CLPHA recognizes that more federal resources for public housing and housing vouchers are necessary to assist the neediest and most vulnerable members of our society. Years of underfunding and disinvestment in public and affordable housing have been detrimental to the very fabric of the nation’s housing stock and housing stability. We are committed to securing adequate funding for these programs. Additionally, we support the expansion of funding flexibilities, such as those found in the MTW program, that would allow housing authorities to efficiently maximize their limited resources to better serve their residents and communities according to local needs and priorities.
During the last decade, capital fund appropriations have dwindled, while ongoing accrual needs have increased dramatically. Currently, capital fund appropriations average less than $2 billion annually, while annual capital accrual needs are estimated at $3.4 billion. The capital needs backlog was last estimated in 2010 as at least $26 billion—and growing. As funding dwindles, we believe greater flexibility in using federal assistance is essential. Models such as MTW, where PHAs can flexibly combine funding sources and use them to make strategic decisions about how to prioritize and recapitalize their project-based properties, should be taken to scale and replicated across the public housing program.
Greater flexibility in using federal assistance is essential since rigid adherence to narrow program rules prevents the responsiveness and adaptability needed to use resources in the most effective way possible. One of the most important flexibilities in the MTW program is funding fungibility between the public housing and voucher accounts. As a core tenet of the program, MTW agencies have the flexibility to make strategic decisions about balancing the mix of tenant-based and project-based assistance in a manner that best serves their community needs. This funding flexibility enables MTW agencies to be responsive to current local market conditions and effectively partner across systems to provide innovative service delivery models serving the most vulnerable populations.
Housing authorities should be allowed to focus on innovation, championing local decision-making and flexibility. The MTW program was designed to test innovative ways of administering rental housing programs by allowing housing authorities to operate with greater levels of administrative flexibility and local decision-making. As intended, the program has served as a laboratory of innovation, shaping much-needed reforms to the public housing and housing voucher programs. In addition, MTW agencies are pioneering new operating models that are more streamlined, efficient, and responsive to local needs. Some, but too few of these innovative reforms have been made available to non-MTW PHAs. Good examples of reform include more efficient eligibility and tenant income certifications, streamlined inspection requirements, and improvements to utility schedules.
We believe that aligning systems that serve low-income populations is the future of better delivery for programs at the federal level. MTW is a valuable tool for housing authorities to design and implement innovative strategies to better align sectors including housing, health, and education. We believe housing plays a particularly crucial role in improving cross-sector outcomes because of the deep connections to children and families that housing providers have. While stable housing is crucial to assist these populations, by better aligning delivery systems that are too often siloed, inflexible, and inefficient we can broaden and deepen efforts from housing, education, and health organizations to achieve positive long-term outcomes.