The Moving to Work Expansion: An Opportunity for New, Rigorous Research
Todd M. Richardson, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 called for expanding the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program, which allows designated public housing agencies (PHAs) more flexibility to design their housing rules and programs, to include 100 more high-performing PHAs over the next 7 years. The legislation emphasized small PHAs — Congress required that half of these new PHAs administer 1,000 or fewer voucher or public housing units. Five of these PHAs must be agencies participating in the Rental Assistance Demonstration. The legislation also provides for rigorous research of the policy interventions that the new MTW PHAs implement — which your feedback can inform.
First, some background on MTW. In 1996, Congress established the Moving to Work demonstration to give HUD and designated PHAs the flexibility to design and test various ways to administer housing assistance. Designated PHAs can seek exemptions from many existing rules for public housing and housing choice vouchers. For instance, designated PHAs can add time limits or work requirements for housing assistance and can combine their public housing and voucher program funds. PHAs can use this flexibility to pursue three goals: reducing costs and using federal money more efficiently; promoting self-sufficiency, such as through incentives and connections to training, education, and jobs; and increasing housing choices for low-income families. As of 2016, 39 PHAs have an MTW designation.
MTW has provided insight into the types of interventions that PHAs think have value. And some research has shown this value. The promising and rigorously evaluated Jobs-Plus program was first implemented at MTW agencies. An ongoing study of rent reform at several MTW PHAs tests alternative rent structures that may be simpler and less expensive to administer while encouraging tenants to earn more.
But there are many more interventions whose impacts are unknown. HUD published an interim report in 2010 that detailed some MTW initiatives as well as characteristics of PHAs that have successfully implemented MTW. In 2014, Abt Associates described innovations in the MTW program across all MTW agencies as well as case studies of five MTW PHAs. A 2016 article from Michael Webb, Kirstin Frescoln, and William Rohe reviews the MTW program generally and summarizes the various activities PHAs have implemented through MTW to date.
These reviews of interventions being implemented at MTW agencies are a starting point for discussing the expansion of MTW. For each new cohort of MTW PHAs, HUD must select one specific policy change to implement and test. With HUD’s approval, new MTW agencies can implement additional policy changes. These interventions must be rigorously evaluated.
The legislation expanding MTW directed HUD to establish a research advisory committee — with representation from HUD, current MTW PHAs, and the research community — to advise the Secretary about “specific policy proposals and methods of research and evaluation for the demonstration.”
We’ve also put out an open call for input on the specific policy proposals and methods of research and evaluation to implement through the MTW expansion. As the Federal Register notice states, HUD is interested in recommendations related to MTW’s three statutory objectives: cost-effectiveness, self-sufficiency, and housing choice. Some of the specific policy areas about which we’ve asked for feedback include, for example, alternative rent-setting, improving education through housing partnerships, and ending homelessness, as well as other areas the notice doesn’t explicitly mention.
We want your help to determine which policies new MTW PHAs will test and how these policies will be evaluated. Let us know what you think by sending comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 4, 2016.
With a grant from USDA, Choctaw Nation is collaborating with a few ISPs to expand the limited internet access currently available to its residents.×
For all renters, HUD-assisted renters (59%) were less likely than unassisted renters (80%) to have a computer in the household; these figures include smart phones and other mobile devices. HUD-assisted renters (43%) were also less likely than unassisted renters (80%) to have Internet in the household.×
It is worth noting that the National Housing Conference brief “The Connectivity Gap: The Internet Is Still Out of Reach for Many Low-Income Renters” (April 2015) reports that among extremely low-income renters (those earning incomes below 30 percent of the area median income), 37 percent do not have a computer at home and 54 percent lack in-home Internet access. Although the likelihood of having a computer at home and in-home Internet access increases with income, persons living in households with an income below the area median income are less likely to be connected and have a computer.×
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