Comments on MTW Operations Notice Due June 5

HUD issued a notice in the Federal Register on May 4 establishing a second opportunity to comment on a draft Operations Notice for the expansion of the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration published on January 23. This notice also revises the parameters of three MTW waiver provisions. Comments are due June 5.

The “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016” authorized HUD to expand the MTW demonstration to an additional 100 high performing public housing authorities (PHAs) over a seven-year period (see Memo, 12/21/15). PHAs will be added to the MTW demonstration in annual groups (cohorts), each of which will be overseen by a research advisory committee to ensure the demonstrations are evaluated with rigorous research protocols, quantitative analysis, and comparisons to control groups. Each year’s cohort of MTW sites will be directed by HUD to test one specific policy change.

On January 19 HUD published previews of a draft Operations Notice and Notice PIH 2017-1 that invited PHAs to apply to participate in the first cohort. Official publications were scheduled for January 23. Late in the afternoon on January 23, HUD sent an email stating that it was “revisiting the two notices” and “as a result, these notices will not be posted today.” NLIHC described PIH 2017-1 based on the January 19 preview version (see Memo, 1/23). The Operations Notice remained in the January 23 Federal Register with a comment period open until March 24, while PIH 2017-1 was never officially published. On February 24, HUD sent an email stating that HUD planned to publish a Federal Register notice announcing an update to the Operations Notice with additional time for comment. Consequently, many stakeholders did not submit comments.

While the May 4 Federal Register notice officially reopened the comment period on the January 23 draft Operations Notice, HUD has held four listening sessions about that notice (see Memo, 4/17). HUD will issue a revised Operations Notice based on the input HUD receives from the four listening sessions and written comments submitted by March 24 and June 5.

The January 23 Notice discusses three categories of statutory and regulatory waivers that MTW agencies could pursue:

  1. General waivers available to all MTW expansion agencies without review by HUD.
  2. Conditional waivers that must be approved by HUD. Conditional waivers are expected to have a greater and more direct impact on households.
  3. Cohort-specific waivers available only to MTW agencies implementing a specific cohort policy change.

Two of the May 4 parameter revisions affect work-requirement conditional waivers for public housing and vouchers. Should an MTW PHA choose to seek work-requirement waivers, the parameters would be changed to apply to residents between the ages of 18 and 61, rather than between 18 and 54.

A significant change applies to a general waiver regarding Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS). In the initial version of the Operations Notice, an MTW agency could develop its own FSS recruitment and selection procedures, but it could not require families to participate in an FSS program as a condition of receiving housing assistance. The revision deletes the prohibition on requiring participation; in its place the Notice allows MTW agencies to mandate FSS participation as a condition for housing assistance. If an MTW agency requires FSS participation, it must have a non-compliance policy and a hardship exemption policy.

NLIHC participated at the April 28 listening session in Washington, DC. HUD explained that the parameters to waivers, particularly in the conditional waiver category, were intended to protect residents. Several PHAs complained that the parameters were too prescriptive and created limits that were counter to the flexibilities intended in the MTW demonstration. NLIHC argued that waivers allowing work requirements, time limits, and significant changes to residents’ rent payments should not be in the conditional waiver category at all because these waivers will have the greatest potential harmful consequences for residents and will not be fully subject to the rigorous evaluation anticipated by the MTW expansion statute. Such waivers should only be considered in the cohort-specific waiver category. In addition, NLIHC commented that the parameters that the PHAs considered too prescriptive were in fact far too liberal. For instance, an MTW agency could require public housing and voucher households to pay a minimum rent that could be as high as 50% of their adjusted income, a level considered a severe cost burden.

The May 4 Federal Register notice is at: