Public Housing Authorities Are Implementing Strategies to Improve Resident Outcomes and Address Equity

The Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) released a new report detailing how public housing authorities (PHAs) are addressing equity in their communities. PAHRC surveyed PHAs to determine challenges faced by their clients and strategies being implemented to improve equitable outcomes. Survey respondents indicated that certain client groups who receive housing assistance have more difficulty achieving successful outcomes. The majority of survey respondents indicated they are interested in furthering equity initiatives but are constrained due to lack of time and resources. The authors call on members of Congress, HUD, and local governments to support efforts to evaluate outcome disparities, identify best practices, and increase funding to bolster PHA-led equity efforts.

PAHRC surveyed PHAs operating Housing Choice Voucher and public housing programs between March and June 2022. Of the 83 respondents, more than half reported that members of certain groups receiving assistance have more difficulty achieving successful outcomes (e.g., leasing units, accessing services, finding jobs, and accessing housing assistance). The five groups most commonly identified by respondents as having difficulties were individuals with mental health challenges (86%), formerly incarcerated individuals (57%), women with children (43%), individuals with physical disabilities (41%), and Black or African American individuals (36%). Of PHAs that reported disparities between groups, more than nine in 10 indicated that clients needed additional supports or services. Other reasons identified as contributing to disparities in outcomes included stereotypes about the group (55%), lack of resources to compete with market-rate renters (50%), and bias against mental illness (50%). 

Researchers found that PHAs generally evaluate differences between client groups informally through the sharing of information among internal staff. Only two out of every 10 respondents reported that their staff formally collect data on outcomes by client group. Fourteen percent of respondents indicated that they have robust evaluation practices and analyze data on outcomes by group. The majority of PHAs that do not evaluate client group outcomes either informally or formally indicated that this was due to lack of time or resources.

More than four in five PHAs reported implementing at least one strategy to help clients achieve successful outcomes. Of those PHAs, 66% adopted additional services and partnerships, 61% participated in landlord recruitment and education, 58% revised PHA policies (e.g., admission criteria, waiting list prioritization, or payment standards), and 53% conducted additional staff training.

Although a majority of survey respondents reported implementing a strategy to help clients achieve successful outcomes, only 20% reported implementing an equity initiative, defined as the adoption of policies, programs, or practices that eliminate barriers and promote opportunity and advancement for all people. Respondents indicated that focusing on housing (42%), a lack of time (38%), and a lack of resources (33%) were the primary reasons for not developing or implementing an equity initiative. Given the high proportion of PHAs that responded to the survey that implement at least one strategy to improve resident outcomes, the authors suggest that more PHAs may be implementing strategies for equitable outcomes but may not recognize them as such.

Based on these findings, researchers noted several ways members of Congress, HUD, and local governments could promote equitable outcomes among PHA clients. Congress could provide more resources for PHAs, HUD could help PHAs evaluate disparities in outcomes using administrative data, and local governments could increase funding for housing-based supportive services.

The report also includes a guide that describes strategies PHAs can take to advance equity. PAHRC will host a webinar, “Promoting Equity at Your Housing Organization,” on Tuesday, April 19, from 2 to 3 pm ET. Register for the webinar here.

Read the report at: