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Shoring Up HUD's Self-Sufficiency Program

While consuming only a tiny fraction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget, the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program is one of the nation’s largest programs designed to help working poor families increase their savings and build assets. The program has three primary components -- stable, affordable housing, asset-building escrow accounts and work-promoting case management -- that function together to help families build assets and increase their earnings. The program is open to families receiving federal housing assistance through the public housing or Section 8 housing voucher programs. When the earnings of program participants increase, their rising rent payments are diverted into an escrow account which they can access after achieving their self-sufficiency goals. To date, evidence indicates that participation in FSS is linked to increased earnings, self-sufficiency, asset-building and homeownership.

Despite a proven track record, FSS faces an uncertain future. The greatest challenge is the instability of FSS funding, and the current appropriations bills under consideration by Congress could accelerate the program’s decline. The main body of this report details the specific funding issues impacting three of the four separate accounts that fund FSS. Most of the problems FSS faces can be fixed within current or requested funding levels for HUD without significantly impacting other HUD programs.

By adopting the recommendations proposed in this paper, Congress can help to stabilize funding for FSS and reaffirm the nation’s commitment to this successful program.

For the complete document, please see the attached PDF version.