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Moving on to 51


Keywords: Policy Development & Research, Office of the Chief Data Officer, Office of Technical Assistance

PD&R at 50
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Moving on to 51

Todd Richardson, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research (PD&R: 1991 to 1997; 2000 to present)

Usually you celebrate your 50th birthday only once, but at the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), we cheated a bit. Congress authorized the creation of HUD’s Office of Research and Technology in 1970, but our attempt to mark our 50-year anniversary in 2020 ran afoul of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Fortunately, we had an opportunity for a do-over in 2023. The name of the office – Policy Development & Research - officially came into being in 1973 with the merger of the Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation division with the Office of Research and Technology.

The ampersand in PD&R is important. We are not just a policy shop and not just a research office: we unite both functions in one office, and we are celebrating 50 years of that successful marriage.

We have spent the past year recounting our history through the PD&R@50 series in PD&R Edge, and we celebrated with a great party this past September. The end of our 50th anniversary brings us to the start of our 51st year and the opening of our next chapter.

This next chapter adds two ampersands to our name. In 2023, just as in 1973, we completed a substantial reorganization and officially added data and technical assistance (TA) to our office's duties. Although we chose not to change our name to PD&R&D&TA, know that data and TA are critically important parts of the new PD&R. Here are the details of the changes:

  • Data. The new Office of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) has three components that reflect the life cycle of data:

    • The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) states that any data collection effort involving more than nine people or entities must first be publicly posted to receive comment and then approval from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and that approval must be renewed every 3 years. Although this requirement does slow down data collection, PRA has created a system in which CDO is aware of all the data HUD collects; in other words, PRA is where each data point is born.

    • Data Governance is the process through which we convert each data point from an idea to a high-value asset. How do we collect each data point, and for what purpose? What types of quality control are in place? Where is each data point stored? What are each data point's first, second, and third uses — program operations, program monitoring and evaluation, or research? Can it be made public in individual or aggregate form?

      Through data governance, PD&R convenes the HUD program offices and grantees that own data to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from access to quality data. Good data are possible when those specifying their data needs (the program offices), those developing and maintaining the databases (the chief information officer and the private-sector information technology vendors working for our grantees), and those inputting the data (our grantees) understand the data life cycle and are fully invested in collecting high-quality data.

    • Open Data is the process by which we share fully mature data — enhanced, if possible. For example, HUD is a place-based organization. By geo-enabling the data, we not only know information about a person or development, but we also know about the surrounding neighborhood, city, county, and region. Location provides critical context to the administrative data we collect.

      PD&R has long shared data with the public through as well as our Geospatial Data Storefront. We also maintain and HUD’s contributions to In addition to the great data we already provide, there is more to make available to the public. However, making that data available is only the first step in making them open. The next (and perhaps more important) step is making the data usable for most people. This last step — making data usable — may be the hardest, and incorporating TA into PD&R helps make achieving this goal possible.

  • TA. PD&R's new Office of Technical Assistance has been a long time coming. In fiscal year (FY) 2010, HUD consolidated most of its TA from multiple program accounts into a single funding account that PD&R allocated to individual offices, but the Office of Community Planning and Development administered the account. Thirteen years later, we have brought the management of TA funds into PD&R: the same office where most of the funds are appropriated.

    The current TA process is a bit complex, so I think that documenting the current process here would be helpful:

    Step 1 — Funding. Funding for TA at HUD comes from multiple funding accounts:

    • The PD&R departmental account, which can be used to fund TA for any HUD program. An executive committee consisting of all program office heads manages allocation amounts and develops and submits an annual TA plan to Congress.

    • Office of Native American Program funds dedicated toward TA to tribes.

    • Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity funds dedicated toward the National Fair Housing Training Academy.

    • Office of Community Planning and Development funds dedicated toward homeless assistance TA, including Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program and National Homeless Data Analysis TA.

    • Public and Indian Housing TA funds to support public housing agencies in receivership.

    • Other TA funds provided for special purposes, including Distressed Cities and Persistent Poverty TA, Thriving Communities TA, SUPPORT Act TA, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing TA, Violence Against Women Act TA, CDBG-Disaster Recovery, and others separately specified or appropriated by Congress.

    • TA funded through interagency agreements as needed, such as HUD-administered TA on behalf of the U.S. Department of Treasury in support of the Emergency Rental Assistance program funded under the American Rescue Plan.

Chart showing PD&R's organizational structure in 1974 (top) and current structure

PD&R's organizational structure in 1974 (top) reflects how HUD's Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation division and the Office of Research and Technology merged, reflecting the insight that research and effective policy go hand-in-hand. That structure has evolved over the last half century and today (bottom) reflects the importance that data and technical assistance play in delivering HUD services to partners across the country.

Step 2 — Soliciting and Awarding TA Providers. Involves consolidating the many TA funding sources into just two or three Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) and issuing those NOFOs as 2-year NOFOs so we can obligate 2 years of appropriations in a single competitive action. Organizations pursue these NOFOs for the opportunity to become TA providers for HUD.

The primary TA NOFOs we issue are the following:

  • Community Compass TA. Our largest TA, Community Compass TA consolidates all the funding sources listed in Step 1 (except for the Distressed Cities and Persistent Poverty and the Thriving Communities programs) into a single NOFO. The FY 2022 and FY 2023 funding for this NOFO obligated more than $180 million. Community Compass TA is TA for HUD's programs.

  • Distressed Cities and Persistent Poverty TA. Unlike Community Compass TA, Distressed Cities and Persistent Poverty TA does not focus on helping grantees use HUD's programs. Instead, it focuses on helping communities that are struggling with local operations and are looking for ways to improve their policies and procedures.

Step 3 — Demand-Response Tasking. HUD’s TA operates under a demand-response model. Each TA provider is awarded funding specifically to provide TA. When a TA need is identified, program office staff will work with PD&R TA staff to identify a provider that can deliver the TA. The designated provider will receive tasks up to the amount of funding they have been allotted.

Step 4 — TA Feedback. After completing a TA engagement, PD&R will send three surveys — one to the provider, one to the tasker (the HUD program office), and one to the TA recipient (the grantee or all of the participants in a training) — to get feedback on the effectiveness of the TA.

In general, the PD&R staff managing the TA serve as the back office for the TA, ensuring that we have TA providers, that they complete the assigned work, and that they get paid. The program offices identify TA needs, select the provider, and provide feedback on the effectiveness of the TA.

As I see it, incorporating TA administration into PD&R has many benefits, including opportunities to integrate learning from our research and evaluations into TA design and delivery and to train TA providers on our data and data tools. I also see tremendous benefits in having our TA team and TA providers support HUD’s Learning Agenda through their input on what areas we should study and what data we should collect.

I am looking forward to the next 50 years of PD&R&D&TA.

Published Date: 2 April 2024

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.