A new audit from HUD’s Inspector General (IG) of the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program states HUD needs to improve its oversight of the program, especially since Congress considers expanding it. The report does not offer conclusions about the performance of MTW, but does say that HUD’s current oversight does not provide enough evidence to draw such conclusions.
MTW was created to provide public housing agencies and HUD flexibility in designing and testing innovative, locally designed strategies for delivering rental assistance. Thirty-nine agencies currently participate in the program, which has three primary goals: 1) reduce cost and achieve greater cost effectiveness in federal expenditures; 2) give incentives for residents to achieve economic self-sufficiency; and 3) increase housing choices for low income families.
According to the report, HUD cannot confirm those goals are being met because it does not have program-wide performance indicators, has not evaluated the MTW agencies’ programs according to policy or statutory requirements, and has not verified agencies’ self-reported performance data nor performed required annual program risk assessments. The IG report does say that, based on previous audit report recommendations, HUD has taken steps to improve its oversight but that more improvements are needed.
HUD officials cited lack of funding as one hurdle to effective program evaluation. HUD planned to hire a third-party consultant to perform the necessary evaluations, but was unable to do so because of inadequate funding. HUD officials also told auditors program-wide indicators were not implemented because there are no standard metrics related to program performance. They assert that the innovative nature of the program makes it difficult to objectively compare the way different public housing agencies (PHAs) carry it out and that trying to do so would be contrary to the nature of MTW.
The IG report recommends:
- If Congress expands the program, to delay adding participants to the program until program-wide performance indicators are in place and program evaluation results warrant program expansion;
- HUD develop program-wide performance indicators based on the results from agencies’ self-reported data;
- HUD ensure that the program is evaluated in accordance with the standard program agreement and program monitoring policies;
- HUD continue to develop and implement procedures to verify agencies’ compliance with key statutory requirements;
- HUD continue to develop and implement procedures to verify the accuracy of agencies’ self-reported performance data; and
- HUD ensures that annual risk assessments are completed as required.
The IG states that in the approximately fourteen years the demonstration program has been in existence, HUD has not shown the program has met its objectives and that implementing the oversight recommendations are necessary, especially if the program is to be continued and expanded.
Efforts to expand the program have been stalled, largely because of the lack of understanding of MTW’s impact as stated in the IG report. In 2012, several national organizations and HUD (the “stakeholder” group) worked out a compromise on how MTW could be expanded that included rigorous evaluation and much greater protections for tenants than exist in the current MTW program. Whether such an agreement could move forward in this session of Congress remains unclear. (See related Memo article on letter sent by national groups to appropriators on October 21 on including several policy proposals, including the stakeholder agreement, in any FY14 HUD spending bill.)
Access the HUD IG’s report at: http://1.usa.gov/1a4LRZC