New directions for assisted housing mobility in America
Author(s)Rinzler, Daniel Scott
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Xavier de Souza Briggs.
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Assisted housing mobility programs aim to help low-income families leverage tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA) to move to areas that provide basic ingredients for security and socioeconomic mobility. Although attractive in principle as a way to compensate for the uneven geography of risk and opportunity in metropolitan housing markets, mobility programs have proven difficult to design and implement effectively enough to deliver intended social benefits. After two decades of experimentation, research, and shifting theories around mobility, efforts are underway to develop a new generation of programs. In a shift in institutional context, Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), rather than federal or nonprofit agencies, are taking the lead. Critically, PHAs are for the first time attempting to integrate substantial mobility supports in their TBRA programs, which comprise the largest form of federal housing aid to low-income families. I analyze how staff at these PHAs are making program design decisions and how effective those decisions may be. Broadly, I aim to determine what PHAs' design decisions mean for the future of assisted housing mobility as an approach for improving the lives of the poor, and what they suggest about mobility's viability in the context of the day-to-day political and operating environments of those who deliver housing assistance. I use a three-case comparative approach, including two PHAs currently developing mobility programs - the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and the King County Housing Authority - and one established program in Baltimore, which emerged as a desegregation remedy in the Thompson v. HUD lawsuit. Data collection for each case included key-informant interviews, observations of program design meetings, and review of publicly available program documents. First, I review research on assisted housing mobility, social policy design, and trends affecting PHAs as delivery agents for federal housing policy. Second, I outline factors that set the stage for program design at each site, including: motivation for pursuing mobility; agency context for mobility; factors that have enabled mobility; and problem identification and theories of change. Third, I detail each mobility effort's major design decisions, for both the programs and the delivery systems: establishing goals and success metrics; targeting of clients and places; and more. On the positive side, I find that program designers are working to incorporate lessons of mobility research, especially with regard to program targeting, intensity of client coaching, and follow-ups. On the other hand, pressure to ensure program success has translated to narrowly conceived mobility initiatives, which cuts against broad-based reforms to administering rental assistance. Notably, both PHA-originated efforts are very focused on children's educational outcomes, eschewing an earlier focus on helping their parents get ahead. In addition, some innovators are pushing to mainstream mobility and "change the default" in how agencies administer rental assistance. In terms of lessons for future policy and practice, current efforts provide new examples of the range and depth of impact that is possible, particularly for disadvantaged children. PHAs' discretion also appears to offer more room for innovation beyond what has been possible in stand-alone mobility programs of the past. However, mobility could easily be marginalized within these agencies, so both organizational strategy and political management on the part of staff will be critical.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2013.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 147-155).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.