How Can HUD Help Housing Assistance Recipients Gain Financial Independence? Abt Housing Expert Testifies in Congress about Promising Program Results
Jeffrey Lubell, director of housing and community initiatives for Abt Associates, testifies on Sept. 27 during a House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance hearing on the Family Self Sufficiency Program. An Abt Associates housing expert recently testified in a House subcommittee about an Abt evaluation of a program that helps participants in federal rental assistance programs achieve greater financial independence.
Jeffrey Lubell, director of housing and community initiatives for Abt Associates, was a witness during a Sept. 27 House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance hearing on the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program, a 25-year-old U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program that helps participants in federal rental assistance programs increase their earnings and build assets and financial capability.
In his testimony, Lubell summarized an independent evaluation report recently released by Abt that followed rental assistance recipients over an average of 40 months as they participated in FSS programs offered by the nonprofit Compass Working Capital, in partnership with local housing authorities in Lynn and Cambridge, Mass. Compass is a nonprofit organization partnering with public housing authorities, nonprofit housing organizations, and private housing owners to administer an innovative, “asset-building” approach to the FSS program.
Compass’s Founder and Executive Director, Sherry Riva, was another witness at the hearing. Other witnesses included: Aaron Gornstein, President and CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing; Kristin Siglin, Senior Vice President for Policy of the Housing Partnership Network; and Stacy L. Spann, Executive Director of the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County.
Abt’s study of the Compass FSS program found that program participants earned more on average and received less in cash welfare payments than their matched peers. The evaluation also found that participants improved their credit scores and reduced their debt, exceeding benchmarks in both areas.
“The Compass FSS evaluation results confirm that FSS can be an effective platform for helping HUD-assisted households to increase their earnings, improve their credit scores, and reduce levels of credit card and delinquent debt,” Lubell said in his testimony. “However, the success of any given local FSS program will depend on the approach it takes to implementing the program and the quality of implementation.”
As Lubell noted, “HUD has recently taken a number of steps to strengthen performance of local FSS programs.” These include development of a guidebook – and related online training – of best practices for local FSS programs and a new system for measuring FSS program performance.
Abt provided support to HUD on both of these projects.
Read more about Abt’s work in housing.
Follow Jeffrey Lubell on Twitter at @JeffreyLubell