Expanding Housing Choices for HUD-Assisted Families
V. THE MOVING TO OPPORTUNITY DEMONSTRATION
AFTER TWO YEARS
Two years into the MTO demonstration, all five sites have conducted family outreach, processed applications, created waiting lists, and enrolled families. Over 1,600 families have been randomly assigned to one of the three MTO groups. Out of the targeted 666 families scheduled to lease-up as part of the MTO experimental group, 319 (47.9 percent) are already living in their new homes in low-poverty communities.
PHAs have forged close working relationships with the non-profit housing counseling agencies with whom they are working and these non-profits continue to counsel eligible families at all five sites. Some of the PHAs may consider contributing a limited number of their certificates and vouchers to the MTO demonstration in the next year, potentially increasing the demonstration's sample size and ensuring more useful and robust findings in the future.
A large proportion of MTO experimental group families have been successful in obtaining rental housing in low-poverty communities with the Section 8 certificates and vouchers issued through the demonstration. Indeed, preliminary data currently show that MTO has been able to improve upon the accomplishments of Chicago's Gautreaux program, achieving higher rates of lease-ups in most of the sites. The high MTO lease-up rates are even more impressive given the difficulty facing families moving into low-poverty census tracts, which are often distant and unfamiliar.
The MTO demonstration has already begun to return benefits as a source of reliable data and policy insights. Early baseline surveys provide useful information on the aspirations and needs of public housing families. And the experience of the five demonstration sites has expanded HUD's knowledge about the design and implementation of housing mobility counseling programs in different market environments. During the next two years HUD expects to publish findings on the content and costs of MTO mobility counseling programs, on differences between successful and unsuccessful MTO recipients, and on the characteristics of neighborhoods in which MTO families locate. In addition, the Office of Policy Development and Research has awarded eight small grants to university researchers who are examining the immediate social, employment, and educational impacts in the lives of the parents and children who moved into low-poverty communities (Appendix C lists these research projects and their principal investigators). Results from these studies will be published over the course of the next two years. This ongoing research and information gathering will enable HUD to develop more sensible and effective mobility strategies for recipients of tenant-based housing assistance in metropolitan areas throughout the nation.
Although it is too early to determine in quantitative terms what effects residential mobility is having upon MTO families, the demonstration has already helped numerous public housing families, formerly living in deeply poor, crime-ridden communities to escape inner-city isolation and find decent homes in low-poverty neighborhoods. Both parents and children report deep satisfaction at having escaped the fear and limited futures associated with their former developments.