House Bill Would Further Expand Moving to Work

Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced H.R. 5137, “The Moving to Work Reformation and Expansion Act of 2016,” on April 29. The bill would remove the cap on the number of public housing agencies (PHAs) that can participate in Moving to Work (MTW) and change the status of MTW from a demonstration to a full program. H.R. 5137 would allow at least 25 PHAs each year to apply to become MTW agencies, at least 10 of which would have to be smaller PHAs that have fewer than 6,000 public housing units and vouchers combined.

H.R. 5137 would retain the three purposes of the original MTW authorization: promoting resident economic independence, reducing costs, and increasing resident housing choices, as well as MTW’s central component of allowing PHAs approved for MTW status to seek waivers from most statutes and regulations governing the public housing and voucher programs.

The bill would establish a selection panel of federal officials to review applications for MTW status and recommend whether HUD should approve an application. PHAs that have had a “troubled” status for the most recent two years would not be eligible. An application must include a list of innovative proposals designed to reduce costs and assist residents. The MTW status would last for at least ten years. A PHA could renew its MTW status using the same standards and requirements used for its initial application. 

As is currently required, MTW agencies would have to submit an annual report to HUD indicating how its public housing and voucher funds were used. The bill would require an annual report to describe and analyze the effects of a PHA’s MTW activities on the three purposes of the program. In particular, the report would have to indicate the number of new families assisted as a result of MTW flexibilities, changes in household incomes, and cost savings.

MTW agencies would have to submit an annual budget plan describing all new rules and policy changes and projecting the effect these will have on PHA operations. The budget plan would also have to describe the extent to which the new rules and policy changes would help the PHA achieve the goals in its MTW application. The budget plan also would have to include a description of the PHA’s plan for capital assets and anticipated construction and rehabilitation activities.

The bill includes modest resident participation features. Each year an MTW agency would be required to make the MTW annual budget plan and annual report available for public review and comment 30 days prior to a meeting with residents, at which the PHA would explain the content of the document and the impacts the new rules and policy changes would have on residents. The annual budget plan and annual report must be approved at a public meeting of the PHA board.

If extenuating circumstances prevent a household from complying with an MTW requirement, H.R. 5137 would provide a temporary hardship exemption. Before a household could be evicted from public housing or terminated from the voucher program because they failed to meet an MTW requirement, the PHA would have to provide an informal hearing or grievance process.

HUD would be responsible for annually reviewing each MTW agency and reporting to Congress every five years. By September 30, 2023 and every eight years after, the Government Accountability Office would have to conduct a review of MTW and submit a report to Congress.

H.R. 5137 does not propose to change the existing requirements that each MTW PHA continue to assist substantially the same total number of families and to maintain a comparable mix of families, by family size, as would have been assisted prior to the PHA’s MTW designation. In addition, at least 75% of the families assisted would still have to have incomes less than 50% of area median income.

Thirty-nine PHAs currently participate in the MTW demonstration. Their MTW agreements were recently extended until 2028 (see Memo, 4/29). In addition, the FY16 Appropriations Act authorized expanding the MTW demonstration to at least another 100 PHAs (see Memo, 12/21/15 and 4/4). H.R. 5137 would allow these MTW agencies to continue to operate under their existing MTW agreements or convert to the new program. If an MTW PHA decides to continue with its existing MTW agreement, that PHA would automatically be transitioned to the new MTW program when its current agreement ends.

The H.R. 5137 text and other information will be posted at: