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The Rent Reform Demonstration: Impacts on Work, Housing, and Well-Being After 42 Months



Report Acceptance Date: 
January 13, 2021 (246 pages)
Posted Date:   
March 10, 2022



The purpose of the Rent Reform Demonstration is to test an alternative to the current rent-setting system for families using housing choice vouchers (HCV). The goals of the alternative rent-setting model now being tested are to incentivize employment and reduce the complexity and burden (and, thus, the cost) of administering the rent policy, while not causing unnecessary hardship for HCV households. Using a rigorous random assignment design, the demonstration began enrolling voucher holders in 2015 in four cities at four Moving to Work (MTW) public housing agencies (PHAs) sites with approximately 6,600 HCV assisted households participating. The District of Columbia Housing Authority decided to end their participation after the first triennial recertification in 2019 because of resource issues that coincided with significant HCV program having to house about 2,000 new tenants due to RAD conversions. The three remaining PHAs (Lexington Housing Authority, Louisville Metropolitan Housing Authority, and San Antonio Housing Authority) are continuing to operate the new rent policy until the second triennial recertification in late 2021 or early 2022.

The current report presents results through the first triennial recertification (covering more than 3 and a half years of followup) on the new rent policy’s impacts on labor market and housing-related outcomes based on administrative data and data from a long-term followup survey conducted approximately 42 months after the new rent policy took effect. The results indicate that, when the findings for all four PHAs are combined, the new policy did not increase tenants’ employment or average earnings in unemployment insurance covered jobs during the 42-month followup. The story varied somewhat across locations, however, with some positive effects on earnings and employment in Lexington and San Antonio, which were not consistent or sustained, no effects in Washington, DC, and the continuation of negative impacts seen previously in Louisville. The new rent policy’s hardship remedies were essential for protecting many families from an excessive rent burden. The alternative rent policy had little effect on overall material or financial well-being, causing no undue harm or improvement. There were three other notable impacts for PHAs and families in the treatment group: 1) The new rent policy reduced the frequency and need for time consuming actions related to regular and interim changes in families’ income through the triennial recertification and limited interim recertifications; 2) A majority of tenants responding to the long-term followup survey in the alternative rent group favored the new rent policy (70.6 percent), particularly the triennial recertification; and 3) The new rent rules led families to retain their housing assistance longer and, therefore, receive larger housing subsidies. A subsequent report, expected at the end of 2023 will examine the new rent policy’s effects over a six-year followup period, it will also provide a process evaluation of the second half of the demonstration.

Click here for Interim Findings on Implementation, Work, and Other Outcomes report
Click here for Early Effects on Employment and Housing Subsidies report
Click here for Reducing Work Disincentives in the Housing Choice Voucher Program report