HUD Seeks Recommendations about Policies and Methods to Evaluate MTW Expansion

An April 4 Federal Register notice announced that HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) is seeking recommendations for specific policy proposals to be implemented as part of the expansion of the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration. HUD is also seeking methods to evaluate those policies. Advocates have 30 days to respond.

The “2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act” authorized HUD to expand the MTW demonstration program by an additional 100 high performing public housing agencies (PHAs) over a period of seven years (see Memo, 12/21/15). PHAs will be added to the MTW demonstration in annual 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.

The notice reiterates the statutory purpose of the MTW demonstration, which is to give PHAs and HUD the flexibility to design and test various approaches for providing and administering housing assistance that:

  1. reduce costs and achieve greater cost effectiveness in federal expenditures;
  2. give incentives to families with children where the head of household is working, seeking work, or preparing for work by participating in job training, educational programs, or programs that assist people to obtain employment and become economically self-sufficient; and
  3. increase housing choices for eligible low income families.

HUD is soliciting specific policy proposal recommendations related to cost effectiveness, resident self-sufficiency, and housing choice. The notice lists nine policy area examples, including some about which NLIHC has serious concerns such as alternative rent-setting methods and alternative occupancy policies that could involve time limits and work requirements. Other policy area examples include increasing moves to high-opportunity neighborhoods, ending homelessness, and improving educational outcomes.  Because the statute requires rigorous research methods to be used to test the policy proposals, HUD is also requesting input on evaluation and research methodologies.

The statute restricts MTW agencies’ ability to limit voucher holder portability rights to those with waivers, but such waivers must have exceptions for requests from voucher holders to move for reasons related to employment, education, health, and safety (see Memo, 12/21/15). The evaluation and portability changes are significant improvements to MTW, but the statute does not include other important reforms such as retaining extremely low income targeting standards and protecting voucher funds from being stockpiled or redirected by MTW agencies.

Of the 100 new PHA MTW sites, no fewer than 50 PHAs must administer up to 1,000 combined public housing and voucher units, no fewer than 47 must administer between 1,001 and 6,000 combined units, and no more than three can administer between 6,001 and 27,000 combined units.

For the existing 39 MTW agencies, the statute requires HUD to extend their MTW agreements under current terms until the end of their 2028 fiscal year, “except for any changes to such terms and conditions otherwise mutually agreed upon by the Secretary and any such agency.” This language gives current MTW agencies a very strong position in their ongoing negotiations with HUD over the extension of current agreements, which expire in 2018.

The April 1, Public Inspection version of the Federal Register notice is at: