Bill Rohe, director of the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies and the Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of City & Regional Planning at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, talks about his team’s research on work requirements in public housing.
Learn more about the CURS’ research in housing and community development here and read the report on Work Requirements in Public Housing: Impacts on Tenant Employment and Evictions (pdf).
Transcript for the video, Bill Rohe: Work Requirements for Public Housing Residents
There’s been a lot of discussion in Washington lately about the idea of adding work requirements to the public housing program, including both the developments and what’s called the Section 8 program, the voucher program. So, we want to test and to see what kind of impacts such a work requirement would have if it was introduced into the public housing program. We’ve been working with the Charlotte Housing Authority for six years looking at the impacts of their work requirement. They’re part of the Moving to Work program and hence they have been given the authority to introduce a work requirement and we’ve been studying its impacts on both employment among those people that are covered and the extent to which the program has resulted in the eviction of tenants from their program.
What did you learn from your evaluation?
Well, they were quite surprising actually. First of all, there was a very large increase in employment among the public housing residents. At the beginning of the program, forty-five percent of the work-able tenants actually were employed by two years. After the introduction of the work requirement, that increased to eighty-five percent of the work-able residents. So, major increase in employment. Secondly, we found very little increase in evictions. Essentially, over that two-year period, only two people were evicted. Thirdly, based on the interviews that we did with the people subject to the work requirement, we were really surprised to find that they actually thought it was fair and they actually talked about a number of positive benefits of the work requirement. Things like, they felt now that they had jobs, they had greater self-esteem, and also that they were providing better role models for their children.
What recommendations do you have for entities looking to expand housing work requirements?
Well, first of all, we want people to be cautious in the sense that our findings are based on one city, one program, and the city itself, Charlotte, has a very robust employment market so jobs were relatively easy. We’re concerned that if this work requirement was imposed on public housing residents in areas that have high unemployment rates, that programs may result in higher eviction rates and potentially increases in homelessness. Secondly, the findings suggest that most of the employment that the residents were able to obtain were part-time jobs and what this means is their incomes were not substantially higher and they are going to have a hard time moving out of public housing. So, this is probably not a program that’s going to result in a lot of people actually leaving public housing. They just won’t have enough income. And then thirdly, the importance of the supportive services is really an important issue here. Supportive services are really important to the effectiveness of work requirements and it’s important to understand that if you try to implement work requirements without the supportive services you may get a very different result. The bottom line is we’re generally supportive of work requirements if they come with the kind of support that allows people to prepare for work and to find work. We think they ultimately will have a positive benefit on both the residents themselves and on their children.