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

Panel Paper: Pathways to Self-Sufficiency: Lessons from Atlanta's Mtw Demonstration

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 2:05 PM
Miami Lecture Hall (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michael Rich, Emory University
The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) is one of a handful of public housing agencies around the country that participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration. MTW grants public housing authorities substantial flexibility in how they use federal housing assistance dollars. In exchange for this flexibility, MTW agencies are expected to increase housing choices for low-income families and to give both incentives and assistance for families-- especially those with children-- to move toward economic self-sufficiency.

The purpose of this study is to gauge the effectiveness of the AHA's MTW Program and learn how to make MTW more effective both locally and nationwide. Atlanta’s comprehensive public housing transformation strategy over the past two decades has widely embraced mixed-income, mixed-use housing developments and an extensive reliance on housing choice vouchers, both aimed at poverty deconcentration and providing its residents with greater housing choices. In addition, the AHA has invested heavily in a human services system that includes in-house social workers and case workers as well as an extensive network of human service providers to help families with relocation and finding appropriate pathways to self-sufficiency.

 Our MTW evaluation study examines two main research questions derived from Atlanta’s history and context: 1) do AHA families served under MTW see better outcomes than similar families in the Atlanta area served by non-MTW public housing agencies? and 2) if so, can these differences be attributed to AHA’s MTW policies and programs, in particular AHA’s bundling of housing assistance with human services?  To answer these questions, our research team is conducting a six-year local evaluation of AHA’s MTW demonstration (2012-2017) using administrative data and a three-wave panel study of assisted housing residents served by the Atlanta Housing Authority (n=900) and the Housing Authority of DeKalb County (n=300).  Our paper will report our interim findings from analysis of data for the period 2012-2015 which includes two waves of survey data.

 The survey covers a wide domain of topics including: family composition; housing history; neighborhoods and crime; friends and social networks; education; employment and income; social services received; health status and access to health care; and the well-being and education of children in the family. Many of the questions included in the survey have been drawn other recent evaluations of federal housing programs including Moving to Opportunity, HOPE VI, and Choice Neighborhoods, which will provide opportunities for comparisons of how low-income households in Atlanta compare to those in other major cities. In short, we will be looking to determine how household outcomes (housing and neighborhood quality/satisfaction, economic, education, health, youth risky behavior) vary by household characteristics (elderly, non-elderly), housing type (senior high-rise, mixed-income, project-based rental assistance, and housing choice vouchers), neighborhood type, and access/utilization of human services.