America and Public Housing: Moving to Work-What Can It Do For You?


Staff from the Seattle Housing Authority, Lincoln Housing Authority and the Oakland Housing Authority spoke about the Moving to Work (MTW) program at the NAHRO conference in Pittsburgh.  MTW is a federal program that gives increased flexibility to public housing authorities in America.  The main purpose of this blog is to highlight the areas covered by the experts at these housing authorities so that other agencies who wish to be MTW can gain a better understanding.


There have been over 300 different MTW innovations catalogued.  A recent report showed that MTW agencies create a culture of innovation.  Many call the MTW agencies America’s Housing Policy Lab.  The idea is that different ideas created in the MTW world can be pushed out into the mainstream housing authority world.  Some of the findings from the recent MTW report include:

  • Increase cost effectiveness-
  • Increasing self sufficiency
  • Increasing the amount of housing available
  • Expanding the geographic scope
  • Promoting residential stability

Measuring Success:

MTW agencies can be very different in nature.  They all have local goals and preferences so measuring can be very tough.  The performance indicators show the following:

  • Increasing cost effectiveness-PHAs end up re-investing into other areas so it is hard to show cost savings. Some areas like admin costs are the same or slightly higher but that might be from higher cycles
  • Increased Self Sufficiency- MTW PHAs outperformed non-MTW agencies.
  • Increasing Housing- Over 7,000 non-traditional housing units were created
  • Expanding Geographical Scope- MTWs have less porting out and a higher rate of using project based vouchers.
  • Promoting Residential Stability- MTW PHAs could get more involved with rapid rehousing.

Lincoln Housing Authority:

In Lincoln Housing Authority they put in place a minimum earned income.  All work-able residents are expected to work part time at a minimum.  They created something that works in their local perspective. They simplified the rent structure to a 27% of income rent calculation with zero deductions.  They are finding that there is a 30% time study on doing the rent calculations.  Lincoln Housing Authority is finding that the nudge of minimum rent is working well.  95% of work-able households at this agency are working.  80% of the people in the voucher program that are work-able are working.

Seattle Housing Authority:

SHA has been a MTW agency since 1999.  They have about 18,600 units and 22 MTW activities around FSS, inspections, rent, VPS, port outs, waiting lists and more.  SHA recommends going directly to the MTW agency if you have questions.  Seattle has used MTW flexibility to project base a lot of units.  One thing they did was eliminate exit vouchers, they use these project based vouchers to work with shared housing providers, transitional housing and floating housing programs.   Seattle now has 2800 units being operated by community non-profits.  This resulted in administrative efficiency because the partners do all of the collection of information and working with the waitlists.

Oakland Housing Authority:

Oakland wanted to improved voucher utilization and serve more families.  They also wanted to simplify program requirements for both property owners and residents.  Another major goal was to implement programs that provided services enriched housing through systems alignment with federal, state and local entitlement programs.   The staff at Oakland believe that MTW can allow your agency to work within your community in a way that makes the most sense.   The Oakland Housing Authority has around 14,330 units all together.   One unique thing Oakland is doing is helping landlords in their area make HQS related repairs.  For example, they give $2500 interest fee loans to make repairs.  That is paid back to Oakland Housing Authority by housing assistant payments over 6 months.  They created over a million dollars of landlord incentives per year.


It is obvious that the MTW program can benefit any public housing authority.  With the promise of creating 100 new MTW agencies in the near future, now is the time to prepare your agency for MTW.

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