On May 15, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on performance measures in HUD’s block grant programs. The FY12 HUD appropriations act directed GAO to review the effectiveness of the block grant programs administered by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), focusing on CPD’s performance metrics. GAO identified and reviewed studies conducted by others, and interviewed HUD officials, national organizations representing grantees, and researchers.
GAO limited its assessment to CPD’s two main block grants, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) and concluded that information about their overall effectiveness is limited. All parties agree that it is challenging to evaluate the impact of CDBG and HOME because such an evaluation would have to compare neighborhoods that received program assistance with those that did not. Another challenge is that of creating outcome-oriented performance measures that can be uniformly applied to all CDBG and HOME activities because the block grant concept allows grantees to undertake a broad range of activities that are tailored to meet local needs and priorities.
A 2005 National Academy of Public Administration study of CDBG performance measures noted that most experts acknowledged that it was challenging to craft a performance measurement system for a block grant program that promotes flexible investments in people, places, organizations, and things, based on locally determined needs. That study concluded that the potential to gather outcome-oriented measurement data at the national level that truly reflect program performance is remote because linking outcome-oriented measures directly to programs, projects, and activities is difficult.
In 2004 and 2005, a working group consisting of HUD staff and representatives of several national organizations developed a performance measurement system for the CDBG and HOME programs that collects information on outputs. HUD activated the system in May 2006. Using the performance measurement system, grantees are required to select and report the objective, intended outcome, and output of each activity they undertake. First, grantees are to select one of three objectives that best describes the purpose of the funded activity. The three objectives are suitable living environment, decent housing, and creating economic opportunities. Grantees are then required to select one of three outcome categories that best reflects what they are seeking to achieve with the funded activity. The outcome categories are availability/accessibility, affordability, and sustainability, which is defined as promoting livable or viable communities. Based on the objective and outcome selected, grantees then are required to report specific output information for each activity.
While gross aggregate information might be desired by Congress, NLIHC knows that local advocates need more specific information in order to monitor local uses of block grant funds. For CDBG, advocates need to ask for and receive the CDBG Grantee Performance Report (GPR) because it provides detailed information about unique uses of CDBG funds. The GPR is now found as a separate report (C04PR03) among others that grantees generate through CPD’s information system known as IDIS. Some grantees attempt to give advocates the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER), but it is merely aggregate information and therefore far less useful for local monitoring. The GPR should give the specific location of an activity, the number of beneficiaries by three low income categories and by race. The amount of CDBG budgeted, obligated, and spent should also be reported, along with a narrative description of the accomplishments.
For the HOME program, advocates will most likely want to assess the Open Activities Report. Aggregate information is also available through the HOME Dashboard and Snap Shop reports.
Click here for the GAO report.
Click here for a sample of how the GPR page in IDIS might appear.
Click here for CPD instructions stating that the CDBG Grantee Performance Report must be made available to the public. That is part of a 1998 memorandum still in force, which is available here.
Click here for CPD’s Performance Measurement webpage.
Click here for the HOME reports.
Click below for the three aggregate CDBG reports for grantees: