HUD Expands Asset-Building Support for HUD-Assisted Families
HUD recently announced that it will publish a rule to implement changes to the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. The FSS program promotes increased earnings and savings among families receiving HUD-funded rental assistance. To achieve this, FSS utilizes case management and financial coaching services and a financial incentive.
Program participants work with an FSS service coordinator to identify their financial and employment-related goals, including education or training, and can access a range of support services, such as child care or credit repair, that offer assistance in achieving their goals. Under the financial incentive, a family that makes increased earnings and pays higher rent also receives higher payments in an escrow account, enabling them to build assets. FSS participation is voluntary and typically lasts for up to five years, with a possible extension up to a total of seven years.
The FSS program is the largest asset-building program for families with low incomes in the country. Earlier this year, HUD announced $101 million in awards to nearly 700 public housing authorities (PHAs) to support efforts to help residents living in public housing and those participating in the Department’s Housing Choice Voucher program to meet their financial goals. HUD expects to announce additional funding opportunities later this year for renewal programs and new applications, which—for the first time—will be open to owners of HUD-assisted multifamily properties.
HUD’s changes to the program include permanently expanding the definition of an eligible family to include tenants of privately owned multifamily properties subsidized with Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA). In addition to permanently expanding the program to multifamily owners and allowing them to compete directly for services funding, the rule also expands eligibility for program enrollment to include any adult member of the household—rather than only the head of household—to be more inclusive of households where the head of household is unable to work or increase work activity due to issues such as health conditions, disabilities, or family caretaking responsibilities.
The rule also expands the definition of “good cause” for an FSS client contract extension to include participants who are in active pursuit of a long-term goal that will help them get ahead, such as a college degree, as opposed to only reasons outside of the family’s control. Additionally, among other positive statutory and regulatory changes, the rule removes administratively burdensome requirements for enrollment and revises graduation requirements.