New Research on Public Housing Work Requirements and their Impacts on Tenant Employment and Evictions

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Tarlton Hills is one of five public housing developments where the Charlotte Housing Authority has implemented a work requirement with on-site case management for residents.

Tarlton Hills is one of five public housing developments where the Charlotte Housing Authority has implemented a work requirement with on-site case management for residents.

September 14, 2015

Public housing authorities have always faced a tension: to provide safe, stable housing to our most vulnerable families while also trying to move them off public housing assistance. The use of work requirements as a means to increase employment among public housing residents is currently being implemented by eight housing authorities participating in HUD’s Moving to Work demonstration program (MTW). However, until now, there has been no rigorous evaluation of the impacts of these policies on tenants.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has released a new research paper Work Requirements in Public Housing: Impacts on Tenant Employment and Evictions which provides the first assessment of the impacts of a work requirement on tenants’ employment and eviction rates. The research examines a work requirement implemented by the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) through its MTW participation.

The CHA’s policy applies to five of its fifteen public housing developments, where work-able (non-elderly and non-disabled) households must work 15 hours weekly or face rent sanctions and eventual eviction. The CHA provided case management to all residents for at least two years prior to implementation, and has continued to provide these services following enforcement.

This research compares changes in employment and eviction rates between work-able residents in the five work-requirement developments and similar residents not subject to the requirement. It also assesses the attitudes of public housing residents toward the work requirement policy.

Work Requirements in Public Housing - Figure 2

Employment and average hours worked among CHA residents subject to the work requirement is shown above. Prior to work requirement implementation, Treatment Group A had opted into the CHA’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program and were already receiving case management. Treatment Group B had not made any affirmative choice to move toward self-sufficiency prior to the work requirement. The percentage of employed residents in both Treatment Groups increased substantially following work requirement enforcement in January 2014 (denoted by vertical dashed line). The average hours worked among employed households, however, did not show a similar increase.

The research team found:

  • In over two years prior to enforcement – when residents were receiving case management but the requirement was not enforced – employment did not increase at the work requirement sites relative to those in the comparison group, which did not receive case management.
  • Following enforcement of the work requirement, however, residents’ employment increased significantly – although the average hours worked among employed households did not.
  • No evidence that sanctions increased evictions or other forms of negative move-outs. This is likely due to the CHA’s emphasis on helping tenants reach compliance instead of adopting a punitive approach.
  • More than 80% of CHA residents – including those impacted by the policy and those not subject to it – express general support for work requirements. This finding suggests that most public housing residents have the same values concerning work as the larger population.

These findings are timely in that Congress is currently debating the expansion of the MTW program that would allow additional public housing authorities to adopt work requirements.

Read Work Requirements in Public Housing: Impacts on Tenant Employment and Evictions to learn more about the research and the authors’ policy recommendations.

This research was supported by the Charlotte Housing Authority under grant 09-1739.

For more information, contact Dr. Michael Webb at mdwebb@unc.edu.
Paper updated 12-14-2015 with new data.