The Senate Appropriations Committee-approved bill funding the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which I discussed earlier today, includes a vast, ill-conceived expansion of the Moving to Work (MTW) deregulation demonstration.
MTW allows 39 agencies administering housing vouchers and public housing to waive most program rules and receive funding via special block-grant formulas. The bill would require HUD to add 300 agencies that administer up to 800,000 units to MTW, potentially expanding it to encompass nearly 40 percent of all housing vouchers and public housing units. While MTW has yielded some useful innovations, it has serious shortcomings that warrant reform, not expansion:
Properly reformed and limited in size, MTW could be a useful incubator for innovative housing policies. The Senate bill’s expansion, however, would dramatically expand the risks of MTW for tenants and taxpayers, while failing to enact reforms necessary to yield useful lessons for policymakers. It also would block HUD’s plan, in extending current MTW contracts through 2028, to adopt key reforms designed to reduce agencies’ shifts of rental assistance funding to other purposes, distribute funding more fairly between MTW and non-MTW agencies, and require more rigorous evaluation of certain MTW activities.