Panel: As Hud’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary, What Do We Know about Program Performance?
(Housing, Community Development, and Urban Policy)

Saturday, November 10, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
8222 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Jeffrey Lubell, Abt Associates, Inc.
Discussants:  Barbara Sard, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

HUD recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, the primary HUD program dedicated to helping participants in HUD-assisted housing make progress toward economic security.  This panel examines what we know about the outcomes and impacts of the FSS program at the 25-year mark.


In the past few years, rigorous evaluations of local FSS programs in New York City and Lynn and Cambridge, Massachusetts have added to our understanding of the programs’ impacts. While both evaluations found reductions in TANF benefits that outweighed costs, they reached different conclusions about earnings impacts, with the evaluation of the Compass FSS programs in Lynn and Cambridge finding sizable earnings impacts that were not found for FSS on its own in the New York City evaluation.  (The NYC evaluation did find an impact of FSS plus conditional cash transfers on the earnings of participants not working at baseline.)  In addition to different patterns of outcomes and impacts, the evaluations found that FSS was being implemented in very different ways in the two settings, underscoring the flexibility inherent in the FSS structure to tailor the program to local needs and the need for research comparing different approaches.


While the evaluations of local FSS programs are helpful for illustrating how FSS is being implemented in different settings and examining whether and to what extent the program can be used successfully, they don’t indicate how the FSS program is performing at the national level.  For this, data on a wider array of programs are required – a need this panel seeks to fulfill.


The first paper summarizes results at the 36-month mark for the first national evaluation of FSS that includes a comparison group.  This HUD-commissioned study of 18 FSS programs from across the U.S. draws on its random assignment design to speak to questions about the program’s effectiveness in increasing employment, earnings, and economic mobility of voucher-assisted households. The study also includes implementation and cost-benefit analyses.  The second paper draws on a new HUD performance measurement system to describe data on the performance of more than 700 FSS programs across the U.S. – nearly all of the programs that receive HUD funding for FSS program coordinators.  Among other things, the paper highlights the variability in local program performance.  It also includes a detailed explanation of the new measures and how they were created to assist other researchers interested in using this new data source to track program performance.  Finally, the third presentation will provide a practitioner’s perspective on FSS, describing the innovative approach to FSS that Compass Working Capital developed emphasizing asset-building and financial capability as well as Compass’s efforts to facilitate the replication and adaptation of its model by other FSS programs.


The discussant, a housing policy expert with broad expertise in federal housing programs, will reflect on the findings and comment on their policy relevance. In particular, the discussant will draw lessons for strengthening the FSS program, and for other policy reforms that might improve self-sufficiency outcomes for housing subsidy recipients.