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.

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