HUD Incentivizes Self-Sufficiency With Public Housing Grants

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While city and state Democrats continue to mismanage the city’s public and federally subsidized housing stock, the Trump Administration this week continued to fund a 25-year old GOP program that incentivizes self-sufficiency and personal savings utilizing empowerment zones created under Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

That after U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced this week that three Democratic-controlled public housing entities in New York will receive more than $2 million as part of a $79 million national allocation for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program.

In total, the Trump Administration increased funding in the 2020 Federal spending plan for HUD by 5.1 percent.

FSS grants enable public housing agencies (PHAs) to collaborate with social service agencies, community colleges, businesses, and other local partners to help participants further their education, gain marketable skills, and otherwise increase their income potential through new employment or by advancing in their current workplace.

“Helping people find jobs that will put them on the path to self-sufficiency is at the core of HUD’s mission,” said Carson. “HUD is committed to working with our local partners to connect families with the opportunities and support they need to succeed at every level.”

Under the grants, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) will get slightly more than $1.5 million, the state Housing Trust Fund Corp (HTFC) will get about $1.5 million and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was given $216,000. 

Over ninety percent of this year’s FSS awards were to public housing authorities with units in Opportunity Zones, which the Trump Administration created as part of his 2017 tax cuts to stimulate long-term investments in low-income communities.

The (FSS) program was enacted under former GOP President George H. Bush through the “National Affordable Housing Act of 1990”, a law that expanded service coordination as a profession. 

The program consists both of case management services that help participants pursue employment and other goals, and of escrow accounts into which the public housing agency (PHA) deposits the increased rental charges that a family pays as its earnings increase. Families that complete the program may withdraw funds from these accounts after five years and use it for any purpose. The average participant receives an escrow of $5,472, and NYCHA alone currently has over 1,000 participants.

The FSS program provides a unique opportunity for PHAs to implement a program that directly benefits their organization and public housing and Section 8 residents at little or no additional cost. Most of the program costs are paid for by HUD.

HPD Spokesperson Juliet Pierre-Antoine said locally the grant finances HPD’s FSS program which is designed to help households that receive Section 8 housing subsidy gain stability and build financial strength to ‘graduate’ from the Section 8 program. “The funds are allocated based on the size of the program,” said Pierre-Antoine.

An NYCHA Spokesperson said the FSS program works with families and individuals who seek to pursue financial independence through education, job training, employment, and money management. Program participants are referred to high-quality partner organizations offering services ranging from financial education and counseling to business development training and other resources. 

“All NYCHA Section 8 voucher-holders are eligible to join the FSS Program. NYCHA currently contracts with three service coordinators under the program. The $216,000 allotted under the program this year is consistent with the general amount given in previous years,” the spokesperson said.

Lynne Patton, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, which includes Brooklyn, said she is thrilled that this Administration has dedicated $8 million to help advance low-income residents New York & New Jersey and ensure that they receive the guidance and resources necessary to usher them into a self-sufficient New Year.

“The FSS program is a data-proven vehicle that has helped thousands of HUD-assisted families achieve financial independence,” said Patton.

More information on the program can be found here. Eligible participants can also enroll directly by calling 718-289-8100 or by attending an upcoming Information Session.

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