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Rent-to-Save Pilot in Cambridge, MA


Highlights

  • Could asset-building opportunities be expanded for households living in public housing?
  • Abt reviewed an asset-building program within two public housing developments.
  • Residents loved the program and program administrators learned many lessons that could inform future efforts.
The Challenge

The Cambridge Housing Authority and Compass Working Capital collaborated to test the effects of automatically enrolling families in an asset-building program within two public housing developments. The goal was to answer two questions:

  • How could asset-building opportunities be expanded for households living in public housing?
  • Could automatic enrollment help boost participation in a financial coaching program?
The Approach

Abt conducted a review of the pilot after its three-year conclusion by reviewing results of administrative data and a resident survey—and by speaking with program administrators and participants—from both developments. Households in one development built savings automatically and could access their funds after three years simply by completing a survey.  Households in the other development had to complete at last six months of coaching in order to access their funds.  Households in both developments could also access funds on an interim basis.

The Results

Abt found that more than half (51 percent) of the households in the development requiring coaching successfully accessed their funds, compared with 82 percent in the other development. Both rates are much higher than typical enrollment in voluntary asset-building programs such as HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency program. Residents loved the program and wished it could have continued. Program administrators learned many lessons that could help inform future efforts to replicate or expand.

Related Publications:
Incorporating Asset-Building into the Basic Structure of Public Housing: Reflections on the Rent-to-Save Pilot
This issue brief provides an overview of Abt’s findings on the Rent-to-Save Pilot based on a range of quantitative and qualitative data sources.

Qualitative Findings from the Rent-to-Save Pilot Demonstration
This report describes the findings of interviews and focus groups with participants in the Rent-to-Save Pilot demonstration.