An Assessment of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Experimental Housing Allowance Program

CED-78-29: Published: Mar 8, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1978.

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) housing allowance program, a social experiment, has been operating for about 5 years. It consists of three related experiments--supply, demand, and administrative agency--to test the feasibility of providing direct cash assistance to low-income families so that they may obtain adequate housing.

Although the experiment will provide a wide range of information on housing and on the behavior of low-income families, it will not provide answers to the principal research questions regarding the feasibility of a national cash allowance program. The 12 experimental sites selected by HUD were too few in number, and they lacked the characteristics typical of the major urban areas they were intended to represent. HUD did not clearly apprise the Congress from the outset of the experiment's limitations and raised too high expectations of its usefulness. During the review of the experiment, HUD questioned GAO's need for access to data provided by program participants which the Department considered to be confidential. GAO believes that the right of access to experimental data is essential to its responsibilities.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should: provide the Congress periodic detailed reports on the program's status and the progress made in providing answers to research questions, merge the results of the Department's evaluation of the section 8 program into the integrated analysis of the experiment, and include in the department research procedures a requirement that it will not enter into any contract or grant that might conflict with GAO's right of access to information. Congress should hold oversight hearings to discuss the Department's reports on the experiment's status and to decide whether it should be continued, modified, or terminated.


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