Welfare Reform:

Changes Will Further Shape the Roles of Housing Agencies and HUD

RCED-98-148: Published: Jun 25, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1998.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the implications of welfare reform on public housing agencies and their tenants, focusing on the: (1) impact of welfare reform on the revenue, employment status of tenants, and roles of selected housing agencies; and (2) Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) role in assisting housing agencies and their clients as they adapt to welfare reform.

GAO noted that: (1) it is too early to be certain what impact welfare reform will have on the revenue of the housing agencies that GAO selected, the employment status of their tenants, and the roles of these housing agencies; (2) most of the agencies had not attempted to estimate welfare reform's impact on their revenue for multiple reasons, including a lack of resources to undertake detailed analyses of the impact of their state's welfare reform plan; (3) welfare rolls had declined in the states that GAO visited, and state officials described services being provided to help Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients overcome obstacles to employment; (4) housing agency officials, residents, and others believed that tenants would face significant challenges in moving from welfare to work; (5) their concerns are supported by research, based on past behavior, which shows that welfare recipients with housing assistance tend to have longer stays on welfare than those without housing assistance; (6) executive directors recognized that the role of housing agencies increasingly includes providing social services as well as housing; (7) however, agencies' social service activities were generally operated separately from states' welfare reform efforts; (8) the agencies that GAO visited had limited involvement in their state's welfare reform efforts; (9) state and local government offices with welfare reform responsibilities rarely targeted funds and programs to public housing developments; however, TANF recipients with housing assistance are eligible for the same services as other TANF recipients; (10) HUD has a smaller role in welfare reform than the states or some other federal agencies; however, HUD said that it is committed to making welfare reform work; (11) HUD's role is driven, in part, by the large numbers of tenants who currently receive welfare benefits whose incomes will decline if they do not find jobs or other sources of income within the time limits; (12) HUD's own financial status depends, to some extent, on these tenants' success in replacing welfare benefits with earnings; (13) to date, HUD has emphasized the importance of welfare reform in at least two strategic planning documents, issued guidance on welfare reform, redirected some programs to focus on welfare reform, and begun to coordinate its welfare reform activities internally and externally; and (14) HUD's strategic plans do not include a comprehensive strategy for bringing together HUD's resources for welfare reform and the funds and programs available from the states and other federal agencies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To assist public housing agencies in their efforts to help residents move from welfare to work, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should increase communications with field offices and housing agencies to clarify HUD's role in welfare reform, explain how current programs can be used to complement welfare reform efforts, and identify sources of information about other federal welfare reform efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To assist public housing agencies in their efforts to help residents move from welfare to work, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should provide additional technical assistance and data on tenants' characteristics along with guidance that would help housing agencies use the data to assist in managing the units and in determining what impact welfare reform might have on the agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To assist public housing agencies in their efforts to help residents move from welfare to work, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should develop a comprehensive strategy that relies on each field office to promote the benefits of using assisted housing developments as places to deliver services related to welfare reform and to help link other field office and housing agency staff with federal, state, and local welfare reform efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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