The Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY 2016 hosing funding bill would dramatically expand the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program while reducing the number of children and families who receive support through the program, experts say.
The Senate bill directs HUD to increase more than eightfold the number of housing agencies participating in MTW, potentially extending it to 35% of the nation’s vouchers and public housing units, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The bill also would block important reforms HUD plans to make at agencies already participating in MTW.
The Senate provisions would cause as many as 85,000 fewer low-income families to receive voucher assistance if MTW agencies use the new flexibility to shift voucher funds to other purposes. This would expose low-income families to substantial added hardship, since research shows that vouchers reduce crowding and housing instability and are by far the most effective way to lower homelessness among families with children, CBPP said.
The provisions could lay the groundwork for even deeper voucher cuts in the future by converting more than 40% of voucher funding to block grants that would be more vulnerable to funding reductions, CBPP said.
MTW is a broad deregulatory initiative that is not focused on supporting employment. MTW allows participating agencies to obtain waivers of most of the main laws and regulations governing the public housing and voucher programs, to receive voucher and public housing funding under special formulas, and to shift program funds to purposes other than those normally permitted, CBPP said. The bill would extend this deregulation to 300 additional agencies that administer between 200,000 and 800,000 vouchers and public housing units.
MTW allows participating agencies to transfer unlimited funds from the voucher program to other purposes. Agencies are required to assist “substantially the same” number of low-income families as they would without MTW funding flexibility, but HUD has interpreted this in a manner that does little to prevent funding shifts that result in fewer families receiving meaningful assistance, CBPP said.