In an article for Next City produced by FUSE Corps, a national nonprofit that aims to help urban communities thrive through partnerships with local governments, author Erin O’Donnell spotlights two CLPHA member PHAs’ successful programs that enable residents to become more financially self-reliant and less dependent on federal rental assistance.
To help its teen residents prepare for college and career success, the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) offers The Work Force, an after-school educational enrichment and work-readiness program, and This Way Ahead, a partnership with clothing retailer Gap that holds a paid 12-week training course for retail jobs. John Lindamood, CHA’s director of resident services, says that while the housing authority offers programs for residents of all ages, CHA intentionally focuses on helping teenagers in order to disrupt intergenerational poverty as they transition into postsecondary education, adulthood, and the workforce.
Flexibilities granted through the Moving to Work (MTW) program have enabled CHA to implement these programs and track their outcomes. A survey conducted by an external firm found that roughly two thirds of Work Force graduates exited subsidized housing within six years of graduating from high school and finishing the program.
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) also utilizes its MTW flexibilities to offer self-sufficiency programs that fit their residents’ needs. Through the Path to Success initiative, SDHC encourages residents to become more financially self-reliant and offers financial education and work-readiness classes. While ordinarily Path to Success requires participants to report their incomes each year, resulting in annual rent adjustments, SDHC only requires income reports every other year, giving residents more time to increase and save their added earnings. SDHC has found that since Path to Success’s 2013 implementation, residents’ incomes have increased by an average of 32 percent.
SDHC also offers a modified version of HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program that lasts two years and offers additional incentives for families to complete their educational and employment-related goals.
Azucena Valladolid, SDHC’s senior vice president of rental assistance and workforce development, underscored the importance of these programs that improve residents’ financial outcomes: “When we increase the self-sufficiency of the families that we serve, we spend less on the family’s behalf, which means that we can then reinvest that savings and create more housing opportunities for the families that may need it.”