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Consolidating Rental Assistance Administration Would Increase Efficiency and Expand Opportunity

April 11, 2016

Barbara Sard and Deborah Thrope[1]

Nearly 3,800 public housing agencies (PHAs) provide wholly federally funded assistance to 3.2 million families through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and public housing programs.[2]  The large number of program administrators and the small number of households that many of them assist increase administrative costs and reduce rental assistance programs’ effectiveness.  The number of agencies also can hinder eligible families’ ability to use rental vouchers to live where they choose, including in safer neighborhoods that have better schools and access to jobs or other services but that are located in another housing agency’s jurisdiction.

Despite the potential benefits of consolidation to achieve economies of scale and facilitate administration of rental assistance throughout a metropolitan area, few PHAs have voluntarily merged with others.  Local boards of directors — and the public officials who usually appoint them — commonly want to retain their agency’s individual identity, making forming a consortium with other agencies a more attractive consolidation option than a full merger.  For a consortium actually to be more efficient and effective, however, requires a change in federal regulations to permit the PHAs in a consortium to have a single funding contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

The Administration should act promptly to finalize a proposed rule change to allow PHAs that form a consortium to have a single funding contract for Housing Choice Vouchers, and to revise the voucher administrative fee policy to remove the financial disincentive for small PHAs to enter into consortia or otherwise consolidate.  Congress could facilitate regional administration by providing the $15 million that the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget requests for a regional housing mobility demonstration.  In a small number of states, changes in state law also may be required.

Large Number of Public Housing Agencies a Vestige of History

Some 3,796 public housing agencies receive funding from HUD to operate public housing, administer Section 8 housing vouchers, or both.  (See Table 1.)  PHAs range dramatically in size:  some own or administer as few as four rental units, while the largest, the New York City Housing Authority, receives funding from HUD for about 274,000 public housing units and vouchers. 

Overview of Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), 2015
Program administered Number of PHAs Number of Occupied Units
Vouchers Public housing
Section 8 vouchers only 805 506,292 --
Public housing only 1,558 -- 201,793
Vouchers and public housing 1,433 1,678,463 848,982
Totals 3,796 3,235,530

Source: CBPP analysis of HUD’s 2015 Picture of Subsidized Households,


The number of PHAs is a product of local, state, and federal decisions, built on the platform of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, which authorized the use of funds to build public housing developments on land owned by a local public housing agency.[3]  Largely to respond to this incentive, states enacted laws to authorize municipal, county and, in about half the states, regional public housing authorities.  (See Appendix 1.)  In 1974, Congress layered the administration of the Section 8 certificate (now voucher) program on top of the existing PHA platform, and HUD criteria for awarding Section 8 funds provided incentives for the creation of hundreds more state and local agencies solely to administer tenant-based rental assistance. 

As a result, HUD currently contracts with about 2,240 PHAs to administer housing vouchers and 2,990 PHAs to operate public housing.[4]  (As Table 1 shows, 1,433 PHAs administer both programs.)  About three-quarters of these PHAs (73.2 percent) are small — that is, they administer 550 or fewer public housing units, authorized Section 8 housing vouchers, or a combination of the two.[5] 

Differences in municipal and county governance as well as state politics have led to great variation among states in PHAs’ scale and geographic coverage.  On average, each PHA provides federal rental assistance to about 850 households.  In Nebraska, however, the average PHA serves 177 households, with four out of five serving fewer than 100, and one-third serving fewer than 20.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, Nevada has nearly as many units of federal rental assistance as Nebraska, but has only three PHAs, each serving an average of 5,949 households.  (Appendix 2 has PHA-related data for each state.) 

In some states, state-level agencies oversee a large share of the federal rental assistance resources.  About 30 states (including the District of Columbia) have state-level agencies that administer a portion of the housing vouchers in the state.  For example, the Montana Department of Commerce administers about two-thirds of the vouchers in Montana, and the Idaho Housing Finance Agency administers about half of that state’s vouchers.  State agencies in Alaska and Delaware manage both public housing and voucher programs.  Other states have created regional entities that respond to the administrative challenge posed by rural areas.  In Mississippi, for example, six regional housing authorities administer nearly 75 percent of the state’s vouchers and nearly 15 percent of its public housing units.  State or regional administration of rental assistance makes it easier for families to apply for assistance and to choose where to live, and typically increases economies of scale.

Most Metro Areas Served by Multiple Housing Voucher Programs

In most metropolitan areas, one agency administers the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program in the central city and one or more different agencies serve suburban cities and towns.  This pattern is the case in 97 of the 100 largest metro areas, where 71 percent of households in the HCV program lived in 2015.  In 35 of the 100 largest metro areas, voucher administration is divided among ten or more agencies.  This is the case even in mid-size metro areas such as Providence, Rhode Island, and Albany, New York, each of which has at least 35 agencies administering the HCV program.[6]  (Appendix 3 has data for each of the largest 100 metro areas.)

One reason for this pattern is that HUD in the past allocated funds to hundreds of new small agencies to serve individual suburban towns or to administer special vouchers for people with disabilities.  These decisions result, at the extreme, in 68 different small PHAs administering the HCV program in the greater Boston metropolitan area (which includes part of southern New Hampshire), in addition to 25 larger agencies and two state-administered HCV programs.[7] 

More than 2,000 PHAs Serve Nation’s 381 Metropolitan Areas
Program administered Metro PHAs
  Number of Occupied Units
PHAs Vouchers Public Housing
Section 8 vouchers only 559 418,147 --
Public housing only 521 -- 112,529
Vouchers and public housing  957 1,543,007 760,499
    1,961,154 873,028
Totals 2,037 2,834,182

Source: PHA data from HUD, 2015 Picture of Subsidized Households. Metro areas defined as Metropolitan Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSA) based on 2013 geography. A PHA is classified as metropolitan if its address is in a county that falls within a Metro CBSA. For the 26 state agencies that administer units in both metro and non-metro areas, we used HUD microdata to determine unit location.


In addition to causing oversight challenges for HUD, this balkanization of rental assistance administration within metro areas creates significant burdens for families seeking assistance and searching with vouchers for available homes.

Large Number of PHAs Increases Costs, Reduces Program Effectiveness, and Limits Housing Choice

The proliferation of PHAs has made the operation of the federal rental assistance programs less efficient.  It has also made the programs less effective for families than they could be.

Oversight and Operation of Small PHAs Increase Federal Costs

The large number of PHAs increases the cost of federal oversight as well as the cost of local agency administration.  In an analysis of opportunities to increase HCV program efficiency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “consolidation of voucher program administration under fewer housing agencies . . . could yield a more efficient oversight and administrative structure for the voucher program and cost savings for HUD and housing agencies….”[8]

The amount of federal staff time required to contract with each PHA, as well as to conduct many oversight functions, is roughly similar for each PHA regardless of the number of families a PHA serves.  A 2008 HUD report concluded:

For core compliance monitoring, HUD’s level of effort for small PHAs is grossly disproportionate to the level of risk, total units involved, and subsidy dollar volume. … [I]t is reasonable to conclude that HUD invests from half to two-thirds or more of its level of effort on 10% of its units, and an even lower level of related risk in terms of subsidy funds, which is about 5%.[9]

HUD could modify to some extent its requirements for review of agency documents and monitoring protocols to reduce this disproportionate cost.  But contracting with so many individual PHAs and making sure that PHAs make lawful use of federal funds still costs far more than it would to contract with and oversee substantially fewer, larger agencies.


Figure 1
Smaller Public Housing Agencies Have Higher Administrative Costs


A careful HUD study recently examined the actual costs that high-performing agencies of various sizes incur in administering the HCV program, as well as the financial data that most voucher PHAs submit to HUD.  It found that PHAs that administered fewer vouchers had significantly higher costs per family served than larger programs, at least up to 10,000 vouchers (see Figure 1).[10]  The main cost factor is additional staff per voucher in use.  This is likely because some basic administrative functions — such as overall planning and staying up to date on program rules — take essentially the same amount of time regardless of the number of vouchers a PHA administers.

Under current policy, HUD gives smaller agencies — those with 600 or fewer vouchers — higher per-unit subsidies for voucher administrative costs, with the payment boost phasing out for larger programs.[11]  The recent HUD study recommends paying additional fees for agencies serving fewer than 750 families, with the biggest boost to agencies serving fewer than 250 families and then gradually phasing out the boost to avoid a funding cliff.  Whether federal policymakers maintain current law or adopt the study’s recommendation, the federal cost will be greater than if agencies were paid only the amount needed to operate at an efficient scale, without a boost.[12] 

Unlike the voucher program, federal subsidies for public housing administration do not vary significantly based on PHA size.[13]  Nonetheless, HUD incurs additional costs from contracting with and monitoring the nearly 3,000 individual agencies that manage public housing.

Small PHAs Face Barriers to Innovation and High Performance

Agencies without sufficient scale to devote staff time to plan and implement new initiatives are less likely to take advantage of options that provide additional types of housing opportunities, such as supportive housing for people with disabilities or assisted homeownership.  Similarly, smaller PHAs are less able to spare staff time to develop partnerships with community agencies that could improve families’ finances or assist homeless individuals in navigating the housing application process and finding an appropriate unit in the private market if they receive a voucher.  Small agencies invest less in technology, making them less able to track various components of program operations to increase efficiency and improve outcomes, GAO found.[14]

Small agencies are also much more likely than larger agencies to have difficulty meeting HUD’s basic performance standards for the voucher program, as determined by Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) ratings.  Agencies with fewer than 250 authorized vouchers (about 44 percent of all HCV agencies) score significantly lower on SEMAP, on average, than agencies with more vouchers (see Figure 2), and are about four times more likely to be designated as troubled or near troubled.  Similarly, such small agencies are less likely to be designated as “High Performers” under SEMAP than agencies with larger HCV programs.[15]


Figure 2
Smaller Public Housing Agencies Have Higher Administrative Costs


The substantial increases since 2000 in the number of poor households living in suburban areas and the number of vouchers in use in these areas make it even more important that the PHAs serving these areas can address the increasingly complex problems faced by the families they assist.[16]  Some suburban counties operate large, innovative HCV programs, but in others HCV administration is divided among smaller cities and towns.[17]  And in large metro areas, housing and labor markets span multiple suburban counties (as well as the central city).  This makes regional rather than city- or county-based HCV administration more effective both in responding to job opportunities and housing assistance needs that stretch across the metro area and in reducing economic and racial segregation. 

Fragmented Rental Assistance Administration Reduces Housing Choice and Is Less Efficient

Rental units in safe neighborhoods with good schools are more plentiful in some suburban areas than in the central cities or older suburbs, which are more likely to have higher-poverty neighborhoods with lower-performing schools.  A recent study by the Urban Institute and other analyses of data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s ten-site Making Connections Initiative, a comprehensive place-based initiative, found that interventions that don’t support relocation to suburban areas with high-quality schools “cannot reasonably expect improved educational outcomes for children, given the educational environment in most cities.”[18] 

In addition to improving access to better-performing schools, low-poverty neighborhoods improve children’s long-term chances of success and mothers’ mental and physical health, research shows.  Such neighborhoods’ higher level of safety, which reduces the chance children will experience “toxic stress,” is likely a major factor in their positive impacts.[19]

But the balkanization of metro-area HCV programs among numerous housing agencies often impedes greater use of vouchers in higher-opportunity areas.[20]  Agency staff may be unfamiliar with housing opportunities outside of their jurisdiction and unlikely to encourage families to make such moves, particularly because agencies lose administrative fees when families use their voucher in another jurisdiction.  (Typically, under portability procedures, agencies have to transfer 80 percent of the HUD-provided administrative fee for a voucher used in another PHA’s jurisdiction to the receiving PHA.)  And PHAs in destination communities may be reluctant to accept new families or assist them in finding a willing landlord, seeing newcomers as potential competition with current residents for scarce rentals.  Racial prejudice also may play a role.[21]         

In addition to these barriers to using housing vouchers to move to higher-opportunity areas, families most in need of affordable housing may have less chance to receive it in metro areas where multiple agencies administer federal rental assistance.  Waiting times for housing assistance vary widely, from weeks to ten years or more, depending on the availability of subsidized units or vouchers and whether agencies distribute assistance on a first-come, first-served basis or order their waitlists using other criteria.  To maximize their opportunity to receive housing assistance, families should apply to housing agencies throughout the region.  This can be time consuming and costly, particularly if many agencies in the area administer federal rental assistance and require in-person applications.  It also can be confusing, as GAO found, which can keep families from submitting all the applications they should to have the best chance to obtain the assistance they need.[22]

Moreover, if housing agencies give first priority to their local residents — a common practice[23] — families from communities with the longest waits will have less chance to receive rental assistance from another agency where the waits are shorter.  (There is little correspondence between the supply of public housing, vouchers, or other rental assistance — which is largely based on decisions made decades ago — and current local need or demand.)  Such local residency preferences also hurt the chances that families in very poor, racially concentrated cities will be able to move to higher-opportunity suburban communities.

A single application for assistance to all housing agencies operating in a metropolitan area or rural county would help families in need.  Consolidated waiting lists also would reduce administrative costs for agencies, whose staff now must maintain waiting lists with many duplicative applicants.  For example, in Massachusetts, an organization representing local housing agencies oversees such a list for most of the voucher PHAs in the state, and the participating agencies have saved significant staff time as a result.  Similarly, recognizing the importance of a single application point for families seeking assistance, the Utah legislature recently required that all voucher-administering agencies in each county use a single consolidated waiting list.[24] 

Federal Policy Changes Could Help Overcome Problems Related to the Multiplicity of PHAs

Overcoming the administrative divisions created when multiple PHAs serve a housing market is challenging.  Cumbersome federal portability policies — which hinder families’ ability to move to low-poverty suburban areas with better schools — exacerbate these difficulties and create financial disincentives for housing agencies to encourage such moves.  HUD recently made modest improvements in the portability process, but it left unchanged several key obstacles to families using vouchers to move to areas served by different PHAs.[25]  HUD could substantially lessen these problems by encouraging agencies administering the HCV program in the same metro area to form consortia and modifying its policies governing administrative fees.  Congress could assist by providing the $15 million that the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget requests for a regional housing mobility demonstration.

HUD Should Revise Its Consortia Rule to Permit Single Voucher Funding Contract

If PHAs in a metro area could form a consortium in which they each retain their local board but together have a single voucher funding contract with HUD, families would be able to use their vouchers to move relatively seamlessly among the cities and towns in the consortium.[26]  Under HUD’s current rules, however, agencies have little incentive to form consortia, and when they do, they still lack a single funding contract with HUD.[27] 

Enabling agencies in a consortium to function as a single entity for funding, reporting, and oversight purposes would substantially reduce PHAs’ and HUD’s administrative burdens.  Agencies would also benefit from greater economies of scale.  GAO notes, for example, the greater efficiencies that are possible when small agencies join together to hire inspectors or when a voucher program is large enough to generate sufficient administrative fees to support a fraud detection unit.[28]  Economies of scale also could free up staff time to take advantage of program options such as using project-based vouchers to help develop or preserve mixed-income housing and supportive housing.[29]  Creation of a consortium with a single jurisdiction would also eliminate the administrative work required when a voucher holder moves from one community to another. 

In July 2014, HUD proposed revising its consortia rule to allow all agencies in a consortium to have a single voucher funding contract with HUD, but it hasn’t finalized the rule.  Last year, HUD announced a plan to solicit further comment on voucher consortia as part of a new proposed rule streamlining the requirements for forming consortia to manage public housing.[30]  But to date, HUD has not begun the formal process to issue such a combined rule.  With the short time remaining in this Administration, it is highly unlikely HUD could complete the multiple steps in a rulemaking process that has not yet begun.  Instead, HUD should finalize the HCV consortia rule this year and add public housing procedures at a later date.

Allowing PHAs in a consortium to have a single funding contract with HUD would be a major improvement.  HUD could further improve the new rule by allowing PHAs to choose to form partial consortia to operate particular initiatives, such as promoting moves to higher-opportunity areas and using savings created by eliminating the costs of portability billing and paperwork exchanges to increase landlord outreach and provide other housing search assistance.  A partial consortium recognized by HUD could also enable PHAs to collaborate efficiently to operate a regional project-based voucher program with a regional waiting list at much lower cost than they could do under a cooperative agreement.[31]

At least initially, many PHAs are likely to be more willing to enter into partial consortia than  consortia with a single funding contract, because it will be less challenging to agree on how to operate a single joint project than to merge much of their individual HCV programs’ administration, and because political resistance is likely to be substantially less.  As PHAs deepen their collaboration through partial consortia and political resistance diminishes, the administrative efficiencies of a single funding contract may outweigh concerns about losing control, resulting in the expansion over time in the number of PHAs that are willing to make the more dramatic change of forming consortia with single funding contracts.

HUD Should Modify Administrative Fee Policy to Encourage PHA Consolidation and Moves to Higher-Opportunity Areas

In August 2015, HUD completed a multi-year study of the cost of administering a high-performing HCV program.[32]  As noted above, the study recommends paying additional fees for agencies that provide HCV assistance to fewer than 750 families.  It also recommends paying 20 percent more when a family moves with a voucher using portability procedures.  This would compensate PHAs in the destination communities for the full cost of administering families’ vouchers on an ongoing basis (rather than paying them 80 percent of the full fee) while continuing to allow the PHAs that issued the vouchers to be paid 20 percent of the fee for their initial costs and the time involved in transferring HUD funds.[33] 

These recommendations reflect the study’s findings concerning the additional costs of small agency administration and having two different agencies involved in the administrative tasks when families move under portability procedures.  It is HUD’s responsibility, however, to determine whether these adjustments would be sound policy.  Implementing them could cost approximately $60 million more per year, at a time when Congress has only provided sufficient funding for PHAs to receive about 80 percent of the fees they’re due under current policy.[34]  (The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget requests an increase of more than 25 percent — $427 million — for HCV administrative fees and indicates HUD’s intention to modify the fee formula.[35])

In the upcoming revision of the administrative fee policy, HUD could substantially limit such additional costs by removing the financial disincentive for PHAs to form consortia or consolidate by paying all except isolated PHAs no more than the amount needed for operating a program of efficient size.  If a PHA is the sole HCV administrator in a metro area or non-metro county, making it impractical to join with another PHA to operate more cost-effectively, a size adjustment would make sense.  Otherwise, if local communities want to maintain their separate small PHAs despite their higher operating costs and the availability of feasible alternatives, they could supplement the federal payments.  With a portion of the money saved from discontinuing the bonus currently paid to small agencies, HUD should help PHAs meet the transition costs of forming a consortium or consolidating.   

It is important to fairly compensate agencies for their actual, higher net costs of administering vouchers under portability procedures to make them more willing to assist families in using their vouchers in higher-opportunity areas.  These additional costs would be substantially lower, however, if PHAs operating within a metro area formed consortia (or consolidated), enabling families to move within the expanded area of operations without having to use portability procedures. 

Congress Should Fund the Proposed Regional Housing Mobility Demonstration

The President’s 2017 budget includes $15 million for a new Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration.  This three-year demonstration would help public housing agencies in ten regions collaborate on initiatives to help low-income families use existing vouchers to move to higher-opportunity neighborhoods.  A growing number of communities are interested in developing or strengthening regional collaborations — including forming consortia — to facilitate housing mobility but are stymied by the lack of funding to support the related administrative costs.  Demonstration funds could be used to support staff time to plan for regional collaboration and align policies and administrative systems across public housing agencies, as well as to cover costs of enhanced landlord recruitment and other activities to expand families’ housing choices.  The one-time funding also would support research to learn what strategies are most cost-effective.  

The mobility demonstration is a modest investment that could improve outcomes for children by enabling more families to use their housing vouchers to live in safe neighborhoods where their children can attend good schools, helping to reduce intergenerational poverty.[36]  It deserves Congressional support.

Some States’ Laws May Prevent Housing Agencies From Forming Consortia

Federal law broadly permits PHAs to form consortia unless state laws that govern PHAs stand in the way.  A national survey indicates that the laws authorizing PHAs to form consortia are inconsistent across the states and, in nine states, may limit or bar PHAs from forming consortia.  (Appendix 1 summarizes the survey findings.)[37] 

Only one state, Nebraska, explicitly authorizes consortia in its housing authority laws.[38]  Two other types of state laws, however, likely are sufficient to permit PHAs in most other states to form consortia.  Twenty-seven states have enabling legislation to form regional housing authorities.[39]  The authority granted by these enabling laws could allow PHAs to form consortia that have a single funding contract with HUD, as the 2014 proposed rule would permit, because such consortia will be treated as separate legal entities for reporting, billing, and other requirements, thus operating like a regional PHA.

Most other states have a “joint powers” statute that may authorize collaboration among PHAs either through consolidation into a regional housing authority or formation of a consortia with a single funding contract with HUD.[40]  But reliance on a general purpose “joint powers” statute is not assured.  At least nine states have attorney general opinions that limit the jurisdiction of local PHAs, and all nine of these states also have a joint powers statute.[41] 

In enacting consortia statutes and regulations, federal policymakers intended for PHAs to consider consolidation to lessen administrative burdens and decrease costs associated with the administration of federally subsidized housing programs.  Once HUD finalizes its consortia rule and makes consortia a more attractive option for PHAs, the question of whether PHAs have the legal authority to form consortia will become more important.  The laws in many states that govern the powers of housing authorities are unclear, inconsistent, or confusing.  Accordingly, we recommend four steps that would make it easier for PHAs to form consortia.

  1. In the final consortia rule, HUD should include the express preemption language for tenant-based programs that exists in federal law.[42]  Referencing HUD’s authority to contract with a consortium to administer the HCV program in the regulation will signal to PHAs that they may be able to form consortia to administer the Section 8 program on a regional level, even in the absence of clear state enabling legislation.
  1. States should enact clearer and more flexible enabling legislation that allows PHAs to enter into consortia.  To guide the efforts of state legislators, it would be helpful for the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) to draft a uniform state-enabling law for states to consider.  If approved by the ULC, model state-enabling legislation would encourage states with inflexible laws that allow housing authorities to operate only within narrow jurisdictional boundaries to revise them to allow PHAs to form consortia and regional PHAs.
  1. States should revisit restrictive attorney general opinions that limit the jurisdiction of local housing authorities, particularly in light of the anticipated change in federal policy on consortia.
  1. Congress could revise the consortia section of the U.S. Housing Act[43] to include a broad preemption provision for both Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing, modeled on (but expanding) Congress’ existing preemption of state law for purposes of administering tenant-based Section 8 (as noted in the first recommendation).  If Congress broadened the preemption language in the statute to apply to the administration of housing programs more generally, it could better enable PHAs to form consortia despite any uncertainty as to a state’s interpretation of its joint powers statute or other enabling laws.


The sheer number of PHAs administering wholly federally funded rental assistance — nearly 3,800 — undermines the effectiveness of the programs they manage and increases costs.  The multiplicity of PHAs in most metropolitan areas also creates barriers for families to use housing vouchers to move to safer neighborhoods with better schools and other services.  The Administration should act promptly to finalize a proposed rule change to allow the PHAs in a consortium to have a single HCV program funding contract with HUD.  It also should revise the voucher administrative fee policy to remove the financial disincentive for small PHAs to enter into consortia or merge by paying them no more than the amount needed for operating a program of efficient size. 

In addition, Congress should facilitate regional administration by providing the $15 million the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget requests for a regional housing mobility demonstration.  And in the small number of states where state laws may prevent PHAs from forming consortia, policymakers should revise their outdated statutes.

Appendix 1: State Enabling Laws for Housing Authorities

The table below details each state’s laws authorizing public housing authorities (PHAs) and consortia.  In summary:

  • Only one state has a law that explicitly authorizes the formation of PHA consortia (Nebraska).

  • 23 states do not have explicit enabling legislation for the formation of regional PHAs that extend through multiple jurisdictions.  These states are Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (except municipal-level PHAs may act on a statewide basis), Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin. 

    • In some of these states, however, the joint powers statute has been used to form regional authorities (Iowa and Kansas).

    • In some of these states, administrative opinions authorize the use of the joint powers statute to form regional PHAs. (Colorado and Illinois for example, although Illinois also has enabling legislation for regional authorities).

    • At least two of these states have regional PHAs by name (Idaho and Missouri).

  • Nine states have opinions from their attorneys general that limit the jurisdiction of a local PHA to the geographic area in which it operates.

  • Five states — Delaware, Indiana, Maryland (for counties only), Michigan and Pennsylvania — have an administrative opinion limiting the jurisdiction of a local PHA to their geographical boundary and no law that explicitly enables the formation of regional PHAs or consortia.

  • 27 states have a state entity that is authorized to administer federal housing programs.

    • 15 states that do not have explicit enabling legislation for regional PHAs have a state entity allowed to administer housing programs.  State agencies could play a role similar to regional PHAs in that they administer housing programs throughout an entire geographic region.

Housing Authorities Authorized by State Law*
State Housing Authorities Law State law enables Municipal and/or County Authorities State law explicitly authorizes consortia State has enabling legislation to form Regional Authoritiesa State has Joint Powers Statute Consortia not explicitly or   apparently permitted under state lawb A state entity is authorized to administer federal housing programsc
AK ALASKA STAT. § 18.56.010 to 18.56.799     X (serving Native Alaskan villages)     X
AR ARK. CODE ANN. §§ 14-169-207 to 14-169-712 X   X X    
AL ALA. CODE §§ 24-1-1 to 24-1-13 X   X X    
AZ ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 36-1401 to 36-1425 X     X   X
CA CAL. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE §§ 34200-34380 X   X X   X
CO COLO. REV. STAT. §§ 29-4-201 to 29-4-232 X     X   X
CT CONN. GEN. STAT. §§ 8-38 to 8-68k. X   X X   X
DE DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 31, §§ 4010-4028 X     (redevelopment agencies only)d X X
FL FLA. STAT. §§ 421.01 – 421.52 X   X X    
GA GA. CODE ANN. §§ 8-3-1 to 8-3-137 X   X X   X
HI HAW. REV. STAT. §§ 356D-1 to 356D-161           X
IA   IOWA CODE §§ 403A.1-403A.28 X       X    
ID ID. CODE ANN. §§ 50-1901 to 50-1927 X     X   X
IL 310 ILL. COMP. STAT. §§ 10/1 to 10/32 X   X X    
IN IND. CODE §§ 36-7-18-1 to 36-7-18-42 X     X X X
KS KAN. STAT. ANN. §§ 17-2337 to 17-2365 X     X    
KY KY. REV. STAT. ANN §§ 80.010 to 80.010.610 X   X X   X
LA LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 40:381-40:564 X   X X    
MA   MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 121B, §§ 1-60 X (municipal only)   X X   X
MD MD. CODE ANN., HOUS. & CMTY. DEV. §§ 12-101 to 12-705 X     X X (permitted for municipalities only) X
ME ME. REV. STAT. tit. 30-A, §§ 4701-4994 X (municipal only)     X   X
MI MICH. COMP. LAWS §§ 125.651 to 125.709e X     X X X
MN MINN. STAT. §§ 469.001 to 469.047 X   X X    
MO MO. REV. STAT. §§ 99-010 to 99-230 X     X    
MS MISS. CODE ANN. § 43-33-1 to 43-33-53 X   X X    
MT MONT. CODE ANN. § 7-15-21 to 7-15-2124 X         X   X
NC N.C. GEN. STAT. §§ 157-1 to 157-39.7 X   X X X X
ND N.D. CENT. CODE § 23-11-01 to 23-11-36 X   X X    
NE NEB. REV. STAT §§ 71-1572 to 71-15168 X X X X    
NH N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 203:1-203:27 X (municipal only)     X   X
NJ N.J. STAT. ANN. §§ 40A:12A-1 to 40A:12A-63 X     X   X
NM N.M. STAT. ANN. §§ 3-45-1 to 3-45-25 X   X X X  
NV   NEV. REV. STAT. §§ 316.140 to 316.7813 X   X X   X
NY N.Y. PUB. HOUS. LAW art. 3, §§ 30-60 X (municipal only)     X   X
OH OHIO REV. CODE ANN. §§ 3735.27 to 3735.39 X     X    
OK OKLA. STAT. tit. 63, §§ 1051-1084 X     X   X
OR OR. REV. STAT. §§ 456.055 - 456.235 X   X X X  
PA PA. CONS. STAT. §§ 1541-1568.1 X     X X  
RI R.I. GEN. LAWS §§ 45-25-1 to 45-27-21 X     X   X
SC S.C. CODE ANN. §§ 31-3-10 to 31-3-1810 X   X X   X
SD S.D. CODIFIED LAWS §§ 11-7-1 to 11-7-109 X     X    
TN TENN. CODE ANN §§ 13-20-101 to 13-20-614 X   X X X X
TX TEX. LOC. GOV’T CODE ANN. §§ 392.001 to 392.104 X   X X   X
UT   U.C.A 1953 §§ 35A-8-401 to 35A-8-411 X     X    
VA VA. CODE ANN. §§ 36-1 to 36-55.6 X   X     X
VT VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 24, §§ 4001-4027 X (municipal only)   X X    
WA WASH. REV. CODE §§ 35.82.010 to 35.82.901 X   X X    
WI WIS. STAT. §§ 66.1201 to 66.1211 X     X    
WV W.VA. CODE §§ 16-15.1 to 16.15.25 X   X X X  
WY WYO. STAT. ANN. § 15-10-101 to 15-10-117 X   X X    

* Shaded areas represent states that face the biggest legal barriers to the formation of consortia. These states may not allow for any type of consolidation among local public housing agencies (regional or consortia) because they have (1) no explicit enabling legislation for the formation of regional PHAs, (2) no explicit enabling legislation for the formation of consortia, and (3) administrative opinions limiting the jurisdiction of local PHAs to their geographical boundary (without mention of the use of joint powers statutes to expand jurisdiction) or in the case of Delaware, no joint powers statute that pertains specifically to local housing authorities. These states may need to pass special legislation in order to form consolidated entities.

a This column designates 27 states that have explicit enabling legislation to form regional PHAs.  Some states without this authority, however, have regional authorities by name (e.g., Idaho).  States without the authority to form regional PHAs may face barriers to the formation of consortia with a single funding contract because such consortia are essentially regional PHAs that have one contract with HUD.

b This column represents ten states that have (1) no explicit enabling legislation for the formation of consortia and (2) an administrative opinion limiting the jurisdiction of local PHAs to their geographical boundary (without mention of the use of joint powers statutes to expand jurisdiction) or, in the case of Delaware, no explicit enabling legislation for the formation of consortia or regional PHAs and no joint powers statute that could potentially authorize such entities (but see the note below re: redevelopment agencies in Delaware).  These ten states may face barriers to the formation of consortia with multiple HUD funding contracts because the jurisdiction of individual PHAs are limited to their geographical region by state attorney general opinions, and the opinions do not explicitly address the use of a joint powers statute, or any other mechanism, to overcome jurisdictional boundaries.  PHAs in five of these ten states may also have difficulty forming consortia with a single funding contract (the shaded states, as explained above, because in addition, these states have no enabling legislation for regional authorities; if such consortia create a new legal entity, as the proposed rule contemplates, a state may need enabling legislation for regional PHAs to authorize their formation).

c This column represents states with statewide agencies that administer at least one federal rental assistance program.  Many state agencies are authorized outside of their respective state’s housing authority law.

d Delaware has only a joint powers statute with respect to redevelopment agencies, although the statute parallels joint powers statutes for housing authorities in other states.  Our research did not explore the relationship between housing authorities and redevelopment agencies in the state of Delaware.  In addition, Delaware’s state housing authority has broad discretion to create local PHAs in any county or in any part of a county.


Appendix 2

Public Housing Agency Data By State
State Number of PHAs Number of Small PHAs* Average Occupied Units per PHA Public Housing Units Households in Public Housing Authorized Vouchers Vouchers in Use Total Households  
Alabama 138 109 469 37,903 35,177 34,926 29,601 64,778  
Alaska 1 0 5,803 1,245 1,208 4,689 4,595 5,803  
Arizona 24 10 1,129 6,524 6,033 23,486 21,070 27,103  
Arkansas 130 113 260 13,921 13,212 23,807 20,531 33,743  
California 94 17 3,558 36,020 32,818 328,411 301,633 334,451  
Colorado 58 45 642 8,069 7,615 32,962 29,595 37,210  
Connecticut 49 24 1,024 15,454 14,550 40,519 35,638 50,188  
Delaware 5 2 1,337 2,428 2,257 5,135 4,428 6,685  
District of Columbia 2 1 9,245 8,216 7,230 14,969 11,260 18,490  
Florida 94 52 1,390 33,349 31,794 107,386 98,893 130,687  
Georgia 176 158 506 38,236 35,332 64,064 53,766 89,098  
Hawaii 5 0 2,862 5,124 4,714 13,193 9,597 14,311  
Idaho 10 5 742 820 798 7,237 6,621 7,419  
Illinois 105 67 1,300 54,253 47,941 102,430 88,610 136,551  
Indiana 57 34 863 16,056 14,286 40,409 34,919 49,205  
Iowa 65 50 378 4,172 3,940 23,563 20,600 24,540  
Kansas 102 94 193 8,976 8,221 13,438 11,500 19,721  
Kentucky 122 97 422 22,511 21,468 35,780 29,969 51,437  
Louisiana 159 140 414 21,552 18,670 55,699 47,171 65,841  
Maine 20 9 774 4,068 3,980 13,051 11,497 15,477  
Maryland 29 12 2,047 17,142 14,113 53,021 45,254 59,367  
Massachusetts 131 94 881 35,160 34,146 86,165 81,245 115,391  
Michigan 126 106 599 22,655 21,058 60,150 54,456 75,514  
Minnesota 140 126 367 20,904 20,181 33,387 31,153 51,334  
Mississippi 50 38 684 10,296 9,997 24,385 24,209 34,206  
Missouri 118 98 470 17,416 16,447 44,257 38,996 55,443  
Montana 12 7 607 2,014 1,906 6,506 5,378 7,284  
Nebraska 103 98 177 7,292 6,934 12,764 11,337 18,271  
Nevada 3 0 5,949 3,633 3,401 15,311 14,445 17,846  
New Hampshire 20 14 668 4,103 3,965 10,071 9,397 13,362  
New Jersey 103 60 983 38,733 35,192 75,066 66,078 101,270  
New Mexico 31 22 508 4,258 3,967 15,025 11,770 15,737  
New York 164 117 2,606 209,975 204,088 253,508 223,268 427,356  
North Carolina 121 77 711 33,029 30,504 59,980 55,495 85,999  
North Dakota 35 28 236 1,821 1,668 8,314 6,591 8,259  
Ohio 76 34 1,745 43,501 41,486 98,315 91,143 132,629  
Oklahoma 101 94 355 13,015 12,498 24,944 23,333 35,831  
Oregon 23 4 1,686 4,997 4,887 35,851 33,898 38,785  
Pennsylvania 87 31 1,549 62,730 58,016 89,350 76,731 134,747  
Rhode Island 28 18 665 9,445 9,179 10,790 9,427 18,606  
South Carolina 42 22 929 14,735 14,093 26,625 24,905 38,998  
South Dakota 34 31 204 1,652 1,559 6,467 5,388 6,947  
Tennessee 84 65 803 34,765 32,953 37,034 34,485 67,438  
Texas 386 320 511 54,464 50,655 164,184 146,686 197,341  
Utah 19 13 664 1,837 1,790 11,466 10,829 12,619  
Vermont 9 6 839 1,455 1,406 7,091 6,144 7,550  
Virginia 41 16 1,528 18,881 17,803 51,395 44,840 62,643  
Washington 32 12 1,987 13,100 12,323 54,822 51,249 63,572  
West Virginia 31 17 638 6,573 6,201 15,500 13,571 19,772  
Wisconsin 112 96 336 12,411 11,734 30,094 25,952 37,686  
Wyoming 8 6 384 716 677 2,615 2,394 3,071  

Note: Small PHAs have 550 total units or less.

Source: CBPP analysis of HUD’s 2015 Picture of Subsidized Households, available at


Appendix 3

Public Housing Agency Data for the 100 Largest Metro Areas
Population Ranking Metro Area Number of PHAs Number of Small PHAs* Households in Public Housing Vouchers in Use
1 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 133 78 207,040 218,643
2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 23 3 9,824 107,423
3 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 21 5 24,245 74,176
4 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 34 23 4,593 38,116
5 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 14 7 4,095 25,957
6 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 26 14 19,968 36,331
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 15 5 10,200 33,557
8 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 17 3 11,812 41,242
9 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 44 35 9,215 40,503
10 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 94 68 24,753 62,926
11 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 13 2 8,184 43,725
12 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 11 3 3,508 12,670
13 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4 1 1,670 17,452
14 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 34 25 8,658 13,564
15 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 7 0 9,090 31,466
16 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 29 23 11,845 19,891
17 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 6 1 265 28,287
18 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 9 4 4,228 18,066
19 St. Louis, MO-IL 19 13 7,890 18,030
20 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 10 2 10,305 28,178
21 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 11 5 4,153 18,573
22 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 16 10 6,020 9,774
23 Pittsburgh, PA 10 1 14,144 17,342
24 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 5 0 2,824 15,997
25 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 12 10 6,617 15,928
26 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 7 5 1,570 5,674
27 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 5 2 3,062 14,833
28 San Juan-Carolina-Caguas, PR 39 34 51,511 11,589
29 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 15 6 8,220 18,000
30 Kansas City, MO-KS 20 13 5,290 13,767
31 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 1 0 2,680 10,476
32 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 8 3 10,971 20,390
33 Columbus, OH 9 5 1,919 15,882
34 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 6 3 2,373 13,178
35 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 2 0 4 14,874
36 Austin-Round Rock, TX 13 10 2,889 7,351
37 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 15 11 7,917 13,787
38 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 9 2 7,104 13,624
39 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 37 24 13,331 15,008
40 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 7 3 3,741 8,837
41 Jacksonville, FL 4 3 2,952 6,851
42 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 9 7 3,833 7,564
43 Oklahoma City, OK 9 6 3,674 15,733
44 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 7 3 5,738 13,635
45 Richmond, VA 4 0 4,661 13,023
46 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 12 8 3,140 24,441
47 Raleigh, NC 7 3 2,285 5,709
48 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 22 12 4,367 18,850
49 Salt Lake City, UT 4 2 1,015 5,708
50 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 20 16 8,094 7,727
51 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 8 2 5,355 12,387
52 Rochester, NY 4 3 2,766 9,215
53 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 7 5 735 4,904
54 Tucson, AZ 3 1 1,572 5,149
55 Urban Honolulu, HI 2 0 4,714 5,804
56 Tulsa, OK 8 7 3,146 4,730
57 Fresno, CA 2 0 1,251 12,792
58 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 8 2 4,690 6,079
59 Worcester, MA-CT 20 17 3,242 5,706
60 Albuquerque, NM 2 0 926 5,685
61 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 8 5 3,279 6,007
62 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 35 31 5,025 7,676
63 Bakersfield, CA 2 1 855 3,505
64 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 6 3 2,423 5,139
65 New Haven-Milford, CT 12 6 4,532 9,273
66 Knoxville, TN 12 8 6,230 4,989
67 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 5 1 1,518 6,194
68 El Paso, TX 3 2 3,805 5,926
69 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 14 7 1,767 5,882
70 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 9 1 3,976 5,416
71 Baton Rouge, LA 15 13 1,265 5,487
72 Dayton, OH 3 0 3,117 6,221
73 Columbia, SC 3 1 2,138 5,190
74 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 4 2 744 2,716
75 Greensboro-High Point, NC 6 3 2,769 5,264
76 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 9 6 2,552 5,101
77 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 3 0 2,060 4,278
78 Stockton-Lodi, CA 1 0 989 4,196
79 Akron, OH 2 0 4,495 6,416
80 Colorado Springs, CO 2 1 740 2,346
81 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 2 1 968 2,302
82 Boise City, ID 5 1 407 5,975
83 Syracuse, NY 7 5 2,382 5,697
84 Winston-Salem, NC 4 2 1,597 5,560
85 Wichita, KS 9 8 947 2,601
86 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 6 5 870 1,774
87 Madison, WI 7 4 1,024 4,496
88 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 3 1 352 1,996
89 Springfield, MA 8 4 3,143 5,984
90 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 4 2 557 4,060
91 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 6 4 1,110 2,908
92 Toledo, OH 1 0 2,505 4,114
93 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 6 4 2,735 4,527
94 Jackson, MS 5 3 783 5,339
95 Provo-Orem, UT 2 0 243 1,900
96 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 3 0 2,275 3,250
97 Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA 9 4 5,740 4,192
98 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 4 2 1,110 2,652
99 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 3 0 2,949 3,238
100 Chattanooga, TN-GA 6 5 2,988 3,547

Note: Small PHAs have 550 total units or less. State agencies are counted only once.

Source: CBPP analysis of HUD’s 2015 Picture of Subsidized Households, available at, and 2014 Census Population Estimates, available at

End Notes

[1] Deborah Thrope is a Staff Attorney at the National Housing Law Project. Alicia Mazzara and interns Jae Sik Jeon and Matthew Comey provided data analyses. The generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies made this work possible.

[2] A total of about 5.1 million households receive federal rental assistance.  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “United States Fact Sheet: Federal Rental Assistance,” August 31, 2015,  The remaining 1.9 million households receiving federal rental assistance live in privately owned properties that receive subsidies directly from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Department of Agriculture, or receive assistance from HUD through contracts with nonprofit agencies as part of smaller programs such as Housing for People with AIDS or the McKinney-Vento Permanent Supportive Housing program.

[3] Alex F. Schwartz, Housing Policy in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2015), p. 163.

[4] HUD contracts with these 3,796 PHAs to administer a total of 3,556,878 housing vouchers and public housing units.  Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2015 Picture of Subsidized Households,  PHAs served some 331,000 fewer families than authorized in 2015, primarily due to lack of funding.  The number of vouchers in use and occupied public housing units is calculated by multiplying total units under contract for federal subsidy by occupancy rates.  Where Picture lacked occupancy data, CBPP used other HUD administrative data.

[5] In the Small Public Housing Authorities Paperwork Reduction Act enacted as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Congress used a cutoff of 550 total units to designate the “small” PHAs relieved of most formal planning obligations.  Pub. L. 110-289, Sections 2701 and 2702, July 30, 2008. 

[6] CBPP analysis of HUD, 2015 Picture of Subsidized Households.  In 278 out of the 381 metro areas in the United States and territories, two or more PHAs administered HCV programs; a single agency served only a little more than one-fourth of metro areas. 

[7] The historical reasons for the substantial number of predominantly small PHAs in metropolitan areas that manage only public housing are different.  Most of these agencies (63 percent) are in suburban and exurban areas of southern states.  In the early decades of the New Deal-era public housing program, the federal government permitted PHAs to operate racially segregated developments. The agencies may have chosen not to apply to administer housing vouchers given the different rules that applied by the 1970s, when vouchers were first available. 

[8] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Housing Choice Vouchers: Options Exist to Increase Program Efficiencies,” GAO-12-300, March 2012, p. 39.

[9] HUD Office of Policy, Program and Legislative Initiatives, “Rebalancing HUD’s Oversight and Small PHAs’ Regulatory Burdens,” 2008, pp. iv-v (emphasis in original).  In this analysis, a PHA was considered “small” if it owned fewer than 250 public housing units, administered fewer than 250 Housing Choice Vouchers, or operated fewer than 250 units from both programs combined. 

[10] Abt Associates, “Housing Choice Voucher Program Administrative Fee Study,” August 2015,

[11] PHAs with 600 or fewer vouchers now receive a higher per-unit administrative fee than PHAs that administer more than 600 vouchers.  An unintended consequence of this policy is that it creates a financial disincentive for smaller agencies to consolidate or form a consortium with a single funding contract with HUD, because the administrative fees for the new entity would be calculated based on the overall number of vouchers used by all member agencies.  For example, if five PHAs each have 600 vouchers under lease on average for 12 months, and their monthly fee is $100 per voucher, each PHA would earn $720,000 per year in fees (assuming there was sufficient funding to pay the full amount of fees due), for a total of $3.6 million for the five agencies.  If the five PHAs formed a consortium with a single funding contract, however, and the rate for more than 600 vouchers is $93 (a common differential), the same agencies would earn a total of $3,398,400, or about $200,000 less for leasing the same 3,000 vouchers.

[12] The size adjustment that the Abt study recommends would cost an additional $51 million in 2014 (and potentially more in later years as local wages increase).  Source is CBPP analysis of HUD’s estimate of fee eligibility under the proposed formula, available at  

[13] In the public housing program, PHAs with 100 or fewer units receive full operating subsidies for up to five vacant units, while funding for vacancies at larger agencies is limited to 3 percent of units.  This more favorable treatment for small PHAs does not increase federal costs significantly. 

[14] GAO, 2012.

[15] CBPP analysis of 2013-2015 HUD SEMAP data, using the most recent scores available.  A troubled or near-troubled agency is defined as a PHA scoring less than 70 percent of the total available SEMAP points.  Among PHAs with fewer than 250 vouchers, 64 percent earned High Performer status under SEMAP, compared with 81 percent of PHAs with 250 or more vouchers.  The 39 agencies in the Moving to Work demonstration are not rated under SEMAP. 

[16] Elizabeth Kneebone, “The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008-2012,” Brookings Institution, July 2014,; Kenya Covington, Lance Freeman, and Michael Stoll, “The Suburbanization of Housing Choice Voucher Recipients,” Brookings Institution, October 2011,

[17] Bruce Katz and Margery Austin Turner, “Invest but Reform: Streamline Administration of the Housing Choice Voucher Program,” Brookings Institution, January 2013,

[18] Brett Theodos, Claudia Coulton, and Amos Budde, “Getting to Better Performing Schools: The Role of Residential Mobility in School Attainment in Low-Income Neighborhoods,” Cityscape 16:1, 2014, p. 81,

[19] Barbara Sard and Douglas Rice, “Realizing the Housing Voucher Program’s Potential to Enable Families to Move to Better Neighborhoods,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, updated January 12, 2016,

[20] Sard and Rice, 2016.

[21] In a recent final rule modifying portability and related procedures, HUD attempted to address this problem by (1) prohibiting a destination (i.e., receiving) PHA from rejecting a family’s request to port its voucher into the PHA’s jurisdiction without prior written approval from HUD; (2) requiring the PHA to allow the family at least an additional 30 days to find a unit; and (3) where multiple PHAs serve a community, allowing families to choose which PHA would administer its voucher.  24 C.F.R §§ 982.355(b) and 982.355(c)(13), 80 Federal Register 50573-4, August 20, 2015.  While these are positive changes, HUD declined to adopt other policy changes that likely would have been more effective, such as prohibiting receiving agencies from rescreening families that already participate in the voucher program or requiring agencies under certain circumstances to “absorb” a family’s voucher rather than using portability procedures on an ongoing basis.  Fair housing laws prohibit PHAs from acting in a manner that has the purpose or effect of preventing racial or ethnic minorities from moving into predominantly white communities, but proving such a claim is difficult and time-consuming.

[22] GAO, 2012, p. 43.         

[23] In 2012, the Congressional Research Service found that 41 percent of PHAs used residency preferences to order their waiting lists for housing vouchers, based on a representative sample of PHA administrative plans.  See Maggie McCarty and Carmen Brick, “The Use of Discretionary Authority in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A CRS Study,” April 2012.      

[24] Utah H.B. 489, 2011. 

[25] HUD’s final revisions to the portability regulations left unchanged the need for a “receiving” PHA in the area where a family moves to bill the “initial” PHA that issued the voucher, and for the initial PHA to transfer subsidy funds and a share of the related administrative fee (typically 80 percent) to the receiving PHA.  HUD also declined to change the policy that permits receiving agencies to rescreen families seeking to move and potentially find them ineligible for assistance on grounds the initial agency did not consider relevant.  80 Federal Register 50564, August 20, 2015.

[26] Consolidation of separate housing agencies to form a single metro-wide PHA could have greater benefits but also faces greater political hurdles; for many PHAs, the ability to retain their independent identity is a paramount concern.  This makes it more likely that PHAs would join a consortium to achieve administrative economies of scale than formally consolidate with other agencies.  HUD Office of Policy Development and Research, “Strategies for Regional Collaboration,” Evidence Matters Summer/Fall 2015, pp. 13-17,

[27] According to HUD, in 2014 there were only eight consortia involving 35 PHAs that administer the HCV program.  HUD, Streamlining Requirements Applicable to Formation of Consortia by Public Housing Agencies, Proposed Rule, 79 Federal Register 40019, July 11, 2014. 

[28] GAO, 2012, p. 40.

[29]Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Policy Basics: Project-Based Vouchers,” December 7, 2015,  

[30] Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan, May 21, 2015,

[31] HUD should allow agencies participating in the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration to participate in partial consortia when such collaborations will bring significant benefits to eligible families in the region as well as to the agencies.  (HUD interprets congressional limits on the number of MTW agencies to preclude their participation in a full consortium, because that would in effect increase the number of PHAs with MTW flexibility.)  In a number of the larger and more segregated metropolitan areas in this country, the center city where most low-income non-white households live is served by an MTW agency (e.g., Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New Haven, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh).  These agencies’ inability to join with other PHAs in a partial consortium to help families in protected groups expand their ability to choose to live in an area that isn’t racially or ethnically concentrated makes it harder for PHAs in these metro areas to advance families’ fair housing rights. 

[32] Abt Associates, “Housing Choice Voucher Program Administrative Fee Study,” August 2015,

[33] Fee-splitting and ongoing transfers of funds and records between the agencies that issued the vouchers and the agencies that serve the areas where families lease housing are required, unless the “receiving” agencies “absorb” the families into their own HCV program by giving the families vouchers the receiving agencies have available instead of serving families on their waiting lists.  In recent years, HUD has provided a supplemental fee of 5 percent — for a total of 85 percent if fully funded — to PHAs that administer a very large share of “port-in” vouchers.

[34] As indicated above, the fee boost the Abt study recommends for PHAs administering up to 750 vouchers would have cost $51 million if the policy had been effective in 2014.  The estimated cost of the additional portability-related fee in 2014 under the Abt formula is $10 million.  Some moves under portability procedures are not intra-regional — they are longer distance and sometimes interstate — and it’s not possible to tell from the data how much of the additional $10 million in portability-related costs could be eliminated via regional consolidation through consortia or otherwise.

[35] On March 18, 2016, HUD submitted a draft proposed rule to revise the HCV administrative fee policy to the Office of Management and Budget.  If OMB and HUD move expeditiously through the required steps in the rulemaking process, it would be possible for HUD to implement a new fee policy for calendar year 2017.

[36] Sard and Rice, 2016; see also studies by Raj Chetty and colleagues gathered at

[37] Co-author Deborah Thrope performed the survey by using Westlaw to identify the housing authority enabling laws in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and any judicial decisions interpreting these laws, and checking websites of state attorneys general to identify opinions relevant to the interpretation of these laws.  The survey found very few relevant judicial opinions regarding PHA state-enabling laws.  She also conducted extensive field research to verify the results.  If HUD allows PHAs to form partial consortia, as we recommend above, the same state-law restrictions would apply.

[38] See NEB. REV. STAT. § 71-15,113(9).

[39] See Appendix 1.  Note that some of these states passed special legislation that forms a consolidated housing authority in a specific region but does not authorize PHAs in other parts of the state to form regional authorities.

[40] For example, Iowa’s Attorney General specifically authorized the formation of a regional housing authority through Chapter 28E, the state’s joint powers statute.  1974 Iowa Op. Att’y Gen. No. 74-10-13 (Iowa A.G.), 1974 WL 353879.

[41] For example, South Dakota’s attorney general construed the state joint powers statute to prohibit the authorization of regional housing authorities, which by extension likely would prohibit the formation of consortia.  1991 S.D. Op. Atty. Gen. 35 (S.D.A.G.), 1991 WL 627944 (May 20, 1991).  The attorney general interpreted the statute to allow county commissions to form joint authorities to administer Section 8 vouchers but stated, “these commissions could not create a separate entity because there is no authority to do so.”

[42] Once the Secretary determines there is a need for a new PHA to administer the HCV program in an area because there is no current agency doing so or the current agency is not operating effectively, the Secretary may contract with a PHA to operate outside of its jurisdiction and can do so despite any state or local restrictions. 42 U.S.C. §1437a(6)(B)(iii).

[43] Section 13 of the U.S. Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §1437k(a).