Promoting Economic Mobility in Multifamily Housing: Initial Outcomes from Family Self Sufficiency Programs

In 2014, Congress extended authority for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to owners of Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) properties. This new authority expanded eligibility for participation in the FSS program to a network of private owners serving more than 1.2 million households across the United States. One of the very first private owners to take up this opportunity was Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a national nonprofit developer, owner and operator of affordable housing. To implement the FSS program, POAH partnered with Compass Working Capital (Compass), a nonprofit financial services organization that has developed and implemented a new, asset-building and financial capability model for the FSS program.

Initial results from the early partnership sites in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have been very strong. POAH and Compass share in a commitment to expanding the scope and impact of the FSS program among privately-owned HUD assisted housing (also referred to as “multifamily housing”) households. This paper describes the FSS program, the Compass FSS model, and the POAH-Compass partnership. The paper also includes early learning and results from these FSS programs, which should encourage other private owners to consider implementing the FSS program – and in particular, the Compass model.

The FSS program is the single biggest opportunity right now to leverage housing assistance as a platform for economic mobility. Early data suggests that well-executed FSS programs lead to a significant impact on participating families while also providing a real return on investment to owners. And, for private owners who understand their work as one important aspect of the broader fight against poverty and inequality in this country, the FSS program is simply core to mission. The potential impact and scope of this program is significant if it receives broad adoption by private owners both large and small, in partnership with nonprofit organizations focused on promoting asset-building and financial capability strategies for families with low incomes. Finally, the final pages of this paper are recommended actions for all stakeholders– Congress, HUD, private owners, and asset-building organizations – in order to take full advantage of this promising opportunity.

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