Abt/PAHRC Report Confirms MTW Agencies Outperform Non-MTW Agencies Across Key Measures

Emphasis on Meeting Local Needs

A new evaluation report from Abt Associates and PAHRC finds that Moving to Work (MTW) agencies are serving more families; improving residents’ quality of life and economic mobility; and preserving more public housing than comparable non-MTW housing agencies.

The report, Testing Performance Measures for the MTW Program, is the second phase of a two-part Abt study, commission by PAHRC/HAI Group. In December 2014, Abt /PARHC released the Innovations in Moving to Work Demonstration, which documents through cases studies a wide range of innovative practices being completed at MTW agencies.

In the new evaluation report, Abt/PAHRC focused on analyzing the performance of MTW agencies around six indicators: cost effectiveness, economic self-sufficiency, quantity and quality of affordable housing, promoting residential stability for targeted households, expanding geographic choices of assisted households, and other key metrics (income of people served, affordability of rent payments). As a member of the Abt/PAHRC MTW advisory group, CLPHA has offered feedback and suggestions throughout the process, which were incorporated into the evaluation and final report.

CLPHA has long supported MTW as platform for innovation and a key ingredient to ensuring the long-term viability of the Section 8 and public housing programs. Positive outcomes from this latest evaluation further confirms that MTW enables PHAs to better serve their residents and communities, creating effective policies and programs that are flexible and responsive to local needs. 

The study found that MTW agencies are performing better than non-MTW agencies across the indicators listed above, particularly in these key areas:

 Increasing Self-Sufficiency: Compared with non-MTW agencies, households at MTW agencies were more likely to have increased earnings over time. MTW households with Housing Choice Vouchers were also more likely to have a shorter lengthen of stay than their comparative households in non-MTW agencies. 

• Increase the Quality and Quantity of Affordable Housing: MTW agencies are better able to use their block grant authority to provide local, nontraditional housing assistance to serve special populations, such as those experiencing homelessness or domestic violence.  Additionally, MTW agencies are better able to maintain and preserve the traditional affordable housing within their portfolios. MTW agencies have higher physical inspection scores than non-MTW agencies (40 percent of MTW agencies score 90 or higher compared to 21 percent for non-MTW comparison agencies) and MTW agencies also report having less unmet capital needs than non-MTW agencies.

• Promoting Residential Stability: MTW agencies often use their flexibilities to form innovative partnerships with local service providers. Overall, MTW agencies report serving twice as many households through partnerships than non-MTW agencies. Additionally, MTW PHAs are more likely to have service coordinators to assist residents (48 percent of MTWs have at least one service coordinator, versus 37% for non-MTW agencies.)

The report highlights several of the challenges in evaluating the program’s performance. The flexibilities granted by MTW often result in a diversity of approaches to programs and policies across agencies. Given the broad range of activities at MTW agencies, it can be difficult to compare measures, as well as fully incorporate the context of each agency’s local goals and conditions. Additionally, data needed for performance evaluation was both imperfect and incomplete. Although MTW and non-MTW agencies use many of the same reporting systems, such as PIC, VMS, and Annual Reports, there are still differences in agency reporting requirements, as well as inconsistencies in the measures that were being reported on.

For future studies of MTW performance, Abt/PAHRC made several recommendations, including: creating more detailed definitions of performance measures, building more data checks into data collections tools to ensure consistency in reporting, and developing additional comprehensive measures that provide a more complete picture of performance.

Overall, the first comprehensive evaluation of the MTW program finds that MTW agencies do better than comparison agencies on most performance measures, particularly those related to self-sufficiency and housing choice, while also meeting the established PHA requirements for serving extremely low-income households.

To view the report Executive Summary, click here.