On July 31st, 2023, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a press release, PIH NOTICE 2023-20, inviting public housing agencies (PHAs) to participate in the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Program. This initiative represents an exciting step forward for the future of public housing and represents an opportunity for these agencies to deliver a more flexible, efficient, and resident-centered service.
The MTW program, first authorized by Congress in 1996, provides PHAs with the autonomy to innovate and create customized solutions tailored to the specific needs of their local communities. It has seen nationwide success in its mission to improve housing choice and self-sufficiency for low-income families. The current invitation to the program aims to assess the overall impact of the MTW’s flexibility and administrative efficiencies on a PHA and its residents.
In a statement, HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge expressed optimism about the expansion, citing “excellent results” from previous MTW initiatives. Such successes include less frequent recertifications for those on fixed incomes, increased payment standards for accommodating persons with disabilities, and empowering owners to maintain site-based waiting lists for project-based vouchers. These innovations serve as a testament to the potential of the MTW program to transform public housing on a grand scale.
According to Chad Porter, CPA, CFE, and CEO of Smith Marion, “While MTW offers great flexibility on program and funding requirements, it doesn’t come free or easy. The accounting required to track the MTW funding is complicated and not well documented by HUD or the industry. We work with several Housing Authorities to streamline the accounting process of MTW so they can enjoy both the funding flexibility and program flexibility without the accounting headache of trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole.”
The MTW program also encourages entrepreneurial thinking within PHAs, thereby fostering an environment for innovation. With the reduction of administrative burdens, PHAs can focus more on pioneering policies and interventions that address unique local housing challenges. These creative solutions can lead to increased efficiency, better resource allocation, and improved services to the residents.
Richard Monocchio, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, emphasized that the MTW program is a catalyst for positive change in policy and is dependent on strong leadership within the PHAs. With the latest invitation, HUD is actively seeking housing authorities that can replicate the success stories of the MTW program.
With the addition of 14 new PHAs, there will be a total of 100 PHAs in the MTW Demonstration Program across 39 states and the District of Columbia since January 2021. This represents a considerable expansion of the program’s influence and reach, suggesting a significant potential for positive impact in the nation’s public housing landscape.
The MTW program’s expansion shows promising potential in shaping the future of federally assisted housing. The model allows for flexibility, innovation, and reduced administrative burdens, fostering a climate where PHAs can be responsive and agile. With the potential to directly influence national policy and lead to groundbreaking policy interventions, the MTW initiative holds the promise of a more efficient and effective public housing system. It offers hope for not only the housing agencies but also the countless families and individuals who depend on public housing.