Todd M. Richardson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development.
The peaceful transition from one president to another is an impressive part of our democracy. One element of that transition is that the majority of the people in the federal government do not change. The Washington Post reports that just 83 of HUD’s approximately 8,300 employees are political appointees. Four of those positions are in the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R): the Assistant Secretary, the Deputy Assistant Secretaries of Policy Development and International and Philanthropic Innovation, and one special assistant to the Assistant Secretary.
For the nonpolitical staff — the nearly 150 career staff in PD&R — we are “keeping the trains running” while we wait for new leadership to be appointed. As we make the transition from President Obama to President Trump, we are also making the transition from 2016 to 2017. This post reflects on PD&R’s accomplishments in 2016 and which trains are still rolling into 2017.
We closed out 2016 with a flurry of important research and data releases, including the following:
- The three-year followup to the Family Options study, which reinforced the importance of long-term housing assistance for addressing family homelessness.
- Early Insights from the First-Time Homebuyer Education and Counseling Demonstration showing baseline data, important findings on education and counseling take-up, and some promising early benefits of education and counseling from this landmark random assignment study.
- An Evaluation of HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), describing this rapidly growing financing method to upgrade HUD’s public housing inventory.
- Research Partnerships reports. Of special note was a study on the long-term benefits of increased earnings and reduced incarceration because of receiving housing assistance as a teen as well as an update on data for all of the HOPE VI sites over time.
- The release of the 2015 American Housing Survey data.
- The completion of 58 Comprehensive Housing Market Analyses for housing markets ranging from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Youngstown, Ohio.
- The Housing Scorecard, produced with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which provides a monthly update on the health of the nation’s housing market and its recovery from the housing crisis of 2008.
- Several in-house projects, including studies on Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan limits, housing affordability as a barrier to college, and how same-sex marriage laws impact mortgage credit.
We also released, in collaboration with Field Policy and Management staff, a new tool to produce reports on funding and activities that are going on in each community in America called the Community Assessment Reporting Tool. PD&R and the U.S. Census Bureau collaborated to update the American Housing Survey website, including a new table creator.
Our periodical Evidence Matters continued to condense the breadth of research on individual topics into relatable information for practitioners and researchers. Topics in 2016 were Community Development and the Digital Divide, Inclusion and Public Safety, Housing Finance, and Housing and Health. We brought in experts from around the country as part of our Quarterly Updates series to hear about housing market trends and discuss important topics. Our topics in 2016 were The Family Options Study: Long-Term Outcomes, Child Well-Being and Healthy Homes, Managing Community Change: A Dialogue on Gentrification, and HUD at 50: Creating New Pathways to Opportunity.`
Our three 2016 editions of the research periodical Cityscape featured papers on the causes and consequences of gentrification, a symposium titled “Borrower Beware” featuring several research papers on the challenges associated with providing and using consumer credit; and another titled “Contesting the Streets” featuring research on international urbanization and the competition for scarce space in urban areas.
PD&R coordinated the U.S. contribution to Habitat III, the once-every-20-year meeting among nations worldwide to discuss housing and where we live.
We worked with our colleagues in program offices on the implementation of the Small Area Fair Market Rents rule, the Indian Housing Block Grant Formula rule, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, the allocation of funding to address the natural disasters of 2016, and many others.
These accomplishments and more are highlighted in PD&R’s just-published “Biennial Report for FY 2015–16.”
We are off to a strong start in 2017. Reports already published in 2017 include the following:
- A critically important study on Native American Housing Needs and Programs documenting the continuing severe housing needs in tribal areas as well as the strong performance of tribes in addressing this need with limited resources.
- An update to the Research Roadmap, our listing of projects identified by staff and stakeholders as important research to consider for funding in the future.
- Baseline findings from the landmark prepurchase housing counseling demonstration.
- A preview of the Worst Case Housing Needs from the 2015 AHS, showing that between 2013 and 2015 there has been an increase in the number of very low-income renters paying more than half their income for rent or with inadequate housing; this preview notes that one source of the increase is rents rising faster than income - median income for renters rose 9 percent while rents rose 12 percent. The full report is planned to be released later in 2017.
Other projects we expect to publish in 2017 include the following:
- More comprehensive housing market analyses.
- Baseline reports from the Rent Reform Demonstration.
- More results from HUD’s Housing Discrimination Study series.
In 2017, with the help of the Office of Public and Indian Housing, HUD expects to bring in our first cohort of Moving to Work (MTW) expansion sites. The MTW Research Advisory Committee has identified potential topics to study as part of the expansion, including the impacts of flexibility (deregulation), various other rent models beyond those being studied in the rent reform study, and ways to improve landlord participation in the Housing Choice Voucher program.
We’ve updated our data pages on huduser.gov to better organize and present the data HUD makes available. We will keep those pages updated in 2017 with the data critical for program operations — Income Limits, Fair Market Rents, Qualified Census Tracts and Difficult Development Areas, FHA Loan Limits and HOME Sales Price Limits, and Community Development Block Grant Low-Mod Benefit Areas — as well as data on program participation, HUD-sponsored housing surveys, and HUD-sponsored research datasets.
You can still look to huduser.gov for our annual student design and planning competition, case studies on best practices in housing and community development, and quarterly reports on housing market conditions.
We expect the Trump administration will have new directions for research and data. Keep checking in on huduser.gov to see where we are headed next.