Study Examines Impact of HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration on Tenants

An article in Cityscape, “Impact of Rental Assistance Demonstration Program Conversions on Public Housing Tenants,” examines short-term tenant outcomes in HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. The report finds that, overall, tenants reported either a positive or neutral experience with the RAD program. Tenants were generally satisfied with public housing agency (PHA) communication about and management of the RAD conversion process. A majority tenants thought maintenance and property management were as good or better than before conversion, while most also reported improvements to the quality of their units. RAD tenants, however, more frequently reported certain issues with housing quality, both before and after the conversion process, than public housing tenants in general, raising important questions about the RAD program.

HUD launched the RAD program in 2012 to address preservation needs in the public housing stock and other, older HUD project-based rental housing. The program converts public housing units, and some older HUD project-based subsidies, to project-based Section 8. The number of public housing units eligible for conversion was initially capped at 65,000 and raised to the current cap of 455,000 units in 2018. The current cap accounts for nearly 45% of the country’s public housing stock. As of September 2020, almost 140,000 public housing units had been converted through RAD.

The research team surveyed a sample of 522 tenants in 18 properties of varying sizes undergoing RAD conversions from June 2015 through March 2016. Researchers selected the tenant sample to represent each property’s population regarding race and ethnicity, gender, age, and disability status. Administrative data and interviews with PHA staff supplemented the survey.

Eighty percent of respondents indicated satisfaction with PHA communications concerning RAD, but roughly 18% expressed dissatisfaction. The majority (53%) of respondents indicated no perceived change in property maintenance or management after conversions. Tenants were more likely to report better property maintenance (34%) or management (32%) than worse property maintenance (9%) or management (12%). Approximately 44% of respondents indicated the quality of their housing unit was about the same (35%) or much worse or somewhat worse (9%) than before the conversion. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported much better or somewhat better housing quality.

RAD tenants, both before and after the conversion process, were more likely to report housing quality problems like holes and cracks in walls, peeling paint or broken plaster, or signs of mold than public housing tenants surveyed in the American Housing Survey (AHS). Although the sampled RAD units were not representative of all public housing, these disparities in housing quality, coupled with the perceived changes in maintenance and unit quality, raise concerns about whether RAD sufficiently improves the physical quality of public housing units.     

Read the article at: