The Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) at the University of North Carolina released an evaluation of the early implementation of the Charlotte Housing Authority’s (CHA) Moving to Work (MTW) program, along with baseline data on CHA residents and units. MTW was authorized by Congress in 1996 as a way to increase public housing agencies’ (PHAs) flexibility in responding to local housing needs. While passed in 1996, the program did not begin its demonstration implementation until 2007-08. There are currently 35 PHAs participating in the demonstration nationally.
MTW is a contentious program for PHAs and housing advocates. NLIHC has long voiced objections to the program’s design and the absence of evaluation requirements (see article elsewhere in Memo). This report is one of the first to present baseline data for the evaluation of an MTW program, a necessary step in determining whether the demonstration should be expanded nationwide. The researchers at CURS conducted interviews with staff, sent surveys to residents and analyzed data from the CHA, the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources to establish baseline data.
Since this report focuses on establishing baseline data for future evaluations of the MTW program, there are limited data currently available that compare the MTW demonstration population with the rest of CHA’s public housing population. However, the researchers plan to conduct an impact assessment of MTW’s achievement of its three objectives: 1) reduce cost and achieve greater cost effectiveness in federal expenditures, 2) assist households in achieving self-sufficiency, and 3) increase housing choices for low income families. The researchers will track demographic changes in the two populations. CURS will also conduct interviews and surveys with staff and tenants in order to track and note changes in perceptions of the program’s effectiveness. Since CHA’s demonstration only includes public housing properties, future conclusions will be limited to MTW’s impact on residents of public housing.
In addition, the authors assess the successes and challenges in CHA’s initial implementation. Though MTW gives CHA greater flexibility to serve its tenants, the authority has had significant difficulties with effective staff communication regard the MTW changes. These difficulties are compounded by a shortage of staff trained to handle new MTW tasks. CHA has struggled with insufficient funding, limiting the scope of the initial demonstration. CHA also had challenges updating their database management system to handle new MTW data. Fully updating it has been both time consuming and costly for CHA. Given the state of the economy, CHA has been concerned about implementing the work requirement.
This interim report was released at a time when members of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity are considering amending legislation aimed at reforming Section 8 housing programs with an expansion of MTW. (See Memo, 6/24).
The CURS report, Charlotte Housing Authority’s Moving Forward Program: Early Implementation and Baseline Data Evaluation, is available from http://curs.unc.edu/curs-pdf-downloads/Interim%20Report%20bound.pdf