House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced April 29 The Moving to Work Reformation and Expansion Act of 2016, H.R. 5137, which would remove the cap on the number of public housing agencies (PHAs) that can participate in Moving to Work (MTW) and change the status of MTW from a demonstration to a program. H.R. 5137 also would authorize HUD to provide technical assistance to PHAs participating in MTW and evaluate housing reforms undertaken by MTW participants to identify replicable program models.
Thirty-nine PHAs currently participate in the MTW demonstration which provides PHAs with exemptions from many existing public housing and Housing Choice Voucher rules and greater flexibility to use Federal funds to pursue MTW’s three statutory objectives: reducing costs and improving cost-efficiency for Federal dollars; promoting residents’ economic independence; and increasing housing choices for low-income families. Under H.R. 5137, MTW agencies would still be able to combine their Public Housing Operating and Capital Funds and Housing Choice Voucher funds and use these funds interchangeably.
The FY 2016 THUD funding legislation expanded the MTW demonstration from these 39 to at least another 100 PHAs. H.R. 5137 would remove the cap altogether; however, to ease the administrative burden of the expansion, the bill would limit new participation in the program to 25 PHAs annually. It also would require that at least 10 of the 25 PHAs HUD approves for the MTW program each year are smaller PHAs that have fewer than 6,000 public housing units and vouchers combined.
The bill establishes a selection panel of federal officials to review PHAs’ applications and determine admittance into the MTW program and requires PHAs to include a list of innovative proposals designed to reduce costs and assist residents in their applications. It also bars PHAs with a "troubled" status under HUD’s corrective action program from submitting an application within two years of that designation. Successful PHAs would receive MTW status for at least ten years.
As is current practice, MTW agencies would need to submit annual reports to HUD indicating how public housing and voucher funds were used. The bill further would require that the annual report describe and analyze the effects of the PHA’s activities on the three statutory objectives of the program. MTW agencies also would have to submit an annual budget plan describing all new rules and policy changes and projecting the effect of these changes.
H.R. 5137 would require all participating PHAs to establish a hardship exemption process so that tenants who, due to special circumstances of disability or age, cannot participate in the new PHA programs will not lose their housing assistance. Further, H.R. 5137 would require PHAs to provide an informal hearing or grievance process before evicting a household from public housing or terminating them from the voucher program for failure to meet MTW requirements.
HUD would be responsible for annually reviewing each participating PHA and reporting to Congress every five years on those annual evaluations and any recommended legislative changes to the program. H.R. 5137 tasks the Government Accountability Office with conducting a review of the MTW program by September 30, 2023 and every eight years thereafter.
H.R. 5137 has been endorsed by the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), and the Public Housing Authority Directors Association (PHADA). The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) opposes the bill, arguing that it makes permanent a demonstration that has not been properly evaluated and the expansion would strain HUD’s resources with the various reporting requirements and other oversight.
H.R. 5137 was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services on April 29. The bill has 20 cosponsors, 18 Republican and 2 Democrats. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.