HUD Announces Nearly $130M in Family Self Sufficiency Grants

HUD recently announced over $128 million to 835 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) owners for the 2023 Renewal and New Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program grants. 

The FSS program is a voluntary initiative offered to families in HUD-assisted housing. Participants receive coaching, referrals to services, and establish a family escrow savings account. FSS Program Coordinators provide coaching and develop local strategies to connect participating families with public and private resources. These resources aim to increase their earned income and financial empowerment, reduce or eliminate the need for welfare assistance, and facilitate progress toward economic independence and self-sufficiency.

One level deeper: The FSS program is the nation’s largest asset-building program for low-income families, funding over 1,450 coordinators next year, who will serve over 69,000 residents in public, voucher, and multifamily housing. In 2015, Congress authorized PBRA owners to run FSS programs. Last year was the first year that PBRA owners were allowed to apply for funding. Between last year and this year, HUD has funded 91 new PBRA FSS programs.

How it works: Once an eligible family is selected to participate in the program, the PHA/owner, and the head of each participating family execute a FSS Contract of Participation that specifies the rights and responsibilities of both parties. The term of the FSS contract is approximately five years, but it may be extended for another two years by the PHA for good cause.

The FSS contract also incorporates the family’s individual training and services plan (ITSP). The ITSP is the document that records the plan for the family—that  is, the series of intermediate and long-term goals and the steps the family needs to take and the services and resources they may need to access to achieve those goals.

Some of the services coordinated through the program include: child care, transportation, education, job training, employment counseling, financial literacy, and homeownership counseling, among others. Services are generally not provided by the PHA/owner, but rather outsourced to service providers in the community.

An interest-bearing escrow account is established by the PHA/owner for each participating family. Any increases in the family’s rent as a result of increased earned income during the family’s participation in the program result in a credit to the family’s escrow account. Once a family graduates from the program, they may access the escrow and use it for any purpose.