CURS Researchers Speak at Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference 

Michael Webb, Ph.D.

Michael Webb, Ph.D.

Denver, Colorado was the site of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference from October 12-15, 2017. Among the many presenters from UNC-Chapel Hill were Center for Urban and Regional Studies Researchers Michael Webb, Ph.D., and Kirstin Frescoln, Ph.D.

Webb’s presentation, titled “Policy Mobilities and Mutations in the Moving to Work Demonstration,” was based on research conducted for The MTW GuideMoving to Work (MTW) allows participating housing authorities the flexibility to waive certain U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations and implement alternative program designs. For instance, some agencies have implemented a work requirement (which are normally prohibited), while others have modified rent calculations for their tenants (public housing residents typically pay 30% of their income as rent).

Despite wide latitude to implement a variety of programs, though, most Moving to Work agencies have implemented very similar activities. Webb’s presentation argued that housing agencies are responding to the same pressures—such as funding cuts, long waitlists and lack of access to high-opportunity neighborhoods for Section 8 residents—and, as a result, their programs look very similar. Staff at Moving to Work agencies are also very interested in seeing the program succeed, and are willing to share best practices with other agencies. Ultimately, sharing policies between agencies may be a good thing, as previously-implemented policies are already tested, have policy language already drafted and implementation issues identified and possibly addressed.

Kirstin Frescoln, Ph.D.

Kirstin Frescoln, Ph.D.

Frescoln’s presentation, titled “Public Housing’s Self-Sufficiency Mandate,” explored the history of self-sufficiency interventions undertaken by public housing agencies (PHAs). In particular, her research sought to understand: 1) Why policy makers established a self-sufficiency mandate within public housing; 2) The relative strengths and challenges of PHAs assuming this role; and 3) Whether this is an appropriate role for a PHA?

In response to public discourse, shifting demographics and changes in PHA funding, housing agencies began experimenting with direct self-sufficiency interventions as early as 1961. While the 1961 Concerted Services project was not deemed successful, Congress established a series of pilot initiatives in the 1980s including Project Self-Sufficiency and Operation Bootstrap that culminated in the Family Self-Sufficiency program in 1990. Other programs have included Community Supportive Services (part of HOPE VI), Resident Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Jobs-Plus and various self-sufficiency initiatives launched by Moving to Work.

There are many good reasons for PHAs to engage in self-sufficiency programming; chief among them is the clear identification of a population of need. PHAs can leverage physical co-location and multiple funding streams to directly deliver high-quality programming. The greatest challenges have been lack of capacity within the PHAs, insufficient on-going program evaluation and improvement, poor data collection, and the absence of evidence-based practices to effectively increase economic mobility

Recommendations include providing PHAs with training and technical assistance to more effectively implement existing interventions and HUD funding to support data collection and evaluation of the self-sufficiency programs. Current initiatives to test and evaluate Jobs Plus, Moving to Work and other self-sufficiency policies such as work requirements may lead to the first evidence-based self-sufficiency interventions within public housing.

 

Frescoln Wins Hadzija Award and Impact Award

Kirstin Frescoln

Kirstin Frescoln

UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher Kirstin Frescoln, a doctoral student in city and regional planning, received the 2017 Boka W. Hadzija Award for Distinguished University Service by a Graduate or Professional Student.

The Boka W. Hadzija Award recognizes a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate or professional student with outstanding character, scholarship, leadership and service to the university. Frescoln and other award recipients were recognized at the Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony on April 18, 2017. The Graduate School recognized Frescoln at the 19th Annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, held April 20, 2017.

Frescoln works as a research assistant at the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies, where she evaluates programs related to housing and community development. She received a GEAB Impact Award for her evaluation of Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirements for non-elderly and non-disabled residents and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy largely fulfills the housing authority’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility while not harming family well-being. Included in the many stakeholders Frescoln interviewed were residents subject to the Charlotte policy. She interviewed them three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.

Frescoln developed and taught a course titled Race, Poverty and Planning, which will be added to the city and regional planning department’s course offerings. She is involved with Plan for All, a student group that strives to increase awareness of social justice issues within the department and the planning profession.

“Kirstin’s research is dedicated to better understanding the barriers to effective social policies that reduce poverty and empower communities,” her nominator said.

She has received certificates in health disparities and in participatory research and is certified in community mediation and meeting facilitation.

Frescoln served in public service positions for more than 16 years before beginning her doctoral studies. She volunteers for the Orange County Dispute Settlement Center and Orange County Justice United.

“She is steadfast in her dedication to social justice,” her nominator wrote. “Her academic research, professional career, volunteerism, church service and obligation to public service all reflect her personal charge to further social justice outcomes. There are few doctoral students who could so passionately pursue real-world impacts both through their research and their everyday engagement with policy and program challenges that affect the lives of their fellow students and fellow North Carolinians.”

Boka W. Hadzija was an award-winning professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy; she established the award in 2000 in honor of her students. Hadzija, who died in 2013, is remembered by students and faculty for her strong mentorship, her generous support of students and her outstanding leadership.

By Deb Saine, The Graduate School

Frescoln Wins Impact Award

The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s annual Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Awards recognize graduate students for contributions they are making to our state. The longstanding Impact Award recognizes discoveries with a direct impact on our state in the present time. Kirstin Frescoln, UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher and City and Regional Planning doctoral candidate, was one of the Impact Award winners for her work examining the Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirement policy.

The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) is one of eight public housing authorities nationwide that enforces a work requirement for work-able residents. The CHA contracted with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies to conduct a 10-year evaluation of a series of reforms including the work requirement. Frescoln directed research, as a part of the study, to inform policymakers on why and how the work requirements have been implemented, and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her work and that of the Center is believed to be the only empirical evaluation of public housing work requirements.

Frescoln’s findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy, which is implemented with case management and employment supports, largely fulfills the CHA’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility. A majority of residents she interviewed said they support the work requirement. Wage employment was found to increase while eviction rates did not, and family well-being was not found to decrease as a result of the policy. Frescoln interviewed housing authority staff from the eight U.S. housing authorities with work requirements, and CHA leadership, managers, front-line staff and residents subject to the work requirement. She interviewed residents subject to the Charlotte policy three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.

Frescoln’s findings are critical to state and national policymakers who are considering the potential effectiveness of public housing work requirements and the needs of people living within these communities.

“There is very little research on the effects of work requirements on public housing residents who would lose their housing assistance if they do not work. Kirstin’s dissertation research has the potential to have wide-ranging implications for housing policy and practice in Charlotte and throughout the United States,” said adviser Mai Nguyen, Ph.D.