to do. In principle, PHAs can use part of their administrative budgets for services, but their posi- tion has been that the size of those budgets is insuf- ficient to cover their costs in housing management, let alone take on a broader service agenda. Accord- ingly, most services that have been provided have been funded through special programs. Important examples in the early 1990s were the Drug Elimi- nation Program (now discontinued) and Family Self- Sufficiency, which has operated primarily in the voucher program.
The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program pro- vides case management that arranges for services aimed primarily to help participants find jobs, build assets, clean up credit histories, and take other steps to increase their incomes. Participants also have the chance to build savings as their incomes increase. Specifically, their rents go up with their incomes, but the program places the additional amounts they owe in rent into an escrow account for their benefit. They can access the funds only after they have successfully graduated from the program. At least 75,000 house- holds participate in FSS; 67,500 in the voucher pro- gram and 7,500 in public housing. HUD funding compensates PHAs for the amounts placed in escrow and provides about $48 million annually for FSS coordinators. And voucher recipients who receive employment counseling and case management services under the Family Self-Sufficiency program appear to achieve significant employment and earnings gains (Lubell 2008). Working with HUD or with individ- ual PHAs to identify and implement best practices in the FSS program could improve outcomes for voucher families.
A family with an income of $500 a month pays $150 in rent to live in public housing or a rental unit assisted by a voucher. If the family’s income rises to $750 a month, the monthly rent obligation would increase to $225. An FSS participant would still have to pay $225 in rent, but the $75 increase would be deposited each month in an escrow account. If the family maintained this level of earnings, its account would have a bal- ance of at least $4,500 after five years. Families receive the full value of their escrow accounts upon successful completion of their FSS action plan (Cramer 2004).
Because of its visibility, HOPE VI highlighted the service needs of the troubled original residents who had to be relocated. Funding was provided to address the need in HOPE VI project budgets, but this was a new venture for most housing authorities, and the results were mixed at best (Popkin et al. 2004). Still, the HOPE VI experience broadened recogni- tion of the need, particularly for services oriented to “helping families move to self-sufficiency.” Congress explicitly endorsed this theme in its landmark Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 and authorized a new grant program, Resident Oppor- tunities for Supportive Services (ROSS) (Solomon 2005).
ROSS funding covers several programmatic com- ponents, including an FSS-like program for public housing residents. However, appropriations have thus far been quite small (under $50 million annually).25 HUD’s current strategy recognizes that it is unlikely that funds for all service needs for public housing res- idents will (or should) flow through the HUD budget. Rather, the emphasis should be on using HUD funds primarily to hire ROSS service coordinators who will in turn arrange for appropriate packages of services with existing local providers. The services should “enable participating families to increase earned income, reduce or eliminate the need for welfare assistance, make progress toward achieving economic self-sufficiency, or, in the case of elderly and disabled residents, help improve living conditions and enable residents to age in place.”26 If ROSS is sustained and expanded, it may offer an opportunity for new local partnerships that more effectively link public hous- ing residents with high-quality services. The success of this kind of linking strategy depends, however, on the availability and quality of local services.
Some research suggests that, over time, employ- ment and earnings may increase among families who receive a housing vouchers plus housing search assistance to help them move from high-poverty, distressed neighborhoods to communities of opportu- nity. Over the long term, participants in the Chicago Gautreaux demonstration who moved to majority- white, resource-rich communities in the suburbs were more likely to work, earned more, and were less reliant on public assistance than similar families who remained in city neighborhoods. However, the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration, which more rigorously tests the impacts of moving