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As Congress continues to debate the future of Moving to Work, many policy-makers and advocates clamor for details about the program’s effectiveness. Approaching its 20th year of existence, Moving to Work (MTW) is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) demonstration program that provides participating housing authorities the flexibility to explore innovative policies. While 39 public housing authorities are currently participating in MTW, Congress is considering significantly expanding and/or reforming the program.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies is evaluating the Charlotte Housing Authority’s (CHA) efforts to expand housing choices, assist clients in moving to self-sufficiency, and achieve greater cost-effectiveness in delivering services through MTW participation – which have been branded Moving Forward (MF). The Center is pleased to release Moving to Innovation: Second Interim Moving Forward Assessment, our most recent in a series of Moving Forward assessments produced by the Center. It builds on earlier reports by (i) presenting new data on programs and their implementation, (ii) tracking changes in the types and locations of housing choices offered, (iii) assessing tenant movement toward self-sufficiency, (iv) calculating the cost savings achieved, and (v) offering recommendations for improving the Moving Forward program.

Summary of report findings:

  • Staff indicate that the greatest benefit of MTW participation is the single-fund budget flexibility, as it allows the agency to shift funding to meet local housing needs.
  • Staff interviews and resident survey responses indicate that the CHA’s rent reforms have positively encouraged its tenants to move toward self-sufficiency. For example, 46% of work-able (non-elderly and non-disabled) respondents to the 2015 survey indicated that they had looked for a new job in response to the CHA’s new rent policies, and 19% had found new employment.
  • The CHA has been greatly effective in increasing housing opportunities for its clients between 2008 and 2014. It has increased the number of housing opportunities (i.e., units and vouchers) offered by 28% since 2008, with especially large gains in the number of affordable, project-based voucher, and supportive housing units.
  • Enforcement of the work requirement (one of many new MF initiatives to increase self-sufficiency) has substantially increased work efforts among those subject to it. However, barriers to work—including insufficient education, poor physical and mental health, and lack of transportation and childcare—continue to challenge residents’ capacity to move toward self-sufficiency.
  • CHA clients generally have low incomes and educational attainment in addition to high levels of intergenerational public housing residency. Survey responses indicate that residents are generally very satisfied with their housing and CHA policies, and a strong majority feel safe in their developments. Many clients, however, report poor health that has worsened over time.
  • The CHA has drawn on single-fund budget flexibility and implemented several activities to reduce costs and deliver services in more cost-effective ways. Further, it has used single-fund budget flexibility to allocate funding strategically to meet local housing needs.

Read the report and learn more about the authors’ policy recommendations.

This report was prepared under a contract with the Charlotte Housing Authority.

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