New Study: Work Requirements Increased Employment without Evictions

New Study: Work Requirements Increased Employment without Evictions
William M. Rohe, Michael D. Webb, Kirstin Frescoln
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Researchers from the University of North Carolina’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies have added evidence into the debate about the benefits and risks of work requirements for housing assistance. In a study forthcoming in Housing Policy Debate, the researchers share the results of the first empirical analysis of the effect of work requirements in public housing on employment and evictions. The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA), which has program flexibility as an authorized “Moving to Work” agency, instituted a work requirement and on-site case management in five of its fifteen public housing developments. Two of the sites already offered work supports through the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program.

In all five developments, non-elderly, non-disabled heads of household must work or participate in work-related activities, such as job training or community service, for a minimum of 15 hours per week. Failure to comply leads to a series of sanctions, beginning with a three-month probationary period. The next sanction was the loss of half of the rental subsidy for six months, then loss of the entire rental subsidy for six months. Finally, residents not in compliance faced eviction.

In addition to testing the effects on employment and evictions, the researchers explored tenants' attitudes toward the requirement.

Major findings:

  • The addition of a work requirement and case management increased employment among public housing residents.
  • Work participation was higher at baseline for residents of properties that offered FSS. After the work requirement, these developments saw a statistically significant increase in employment.
  • After adding case management and prior to the work requirement, work did not significantly increase at the other three sites. Once the work requirement was added, the three non-FSS sites experienced a significant increase in employment.
  • The work requirement did not lead to an increase in the average hours worked by employed residents.
  • Six out of 123 total households faced rent sanctions for non-compliance between July and December 2014.  One resident was evicted. When compared with a control group and with data from the prior year, work requirements did not increase evictions or other move-outs due to lease violation or nonpayment.
  • Among residents of the FSS sites, there was an increase in “positive move-outs” to privately-owned housing.
  • and raised additional funds for Charlotte Housing Authority.
  • Among residents subject to the policy, 87% thought it was fair, compared with 80% of CHA’s other residents.
  • When surveyed, residents reported taking the following actions in response to the requirement: looking for a new job (52%), finding a new job (37%, enrolling in school or training (30%), and working more (22%).

Note: A related story explores policy perspectives on this study.