Housing AND Welfare to WOrk

H. C. Covington (ach1@sprynet.com)
Fri, 24 Apr 1998 04:50:40 -0500


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   =20
    April 7, 1998
   =20
    Welfare-to-Work Vouchers:=20
    Making Welfare Work
   =20
    Funding for rental housing assistance has traditionally flowed =
directly from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the =
3,400 public housing authorities throughout the country. States and =
local governments have played only a minor role in the provision of =
federally funded housing assistance to poor families.
   =20
    A proposal in the President's budget to provide 50,000 new housing =
vouchers to families making the transition from welfare to work would =
begin to change this. The program would establish new partnerships =
between housing agencies and state and local agencies working to promote =
and implement welfare reform and help states meet the goal of moving =
families from welfare to work. In conjunction with state and local =
welfare agencies and local entities administering the new federal =
welfare-to-work funds, public housing authorities (PHAs) would compete =
for the vouchers. PHAs, welfare agencies, and administrators of =
welfare-to-work grants would collaborate to design a program that would =
meet their particular needs. For the first time, federally-funded =
housing resources would be provided specifically to complement and =
further the goals of state welfare reform programs.=20
   =20
    Only families that currently are eligible for or have received TANF =
in the last year and that have housing needs related to their ability to =
obtain or retain employment would be eligible for a voucher. Families =
would use these vouchers to rent housing on the private market; public =
housing is not involved. (A family with a voucher typically pays 30 =
percent of its income in rent; the housing authority pays the difference =
between the family's rent payment and a "reasonable rent standard" for =
housing.) Beyond this, the combination of state and local welfare =
agencies, employment agencies, and public housing agencies competing for =
these vouchers would have flexibility to design programs that meet local =
needs and support local welfare reform strategies to help families =
achieve self-sufficiency. These vouchers could be awarded for such =
purposes as providing incentives for families to move from welfare to =
work or to retain employment, enabling families to move to where job =
opportunities and transportation networks to job opportunities are =
located, and enhancing coordinated economic development initiatives.=20
   =20
    =20
   =20
    The Need
   =20
    Studies indicate a substantial proportion of families that move from =
welfare to work have difficulty retaining employment. Researchers who =
have tracked families over time have found, depending on the study, that =
between 20 percent and 60 percent of families that moved off AFDC =
returned to AFDC within two years.(1) A recently completed study by the =
University of Maryland Department of Social Work found that one-fifth of =
families who left Maryland's cash assistance program between October =
1996 and March 1997 returned to the program within six months after =
leaving.(2) Two of the factors that contribute to this job instability =
are difficult commuting regimes and high housing costs.=20
   =20
    a.. Job Access Problems. Current and former welfare recipients tend =
to be concentrated in high poverty areas where, in many cases, job =
opportunities are limited. High housing costs often make it difficult =
for these families to move to areas that have lower rates of =
unemployment that are closer to where jobs are located. If parents must =
travel long distances and take several bus lines to get to their place =
of employment, they may face significant difficulties in finding and =
retaining employment. Such access problems can be particularly difficult =
for poor families living in rural areas. Families without cars or those =
living several hours from areas with good employment opportunities may =
be unable to find a job. Moreover, those with a job may have difficulty =
getting to work if their car breaks down. As the length of the workday =
increases due to time-consuming commutes, child care costs rise, and =
children may be left unsupervised for longer periods of time.=20
        a.. Housing Cost Burdens. Housing costs generally consume more =
of a low-income family's budget than any other item. More than 40 =
percent of working poor households with children pay at least 50 percent =
of their income in rent.(3) Such high housing costs can leave families =
with little disposable income to meet employment-related expenses such =
as transportation, unsubsidized child care costs, and additional =
clothing that may be required for work. For example, in the nation's 20 =
largest metropolitan areas, a single mother with two children who works =
full time throughout the year at $6 an hour would, on average, pay over =
two-thirds of her income in rent for a two-bedroom apartment at the =
"fair market rent."=20
        Due to these high housing costs, a large proportion of low-wage =
working families are unable to afford housing of their own. If these =
families are forced to move from one relative or friend to another, or =
even worse, if they end up homeless, they may face major hurdles in =
securing and retaining employment. By helping families afford their own =
housing, the provision of vouchers could protect families from having to =
move and potentially disrupt their employment.
   =20
    The Administration's proposal would enable welfare agencies and =
housing providers to reach out to families whose employment prospects =
are clouded by problems of job access and lack of affordable housing.
   =20
    =20
   =20
    Rewarding and Encouraging Partnerships and Innovation
   =20
    Under this proposal, state and local welfare agencies, entities =
administering welfare-to-work funds provided in last year's Balanced =
Budget Agreement, and housing authorities would have a great deal of =
discretion over the program's design. Housing vouchers could be used to =
provide incentives and supports for families making the transition from =
welfare to work in a number of ways, as selected by state and local =
welfare agencies and PHAs.=20
   =20
    a.. Incentive to Work. Housing vouchers could be used as a reward =
for families that have successfully obtained a job, thus providing =
additional incentives for families to move into the workforce or remain =
employed.=20
        a.. Addressing Job Access Problems. It often is difficult for a =
family that receives a voucher from one PHA to use the voucher in a =
location closer to available jobs or transportation networks in an area =
administered by a different PHA. Under this proposal, PHAs in =
high-poverty areas could link with PHAs in areas with good job =
opportunities and transportation networks. A mother from a high-poverty =
neighborhood could work with a job training and employment services =
agency in a high-growth area in her search for a job. If successful in =
her job search, the mother could be given a voucher to help her move =
closer to her new place of employment.=20
        a.. Meeting Families' Housing Needs. Welfare agencies, job =
training providers, and employers often are able to identify situations =
in which long commute time or housing instability undermine a family's =
ability to make the transition from welfare to work or to retain =
employment. But if the agency or employer directs the family to the =
local public housing authority, it takes an average of 26 months between =
the time of application and receipt of a housing voucher or =
certificate.(4) In many areas, the waiting lists are so long that they =
are closed to new applicants. Under the proposed initiative, welfare =
agencies, current and would-be employers and training providers could =
directly refer to public housing authorities families whose unstable =
housing situations or long commute times are affecting their ability to =
find or retain jobs.=20
        a.. Links with Employers. In certain areas, employers face a =
shortage of low-skilled labor. An employer facing a shortage of labor =
could make a commitment to hire a certain number of parents moving from =
welfare to work, and the local housing authority could commit to =
providing these new hires housing vouchers so they could move closer to =
their new jobs.=20
        a.. Links to Housing Producers. In certain areas, even if a =
mother has been offered a job and a voucher, she may be unable to move =
near her prospective place of employment due to an insufficient supply =
of housing at reasonable cost. These vouchers could be administered by a =
state housing agency that administers the low-income housing tax credit. =
The welfare-to-work vouchers could be tied to new units financed through =
federal- or state-funded production programs, such as the low-income =
housing tax credit or the HOME block-grant program, and located in areas =
with employer need and a high demand for low-skilled labor. Links with =
housing producers and employers could contribute to economic development =
efforts in such areas.=20
        a.. Leveraging State Resources. The competition could give =
priority to PHAs in states that agreed to match the assistance the =
federal government provided, thereby leveraging additional resources for =
housing and related social services. A state could match the federal =
dollars provided on a one-for-one basis, thus increasing the number of =
families served. State-funded supportive services, such as mobility and =
employment counseling, could be combined with the federally-funded =
housing assistance. Two states, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as =
San Mateo County, California, have recently established housing =
allowance programs for certain families making the transition from =
welfare to work. Federal welfare-to-work vouchers could help these =
states and localities expand such programs and encourage others to =
launch their own state-supported housing assistance efforts targeted at =
families making the transition from welfare to work.=20
        a.. Building on Successes. Prior experience indicates that =
coordinated efforts between housing, welfare, and other service =
providers yield positive results. Under the Family Unification Program, =
for example, housing and child welfare agencies have successfully =
coordinated efforts to provide housing assistance to families whose =
children are determined by the child welfare agency to be at imminent =
risk of being placed in foster care because of housing problems. The =
family unification program has already served to reunite or keep =
together close to 10,000 families.(5) Other PHAs that have established =
Family Self-Sufficiency programs or launched a Moving to Work =
demonstration have established linkages with providers of supportive =
services. PHAs that have been successful in offering families the needed =
supports and resources necessary to transition into the workforce, =
however, have been unable to expand these programs due to funding =
constraints. The provision of the welfare-to-work vouchers could provide =
such PHAs the opportunity to reach out to new families with =
employment-related housing needs, while building on successful programs. =

        =20
   =20
    Conclusion
   =20
    More TANF recipients are served by HUD-financed voucher and =
certificate programs than any other federally-funded housing program, =
including public housing. In FY 1997, about 500,000 AFDC/TANF families =
used tenant-based certificates. By encouraging welfare agencies, housing =
authorities, local developers, and employers to create new partnerships, =
this proposal could yield important lessons concerning how best to =
coordinate these housing resources with state and local efforts to move =
families from welfare to work. Important lessons also could be learned =
about how to link the provision of rental housing assistance, production =
of new low-cost housing, and economic development initiatives. =
Successful programs could serve as models for state welfare agencies and =
housing authorities as they continue the push to move more people from =
welfare to work and help families that have already moved into the =
workforce to stay employed and attain self-sufficiency.=20
   =20
   =20
    =
-------------------------------------------------------------------------=
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   =20
    End Notes
   =20
    1. See Meyer, Daniel, R. and Cancian, Maria, "Life after Welfare: =
The Economic Well-Being of Women and Children Following an Exit from =
AFDC:", August 1996: 3. The data are based mostly on families who exited =
AFDC during the late 1970s or 1980s.=20
   =20
    2. Maryland Department of Human Resources and University of Maryland =
School of Social Work, "Life After Welfare: An Interim Report", =
September 1997: 35.=20
   =20
    3. Tabulations of the American Housing Survey, 1995. Any household =
with earned income greater than or equal to half-time earnings =
throughout the year at the minimum wage is defined here as 'working'.=20
   =20
    4. Data based on the national average wait for receipt of assistance =
through the Section 8 voucher and certificate program. US Department of =
Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and =
Research, A Picture of Subsidized Households, Vol. 11, December 1996: =
72.=20
   =20
    5. Rog, Debra J., Gilbert-Mongelli, Ariana M., and Lundy, Ezell, The =
Family Unification Program: Final Evaluation Report. CWLA Press, =
Washington, DC, 1998:3 . For FY 1997, numbers are based on the Notice of =
Funding Availability for FY 1997.=20
   =20
   =20




Background Information | Board of Directors
Publication Library | Center Staff | Search this site=20
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Welfare-to-Work Vouchers: Making = Welfare Work - 4/7/98
 

April=20 7, 1998

Welfare-to-Work = Vouchers:=20
Making = Welfare=20 Work

Funding for rental housing assistance has = traditionally=20 flowed directly from the Department = of Housing=20 and Urban Development to the 3,400 public housing authorities = throughout=20 the country. States and local governments have played only a minor = role in=20 the provision of federally funded housing assistance to poor=20 families.

A proposal in the President's budget to = provide 50,000=20 new housing vouchers to families making the transition from welfare = to work=20 would begin to change this. The program would establish new = partnerships=20 between housing agencies and state and local agencies working to = promote and=20 implement welfare reform and help states meet the goal of moving = families=20 from welfare to work. In conjunction with state and local welfare = agencies=20 and local entities administering the new federal welfare-to-work = funds,=20 public housing authorities (PHAs) would compete for the vouchers. = PHAs,=20 welfare agencies, and administrators of welfare-to-work grants would = collaborate to design a program that would meet their particular = needs. For=20 the first time, federally-funded housing resources would be provided = specifically to complement and further the goals of state welfare = reform=20 programs.

Only families that currently are eligible for = or have=20 received TANF in the last year and that have housing needs = related=20 to their ability to obtain or retain employment would be eligible = for a=20 voucher. Families would use these vouchers to rent housing on the = private=20 market; public housing is not involved. (A family with a voucher = typically=20 pays 30 percent of its income in rent; the housing authority pays = the=20 difference between the family's rent payment and a "reasonable = rent=20 standard" for housing.) Beyond this, the combination of state = and local=20 welfare agencies, employment agencies, and public housing agencies = competing=20 for these vouchers would have flexibility to design programs that = meet local=20 needs and support local welfare reform strategies to help families = achieve=20 self-sufficiency. These vouchers could be awarded for such purposes = as=20 providing incentives for families to move from welfare to work or to = retain=20 employment, enabling families to move to where job opportunities and = transportation networks to job opportunities are located, and = enhancing=20 coordinated economic development initiatives.

 

The Need

Studies indicate a substantial proportion of = families=20 that move from welfare to work have difficulty retaining employment. = Researchers who have tracked families over time have found, = depending on the=20 study, that between 20 percent and 60 percent of families that moved = off=20 AFDC returned to AFDC within two years.(1) A=20 recently completed study by the University of Maryland Department of = Social=20 Work found that one-fifth of families who left Maryland's cash = assistance=20 program between October 1996 and March 1997 returned to the program = within=20 six months after leaving.(2) Two of = the=20 factors that contribute to this job instability are difficult = commuting=20 regimes and high housing costs.

Due to these high housing costs, a large = proportion of=20 low-wage working families are unable to afford housing of their own. = If=20 these families are forced to move from one relative or friend to = another, or=20 even worse, if they end up homeless, they may face major hurdles in = securing=20 and retaining employment. By helping families afford their own = housing, the=20 provision of vouchers could protect families from having to move and = potentially disrupt their employment.

The Administration's proposal would enable = welfare=20 agencies and housing providers to reach out to families whose = employment=20 prospects are clouded by problems of job access and lack of = affordable=20 housing.

 

Rewarding and Encouraging Partnerships = and=20 Innovation

Under this proposal, state and local welfare = agencies,=20 entities administering welfare-to-work funds provided in last year's = Balanced Budget Agreement, and housing authorities would have a = great deal=20 of discretion over the program's design. Housing vouchers could be = used to=20 provide incentives and supports for families making the transition = from=20 welfare to work in a number of ways, as selected by state and local = welfare=20 agencies and PHAs.

 

Conclusion

More TANF recipients are served by = HUD-financed voucher=20 and certificate programs than any other federally-funded housing = program,=20 including public housing. In FY 1997, about 500,000 AFDC/TANF = families used=20 tenant-based certificates. By encouraging welfare agencies, housing=20 authorities, local developers, and employers to create new = partnerships,=20 this proposal could yield important lessons concerning how best to=20 coordinate these housing resources with state and local efforts to = move=20 families from welfare to work. Important lessons also could be = learned about=20 how to link the provision of rental housing assistance, production = of new=20 low-cost housing, and economic development initiatives. Successful = programs=20 could serve as models for state welfare agencies and housing = authorities as=20 they continue the push to move more people from welfare to work and = help=20 families that have already moved into the workforce to stay employed = and=20 attain self-sufficiency.


=20

End = Notes

1. See Meyer, = Daniel, R. and=20 Cancian, Maria, "Life after Welfare: The Economic Well-Being of = Women=20 and Children Following an Exit from AFDC:", August 1996: 3. The = data=20 are based mostly on families who exited AFDC during the late 1970s = or 1980s.=20

2. Maryland = Department of Human=20 Resources and University of Maryland School of Social Work, = "Life After=20 Welfare: An Interim Report", September 1997: 35. =

3. Tabulations of = the American=20 Housing Survey, 1995. Any household with earned income greater than = or equal=20 to half-time earnings throughout the year at the minimum wage is = defined=20 here as 'working'.

4. Data based on the = national=20 average wait for receipt of assistance through the Section 8 voucher = and=20 certificate program. US Department of Housing and Urban Development, = Office=20 of Policy Development and Research, A Picture of Subsidized = Households,=20 Vol. 11, December 1996: 72.

5. Rog, Debra J.,=20 Gilbert-Mongelli, Ariana M., and Lundy, Ezell, The Family = Unification=20 Program: Final Evaluation Report. CWLA Press, Washington, DC, = 1998:3 .=20 For FY 1997, numbers are based on the Notice of Funding Availability = for FY=20 1997.

Background Information | Board of Directors
Publication Library | Center=20 Staff | Search this site =
Job Opportunities | Internship=20 Information | Top Level

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