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Fostering Local Innovations Through HUD’s Moving to Work Program

The Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration is a nationwide program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that allows selected public housing authorities (PHAs) to develop and test innovative, locally designed strategies to meet specific needs of the community. The MTW program exempts these PHAs from many voucher and public housing rules and offers flexibility on how federal funds can be utilized.

Although MTW housing authorities must remain in compliance with certain statutory requirements, they may take advantage of several flexibilities that the program offers if doing so is in pursuit of one or more of its three objectives:

  • Reduce costs and achieve greater cost-effectiveness in federal expenditures;
  • Give incentives to families with children where the head of household is working, seeking work, or preparing for work by participating in job training, educational programs, or programs that assist people to obtain employment and become economically self-sufficient, and
  • Increase housing choices for low-income families.

HUD requires MTW housing authorities to track the ways their agencies make use of the program’s flexibility and report on outcomes tied to the three statutory objectives—reducing costs, improving self-sufficiency, and increasing housing choice. This blog series explores the innovations that PHAs have adopted with the enhanced regulatory flexibility provided by MTW.

About Moving to Work

The MTW demonstration was developed in response to critiques that HUD programs did not give grantees the ability or resources to tailor programs to the needs of local communities, limited housing choice for low-income households, and did not  encourage self-sufficiency. Congress authorized 39 MTW agencies under the 1996 Appropriations Act, and 100 additional housing authorities as part of the MTW Expansion under the 2016 Appropriations Act. PHAs participating in the MTW Expansion were selected and placed in cohorts, which HUD setup to evaluate the impact of specific innovations, such as stepped and tiered rents, incentives for landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, and pathways to asset building. In 2021, HUD rescinded its section notice seeking applicants for a cohort to test work requirements, citing conflict with the current economic realities and needs of low-income families.

MTW PHAs have been implementing creative solutions to the very real housing affordability crisis their residents have faced for decades. At the same time, this has given HUD and external research organizations the opportunity to continually evaluate the MTW program and better understand what works. Some successful MTW innovations have informed large-scale regulatory reforms rolled out nationwide, including inspection requirement updates in the Housing Opportunities Through Modernization Act (HOTMA) and COVID-19 emergency waivers. The program enables the housing industry to diverge from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to affordable housing and allows housing authorities to make informed decisions dictating the use of their resources to serve the vulnerable residents in their local housing markets.

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