 1937.) Since then, innovations in federal housing policy produced several different programs of federal subsidy for low-income housing—some of these bypassed local housing agencies, some gave PHAs new tools. The MTW demonstration, enacted in 1996, is the only major initiative that targeted the role of PHAs in the provision of federal housing assistance. It was intended to allow selected PHAs to

test various approaches for providing and administering housing assistance that: reduce cost and achieve greater cost effectiveness in Federal expenditures; give incentives to families with children where the head of household is working, seeking work, or is preparing for work by participating in job training, educational programs, or programs that assist people to obtain employment and become economically self-sufficient; and increase housing choices for low-income families. (See the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996.)

MTW agencies may also use funds appropriated for the public housing and housing choice voucher programs for any allowable use under either program, or for initiatives outside of those two programs known as local, non-traditional programs (described in PIH Notice 2011-45). This is known as fund “flexibility.”

For more information on MTW, see


A Picture of Moving to Work Agencies’ Housing Assistance (April 2021). This report describes the MTW demonstration over time in terms of its share of all HUD funding and assisted households. With data from 2008-2016, it also compares housing assistance and populations served at MTW and traditional agencies, and finds only a few differences. An online feature associated, hosted by the Urban Institute, provides information about housing assistance at each individual MTW agency in 2008 and 2016 and allows users to download the data underlying this report.

Housing Choice and Self-Sufficiency Outcomes at Moving to Work Agencies (April 2021). This study investigates impacts of MTW on housing choice and self-sufficiency outcomes. It finds some evidence that MTW agencies did better than comparison PHAs in terms of share of new households and share of workable households increasing earnings enough to leave housing assistance; however, it found no differences in the quality of housing choice voucher recipients’ neighborhoods, the quality of public housing, or the share of families with FSS escrow accounts.

The Impact of the Moving to Work Demonstration on the Per Household Costs of Federal Housing Assistance (June 2020). This is the first study to examine MTW agencies’ cost effectiveness using data from before and after public housing agencies (PHAs) joined the MTW demonstration. It shows that joining MTW did not increase the cost per household served, and that MTW agencies added new households to their assistance roles.

Evaluating the Effects of Santa Clara County Housing Authority’s Rent Reform (April 2020). In response to sequestration, in July 2013, Santa Clara County Housing Authority (SCCHA) increased the proportion of tenant income paid toward rent in the housing choice voucher program from 30 percent of adjusted income to 35 percent of gross income, and changed voucher size rules. This study reveals the impacts of the new rent policy on employment, income, and housing subsidy amounts and receipt.

Moving to Work Agencies’ Use of Project-Based Voucher Assistance (April 2021). Too much use of project-based voucher (PBV) assistance might undermine the housing choice voucher program’s promise of allowing families to live in lower poverty neighborhoods, so this study investigated how—and how much—MTW agencies use their expanded opportunities to tie housing choice voucher funding to specific units through long-term contracts. It investigates the relative poverty of neighborhoods in which PBV, tenant-based voucher, and public housing families are located, and the overlap of PBVs with Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties and HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). It also describes how three MTW agencies are using PBVs to preserve affordable housing, facilitate partnerships, and achieve administrative efficiencies.


Moving to Work Funding Flexibility Activity Accounts. The data tables here summarize how MTW agencies reported using fund flexibility by collecting data from 39 MTW agencies and displaying the data in one place to facilitate ease of access to this information. The tables organize the activities in terms of leveraging, cost savings (i.e., freeing resources), revenue production, and use of resources.