Panel Paper: Analyzing the Social Benefits and Costs of An Innovative Asset-Building Program for Low-Income Public Housing Residents

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 3:00 PM
3016 Adams (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Anna Santiago, Case Western Reserve University and George Galster, Wayne State University
The National Affordable Housing Act of 1990 authorized the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program aimed at building financial, human, and social capital in households receiving housing subsidies.  Despite the longevity and centrality of FSS, there has been no previous assessment of its comparative social benefits and costs.  Our research addresses this void by comprehensively accounting for monetized estimates of benefits and costs associated with an enhanced variant of the FSS program: the Denver Housing Authority’s (DHA) Home Ownership Program (HOP).  Our primary research question is:

 To what degree did participation in DHA’s HOP yield net benefits to participants, non-participants, and society as a whole [compared to if they had received housing subsidies during the same period]?

In assessing benefits we rely upon parameter estimates from a recent set of sophisticated statistical studies (some of which we have produced) employing quasi-experimental methodologies that permit one to draw causal inferences with substantial confidence.  We utilize administrative and survey data we have collected for the 2001-2009 cohort of HOP participants whom we have tracked longitudinally through 2011.  We draw upon administrative records to assess costs.  We employ a comprehensive accounting framework, distinguishing benefits and costs accruing to program participants, non-participants (other citizens, taxpayers and governments), and their aggregation: society as a whole.  We use Monte Carlo simulation techniques to approximate distributions of benefit and cost parameters, thereby allowing us to assess the precision with which we can answer our research question.

Our paper contributes to housing policy scholarship in several ways.  First, it is the first comprehensive benefit-cost analysis of a FSS-related program.  Second, unlike typical benefit-cost analyses that must draw benefit parameters from other studies conducted for different populations in different geographies and/or periods than those involved in the program being evaluated, our key parameters are estimated from a series of studies we conducted on a similar population living in the same city during the same period.  Third, it offers reasonable estimates not only to participating adults but also indirect benefits accrued by their children.


Newman, S. & Schnare, A. (1988).  Beyond bricks and mortar: Re-examining the purpose and effects of housing assistance. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press.

Rohe, W. & Kleit, R. (1999). Housing, welfare reform, and self-sufficiency: An assessment of the family self-sufficiency program. Housing Policy Debate, 10, 333-369.