On July 29, Representative Maxine Waters introduced a bill (H.R. 3424) that would reform HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration, subjecting all future MTW agreements to several new terms and conditions. Currently MTW provides 39 public housing agencies (PHAs) with flexibility from most statutory and regulatory requirements, such as rent affordability and income targeting, which can hurt residents in both the public housing and housing choice voucher programs.
Ms. Waters, who is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, is concerned that MTW allows PHAs to impose rent increases, work requirements, time limits, and other policy changes that risk serious hardship for residents. The bill summary says, “These alternative policies can result in greater cost burdens or evictions of tenants, and there is no corresponding requirement on PHAs to provide robust supportive services in conjunction with these policies or to conduct rigorous evaluations of the impacts on residents.”
In a press release, Ms. Waters comments that, “The demonstration has yet to produce a comprehensive and controlled evaluation, and there is therefore no proof that MTW agencies perform any better than non-MTW agencies in terms of cost-effectiveness or resident self-sufficiency or other outcomes for residents.” Analyses by the HUD Inspector General, the Government Accountabilty Office, and the Urban Institute have concluded that the MTW demonstration was not designed to enable a meaningful demonstration and lacked a data system that could lead to an assessment of MTW’s impact, especially on residents.
H.R. 3424, The Moving to Work Reform Act of 2015, seeks to address many of the demonstration’s shortcomings by requiring HUD to subject all future MTW extensions or new agreements to a number of terms and conditions, including:
- Require rigorous evaluation of major policy changes, such as imposing time limits and work requirements, or raising rent burdens for residents, before those changes are allowed to take effect;
- Limit the percentage of tenant-based voucher renewal funds that can be used for non-voucher purposes to 10%;
- Provide more equitable formula allocations for tenant-based rental assistance funding and public housing operating funds;
- Require MTW agencies to assist substantially the same number of low income families as they would without MTW funding flexibility;
- Require MTW agencies to do more to expand residents’ housing choices to include areas of opportunity; and
- Maintain important provisions of the United States Housing Act of 1937, including tenant protections, rights and grievance procedures, housing quality standards, income eligibility, designated housing for the elderly and people with disabilities, protections for survivors of domestic violence, project-based voucher cap requirements, and portability.
When introducing the bill Ms. Waters stated, “Although we are nearly 20 years into this Moving to Work experiment, we still know very little about the conclusive impacts of many of its policies, particularly as they relate to participating residents. What we do know is that these policies can result in greater cost burdens or evictions of tenants, and data show that some MTW agencies are serving substantially fewer families than their counterparts. The legislation I’ve introduced today is in response to the significant questions that remain regarding the effectiveness of the program, especially in light of the rental housing crisis we are experiencing in this country. Taken together, the reforms included in this measure represent responsible and commonsense changes to the Moving to Work program that would provide stronger tenant protections, increased accountability, and a more responsible use of federal resources.”
Sheila Crowley, NLIHC President and CEO, welcomed the introduction of the bill, saying, “This is a good-government bill, which seeks to protect taxpayers and federally assisted housing residents from the potentially harmful practices that could be undertaken under HUD’s Moving to Work demonstration without sufficient safeguards and program evaluation.”
The bill is also supported by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the National Housing Law Project, and Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
The bill currently has one cosponsor, Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
The bill text is at http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/waters_060_xml.pdf
Representative Waters’ press release is at http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=399270
More information about MTW is on page 4-17 of NLIHC’s 2015 Advocates’ Guide, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Sec4.06_Public-Housing-Moving-to-Work_2015.pdf