Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Next Generation of Public Housing Employment Initiatives: Jobs-Plus Expands

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Miami Lecture Hall (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Micah Greenberg, M. Victoria Quiroz-Becerra and Aurelia De La Rosa Aceves, MDRC
This paper presents key findings from MDRC’s evaluation of the replication of an important evidence-based employment initiative for public housing residents. Launched with the support of HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Jobs-Plus Public Housing Revitalization Initiative was an experiment operating in six public housing developments across the country, from 1998 to 2003. Implemented properly, Jobs-Plus boosted annual earnings of residents by 16%, an effect which was sustained without abating for seven years.

Drawn from a comprehensive implementation study of Jobs-Plus replication in the Bronx and San Antonio, Texas under the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) of the Center for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Mayor’s Fund for the City of New York, and New York’s Center for Economic Opportunity, this paper provides recommendations about how to support the next generation of Jobs-Plus replication, especially HUD’s Jobs-Plus Pilot Program, whose first nine grantees were announced in April 2015.

Jobs-Plus has three parts: 1) employment services at on-site job centers, 2) changes in rent rules that provided financial incentives to work, and 3) community support for work through neighbor-to-neighbor conversations. While each of the components of the Jobs-Plus model are not challenging conceptually, their implementation during the SIF – and especially their integration and coordination with each other – was difficult to manage in practice. At the same time, sites were able to adapt and innovate within the model, and also reach substantial proportions of residents within two years:

  • Employment Services. The original Jobs-Plus model emphasized quick job placement when feasible. Contemporary workforce development practice has since emphasized the need for programs to promote advancement, career pathways, and apprenticeships, and for training to support these goals. As in many other settings, these contemporary emphases were difficult to implement, especially with residents without high school diplomas and a need for quick placements.
  • Financial Incentives. In the original demonstration, housing authorities had the ability to develop a variety of rent incentives, but in the SIF, the rent incentive used was the Earned Income Disallowance, or EID.  EID receipt was very low (at about 1% and 3% in the Bronx and San Antonio, respectively), for reasons almost out of the control of Jobs-Plus implementers, despite their extensive efforts to implement the rent incentive. Fortunately, HUD has provided current Jobs-Plus replicators with a longer-term, simpler rent incentive, which essentially freezes rents for participating households for the duration of their time in the program.
  • Community Support for Work. Community Support for Work is one vehicle for achieving deep “saturation” within developments, by reaching residents who might otherwise not avail themselves of employment services or take advantage of rent incentives. During early program implementation, the San Antonio Housing Authority developed creative strategies to engage residents. Findings from the SIF also demonstrate how CSW is dependent on strengths of the other two components of the model: for example, CSW can only publicize the availability of new rules to “make work pay” if these incentives are in place.