The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) concludes that continuing to expand the Public Housing Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration is not justified, because it would reduce the number of low income families receiving assistance by shifting funds from the Housing Choice Voucher program and expose more families to risky experiments.
MTW is a HUD demonstration program for public housing agencies (PHAs) begun in 1996. To date, Congress has authorized 35 MTW demonstrations. NLIHC has long been concerned about MTW because participating PHAs have broad latitude to waive key HUD requirements. For instance, PHAs can merge their voucher and public housing funds, serve higher income households, impose time limits and work requirements, implement rent policies that cause housing cost burdens, and take other actions that increase housing instability for residents.
The program has never been fully evaluated. Yet, several proposals exist which would expand MTW. The most extreme is Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) S. 117, introduced in January, which would require HUD to expand the MTW demonstration from 35 PHAs to 250 within three years, affecting nearly half of all vouchers and public housing units in the nation (see Memo, 1/28).
The CBPP white paper, Expansion of HUD’s “Moving-to-Work” Demonstration Is Not Justified: Other Approaches Would Promote Demonstration’s Goals More Effectively, notes that one of the most consequential provisions of MTW is that it allows public housing agencies (PHAs) to shift funds from vouchers to other uses, often at the expense of assisting as many low income families as possible with available funds:
- In 2010, given the amount of voucher funding MTW PHAs received, 16% of the vouchers these PHAs could have supported were left idle, compared to 4% at non-MTW PHAs. As a result, more than 45,000 low income households at MTW PHAs did not receive voucher assistance.
- In 2009, MTW PHAs provided housing assistance to about nine families for each $100,000 in public housing and voucher funding, compared to 15 families for non-MTW PHAs.
The white paper reports that eight MTW PHAs use their MTW flexibility to limit or eliminate voucher portability. Portability is the right of a voucher holder to move anywhere in the nation with that voucher. Not only does this make vouchers less responsive to the employment and other needs of low income families, it is contrary to one of the stated purposes in the statute that authorizes MTW, to increase housing choices for low income families.
Another problem identified by CBPP is that MTW PHAs receive favorable funding arrangements at the expense of non-MTW PHAs. For example, in 2010 MTW PHAs received, on average, 35% more funding than other PHAs for each voucher they were authorized to administer. Also that year, 10 MTW PHAs with special public housing operating fund formulas received 75% more money per public housing unit than non-MTW counterparts.
The white paper discusses various concerns raised by the authority of MTW PHAs to transfer voucher funds to other uses, and argues that, where streamlining and greater flexibility might be appropriate, all PHAs should have it.
Expansion of HUD’s “Moving-to-Work” Demonstration Is Not Justified: Other Approaches Would Promote Demonstration’s Goals More Effectively, is available at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3590
More information about the Moving To Work Demonstration is on page 149 of the 2011 Advocates’ Guide, available at www.nlihc.org