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Happy New Year 2020

Message From PD&R Senior Leadership
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Happy New Year 2020

Image of Seth D. Appleton, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research.Seth D. Appleton, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research.

HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) continues to produce the high-quality research and data upon which HUD’s grantees and policymakers depend. PD&R’s work not only supports our colleagues in HUD’s other offices but also members of Congress and the public. This post discusses our accomplishments in 2019 and previews our ambitions for 2020.

PD&R’s 2019 at a glance

PD&R’s work in 2017 and 2018, summarized in the PD&R Biennial Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017­–2018, set the stage for our achievements in 2019. I was honored to join the PD&R team as the Assistant Secretary in June 2019. In my July column in PD&R Edge, I highlighted three priority areas of focus, and we have made progress on all three:

    Reducing regulatory barriers to affordable housing. On June 25, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order establishing a White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing (Council) chaired by Secretary Ben Carson. As the lead program office within the Council’s lead agency, PD&R has been instrumental in convening listening sessions with tribes, local and state governments, experts on construction and land use, academic researchers, and industry and advocacy organizations, among others, to gather information to support the Council’s final recommendations, which will be sent to the White House next summer. In support of the Council, HUD has issued a Request For Information soliciting public comment on federal, state, local, and tribal laws, regulations, land use requirements, and administrative practices that artificially raise the costs of affordable housing development and contribute to shortages in the housing supply in addition to best practices and incentives to increase the housing supply. (Comments are due by January 21, 2020.) PD&R has assembled a team of experts from HUD as well as from academia and other research institutions to review the information gathered and work with its interagency partners to help the council develop its recommendations.
    Disaster recovery. In 2019, HUD allocated $3.8 billion in Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG–Disaster Recovery) funding to support long-term disaster recovery for severe disasters in 2017, 2018, and 2019 using a formula PD&R developed. Thanks to the hard work of the PD&R team, HUD announced these allocations by the statutory deadline of December 3.
    Engaging stakeholders to develop the Research Roadmap. In March, PD&R convened a group of experts to begin developing a new 4-year Research Roadmap. Over the course of several months, PD&R received more than 600 research questions and ideas. After carefully reviewing those ideas based on their policy relevance, timeliness, tractability, and HUD’s comparative advantage in addressing them, we are preparing a new 4-year roadmap that will be unveiled in early 2020. In addition to responding to evolving evidence needs, the new roadmap will fulfill the requirement for an interim learning agenda established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2019.

PD&R continued to produce high-quality research in 2019, issuing more than 17 research reports on numerous topics, including the economic and regulatory forces driving the rise in homelessness, the effectiveness of the Rental Assistance Demonstration, and early findings from HUD’s Rent Reform Demonstration as well as the Family Self-Sufficiency and Jobs Plus programs, all of which are exploring different approaches to improving economic outcomes for low-income families. We also published preliminary findings from HUD’s First-Time Homebuyer Education and Counseling Demonstration.

Another study explored ways to improve how HUD calculates Fair Market Rents. Using those findings, PD&R issued a Notice describing changes to the methodology. These changes were implemented in the development of the FY 2020 Fair Market Rents — a perfect example of evidence-based policymaking in action.

There were a few other notable events in 2019 in which PD&R staff partnered with other HUD staff:

  • PD&R’s new Office of Innovation hit the ground running, implementing the EnVision Centers Demonstration as well as hosting the Innovative Housing Showcase in June at the National Mall in Washington, DC — an event that helps address the nation’s housing challenges by highlighting innovative technologies for creating affordable, resilient housing.
  • We initiated a new technical assistance program for distressed cities.
  • We continued our work to improve landlord acceptance of housing choice vouchers.
  • We provided support for the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council that Secretary Carson chairs, including hosting a convening of philanthropy.

PD&R continues to provide national, regional, state, and local housing market intelligence on hundreds of communities, including 49 Comprehensive Housing Market Analyses in 2019.

Three issues of Cityscape were published in 2019, featuring research papers focusing on the Fair Housing Act at 50, the National Survey of Mortgage Originations, and Small Area Fair Market Rents. Evidence Matters summarized research and practitioner experience on the topics of Landlords and Vouchers as well as Place-Based Incentives.

I also want to thank Rachelle Levitt and Eileen Faulkner, both of whom retired in 2019, for their many years of commitment to public service and their leadership in creating and developing PD&R Edge and our periodical Evidence Matters. I wish each of them a very happy retirement.

PD&R continued in its role of sharing best practices internationally, collaborating with Japan on research on aging in place and recently updating our longtime agreement with Germany to support the sharing of ideas among municipal governments.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Act), which was signed into law on January 14, 2019, brought new responsibilities to PD&R. Three new positions were required: an evaluation officer, a statistical officer, and a chief data officer. PD&R staff have assumed those responsibilities and have begun implementing the Act’s other requirements.

A quick look at 2020

There is much to look forward to in 2020. We will publish several reports early in the year, including the following:

  • Our signature Worst Case Housing Needs report, which examines not only the change in serious rental housing needs for very low-income renters between 2015 and 2017 but also what caused it.
  • A Research Partnership study that answers a big “what if” question about reporting full file public housing rent payment history (including both good and bad entries) to credit reporting agencies.
  • New findings about how long recovery takes under the CDBG–Disaster Recovery program and feedback from previous grantees about what would help speed up implementation.
  • Research comparing the new Section 811 Project Rental Assistance program for persons with disabilities with older Section 811 project rental assistance contracts, Housing Choice Vouchers for nonelderly persons with disabilities, and other housing options for persons with disabilities.

We will, of course, be updating our Picture of Subsidized Households dataset with December 2019 information.

Several research projects funded in the FY 2019 appropriation will be out for bid in 2020, including the following:

  • An Envision Center evaluation.
  • Moving to Work Cohort #3 expansion research studying work requirements.
  • An evaluation of the Housing Mobility Demonstration.
  • One or more research studies on housing for the elderly.

We also have new funding from FY 2020 appropriations that were passed into law on December 20. The conference report language provides a new program for PD&R to administer — supporting housing research by historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as additional funding for innovation, working with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to expand the utility of USPS data for HUD, and the following research projects:

  • Public Housing Capital Needs research
  • Housing Discrimination Study 2020
  • Joint research with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Moving to Work Cohort #4 expansion research studying landlord incentives
  • Family Options 10-year follow-up
  • Family Self-Sufficiency Demonstration long-term follow-up
  • Housing Search Assistance for People with Disabilities
  • Competitive evaluation grants to assess impact of CDBG and HOME

We expect to issue Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) in 2020 for Community Compass technical assistance (this NOFA is planned for both FY 2020 and FY 2021 funds, subject to appropriation), the HBCU funding noted above, housing technology, and other initiatives. Research Partnerships continues to accept rolling applications to provide matching funds for rigorous research proposals.

Finally, the second annual Innovative Housing Showcase will be on the National Mall from September 12 to 14, 2020.

Stay abreast of the latest research and data from PD&R by subscribing to the PD&R listserv or following us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Happy New Year.

Published Date: 13 January 2020

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.