Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: A Jobs Plus Evaluation

Public housing developments are among the most economically-challenged communities in the United States. In fact, many public housing residents face substantial barriers to employment and advancement. Jobs Plus, an initiative of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), aims to help address this problem by providing employment services, offering earned income disregards (earnings increases are not counted when determining rent) and building community support for work. To date, HUD has awarded approximately $62 million to 24 public housing agencies (PHA) to implement Jobs Plus.

The first cohort awarded four-year grants from HUD were the following nine PHAs: Boston, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Roanoke, Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; and Syracuse, New York. The housing developments targeted by each of these agencies range in size from 240 to more than 1,500 work-able residents, with employment rates ranging from 21 to 49 percent.

HUD selected a team of three organizations to evaluate the implementation and short-term impacts of this cohort of Jobs Plus programs: MDRC; the National Initiative on Mixed Income Communities (Case Western Reserve University); and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (UNC-Chapel Hill).

A new interim report, co-authored by CURS researchers Bill Rohe, Kirstin Frescoln and Michael Webb, examines the launch of Jobs Plus and the progress made getting staff in place, building partnerships, delivering services and structuring their program. The report is from an evaluation of HUD’s Job Plus Pilot Program, led by MDRC, which helped develop and evaluated the original Jobs Plus demonstration launched in the late 1990s.

The findings in this first report are meant to characterize the early implementation experiences of the programs. The report draws on site visits and interviews that the research team conducted between August and October 2016. Programs had been in operation for roughly one year at the time of the site visits. This report also includes quantitative data reported to HUD by the sites from April 2015 through September 2016.

Key findings include:

  • Developing Partnerships: All sites had begun to develop partnerships to implement Jobs Plus; however, they varied in terms of the types of partners involved, their roles in delivering Jobs Plus services, the value that they brought to the program, the formality of the partnerships and the level of ongoing engagement of the partner organizations.
  • Delivery of Employment Services: Employment services were more generic and not especially tailored to meet the specific needs and skills of individual participants. In addition, although staff are interested in preparing participants for career-path jobs, they have found this goal difficult to achieve.
  • Jobs Plus Earned Income Disregard (JPEID) Implementation: The JPEID has served to generate resident interest in Jobs Plus and getting residents connected to program services. However, many sites found it challenging to implement this component.
  • Community Support for Work (CSW): Grantees launched various types of discrete CSW activities, but most expressed a need for more clarity about what counts as CSW. As intended, some sites are beginning to take a “universal” approach to implementing CSW, one that requires the commitment and engagement of all staff, residents and partners (and not the sole responsibility of particular Jobs Plus staff members).

Technical Assistance: Overall, site program staff voiced the need for more frequent and concrete guidance and clearer program standards to guide their implementation of Jobs Plus.
Based on these findings, the following recommendations were made:

  • Sites might benefit from deeper, earlier and more frequent technical assistance that is focused squarely on helping to strengthen implementation quality.
  • To meet HUD’s goal that Jobs Plus be demand-driven—that is, informed and shaped by employers’ needs for individuals with certain skills to fill available jobs—sites ultimately need input from employers and business-oriented organizations that can help them understand which industries and occupations are in local demand. Although some sites receive this kind of input and information, many do not, and there is room for improvement at all sites.
  • Sites should strive to minimize residents’ confusion about enrolling in the JPEID. Sites should ensure that they are ready to implement JPEID and that property managers both understand and endorse it. They might also identify messaging about work incentives that appeal to those who are working and those who are not.
  • HUD, local Jobs Plus staffs and other stakeholders could enhance implementation by working collaboratively to define CSW efforts and coming to clear agreement on how to operationalize and measure outcomes effectively.

This report was prepared for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research by: Betsy L. Tessler, Nandita Verma , Jonathan Bigelow, Victoria Quiroz-Becerra (MDRC) ; Kirstin P. Frescoln, William M. Rohe , Michael D. Webb (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill); and Amy T. Khare, Mark L. Joseph , Emily K. Miller (Case Western Reserve University).

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.

 

Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program Evaluation

Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program EvaluationReleased on September 8, 2017 by the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program Evaluation was co-authored by the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies Director William M. Rohe and Researchers Kirstin Frescoln and Michael D. Webb.

The original Jobs Plus demonstration was launched in 1998. Of the six sites that were part of the demonstration, only three fully implemented the model. When fully implemented, the model increased tenants’ earned income by 16%. The Jobs Plus model was replicated in 2011 in San Antonio and the Bronx through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).

HUD is now in the process of scaling up the Jobs Plus model. In April 2015, HUD announced the first cohort of Jobs Plus grant awards to nine sites. Scaling Up a Place-Based Employment Program: Highlights From the Jobs Plus Pilot Program Evaluation is an interim report evaluating the start-up of the nine grantees in the first cohort. These sites have implemented the model more quickly and fully than the original demonstration and the SIF replication sites. Within the first 18 months, all nine sites had begun structuring their programs, building partnerships and implementing the core components of the Jobs Plus model.

Jobs Plus

CURS releases “Boulevard Homes Final Report: Changing Communities, Transforming Lives”

Changing Communities, Transforming Lives CoverThe Center for Urban & Regional Studies has released the Boulevard Homes Final Report: Changing Communities, Transforming Lives. Short for “Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program funded the demolition and redevelopment of distressed public housing developments throughout the country. Between 1994 and 2010, over 250 public housing developments were redeveloped with support from the HOPE VI program. The Charlotte Housing Authority received a total of five HOPE VI grants during this time.

The most recent HOPE VI grant awarded to the CHA was for the razing and redevelopment of Boulevard Homes, which was physically obsolescent and plagued with crime. The newly constructed development—called the Renaissance—includes 274 apartments reserved for low-income families and 60 market rate units. The Renaissance also includes a K-8 public school (currently under construction) and an early childhood development center that is in the planning stages. The Renaissance West Community Initiative, a non-profit initially funded by the CHA, is coordinating the educational and social services being provided in the development.

Over the past five years, CURS has been evaluating this redevelopment project, with a particular focus on the experience of those who were relocated from the original development. The CHA provided residents with case managers and supportive services while the Renaissance was under construction. These case managers helped residents set self-sufficiency goals, and connected families with services like job training, educational opportunities, and health care assistance.

Building on our previous evaluation reports, this final report provides an overview of the Boulevard Homes redevelopment process and its outcomes. It describes and assesses the redevelopment process, including the design of the new development, the relocation of former residents, the attitudes of the former residents toward the relocation process and outcomes, the supportive services offered to relocatees, and the redevelopment’s impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and much more.

Some of the key findings are that:

  • The CHA used the financial flexibility provided through the Moving to Work demonstration to shift over $14,000,000 into developing the Renaissance and additional off-site replacement housing. Additional CHA funding also allowed the authority to offer enhanced supportive services to the residents who were relocated from the original development.
  • A majority of former Boulevard Homes residents relocated to privately-owned apartments using Housing Choice Vouchers rather than moving to other CHA public housing developments. A large majority of the relocated residents were very satisfied with the relocation process, and with their new housing and neighborhoods. This, to some extent, explains the relatively small number of original tenants who moved back to the redeveloped site.
  • Over time, the intensity of case management services offered to residents decreased as the budget for those services became tight. The most commonly-accessed services for non-elderly residents were occupational training and childcare subsidies, while health care assistance was the most frequently used by for elderly households.
  • The work efforts of the relocated residents substantially increased during the redevelopment process. According to data collected by case managers, the percent of non-elderly/disabled residents working rose from 33% in October 2010, close to the beginning of the project, to 67% in June 2015, close to the end of the project.
  • While it is very early to assess the development’s impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, we note that the neighborhood surrounding the Renaissance has experienced a recent significant increase in home lending activity. In addition, CHA and developer staff believe that conditions are improving in the neighborhood, with a new police station and social service center slated to open nearby soon.

To read or download the full report, please click here.

CURS to participate in #TalkHousing Twitter talk with How Housing Matters

How Housing Matters #TalkHousing

CURS Director and Boshamer Distinguished Professor of City & Regional Planning Bill Rohe will participate in a #TalkHousing Twitter talk with other experts on the impacts of work requirements on employment and eviction among public housing residents. The talk will be hosted by How Housing Matters on Friday, January 15 from 1-2p.m. ET. To access the chat, follow the hashtag or check the @Housing360 timeline. Professor Rohe will be participating from CURS’ Twitter handle, @UNCCURS.

How Housing Matters is run by Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing and supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

CURS researchers publish “Innovation in US public housing: a critique of the Moving to Work demonstration”

Building on our report cataloging activities implemented by housing authorities participating in the Moving to Work demonstration (MTW), “Innovation in US public housing: a critique of the Moving to Work demonstration” summarizes both the policy context of Moving to Work and criticisms of the demonstration. It also sets an agenda for current debates about extending and expanding the program.

Enacted in 1996, MTW allows participating housing authorities two flexibilities. First, they may waive federal regulations, like how much to charge for rent. Second, they may combine various federal funding sources into a single, flexible fund. Currently, 39 housing authorities are participating in the program.

Continue reading