Study Reveals Ineffectiveness of Work Requirements for Housing Assistance

Work requirement programs achieve very little in helping housing assistance recipients find work, according to a recent study.

2 minute read

April 25, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


akoppo / Shutterstock

Patrick Sisson shares news of a new study by Diane K. Levy, a principal research associate for the Urban Institute, about the benefits of working requirements for housing aid.

The research used a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) program as its case study, as explained by Sisson:

The CHA implemented a work requirement policy as part of the Moving to Work demonstration project in 2009, a HUD initiative that allowed some local housing authorities to test out new policies. These types of requirements have already been included in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF (federal cash assistance), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

Sisson also summarizes the findings, "Levy's research […] found that in 2017 roughly 1 in 6 of the CHA’s 30,000 residents were subject to the work requirement policy. And of those 5,232 subject to the mandate, 54 percent met the requirement; 23 percent were in what’s called 'safe harbor' status, meaning they were within a 90-day probationary period to find work; 17 percent qualified for an exemption; and 6 percent didn’t meet the requirement."

Levy's interpretation of these findings is that the impact of the program has been far less successful than hoped among the housing officials who promote a self-sufficiency approach to housing aid. At the current moment, the most famous proponent of the "by-your-own-bootstraps" philosophy about government support programs is U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. In the past, Secretary Carson has used this logic even to justify proposed rent increases for people receiving assistance for housing.

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