Learning from Each Other: Meeting the Needs of WtW Voucher Holders with Tailored Services through the FSS Program
Agency: New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority
(Size of WtW Program: 500 vouchers)
Attracting new participants and maintaining client interest is
a challenge faced by many Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) programs.
By not participating in the FSS program, WtW voucher holders and
other Section 8 tenants miss out on services that can help them
to obtain and maintain self-sufficiency. However, organizations
that are trying to increase enrollment in the FSS program often
struggle when trying to find attractive options for tenants that
can meet a wide variety of needs. It is also a challenge to enlist
the necessary help of the local housing authority, other agencies,
and local businesses that can support FSS.
Solution: Use FSS to Provide Interesting Options and Helpful Programs that Can Help Voucher Holders Achieve Self-sufficiency
Through informal needs assessments, the New Hampshire Housing Finance
Agency (NHHFA) identified the greatest needs of their voucher clientele.
With these needs in mind, NHHFA created programs through FSS that
meet these needs and are tailored to the interests of voucher holders.
- SMART Account. Participants said they are looking
for ways to save money on a limited budget. In response, NHHFA
developed an Individual Development Account with a matched savings
Program. Participants desire access to computers for school
and skills training. NHHFA responded by creating a program that
offers low-cost, refurbished computer equipment for home use.
Classroom. Participants said they would like to participate
in skill-building workshops, but have transportation, childcare,
and scheduling barriers to attending workshops onsite. To make
available curriculums more accessible, NHHFA developed free, online
& Grant Program. Participants need funds to help meet
their goals, but often cannot qualify for conventional loans because
of credit issues or limited budgets that cannot support payments.
NHHFA met this need with grants and low interest loans.
to Work Collaboration. Participants need reliable transportation
but often cannot qualify for conventional financing to purchase
a car. In partnership with a local non-profit, NHHFA provides
reliable cars at affordable prices.
successful implementation of the above options, NHHFA collaborated
with partner organizations and the local housing authority.
Account. The IDA Program was established
through the NH Community Loan Fund, which recruits various community
partners to establish a consortium of participating agencies.
The NH Community Loan Fund contacted the FSS program at NHHFA
to see if there was interest in participating. After several planning
sessions involving all the community partners, the program was
established. Funds for the program (more than 2.6 million dollars)
are provided by Providian Bank, the NH Community Development Finance
Authority, Citizens Bank, State of NH-TANF funds, Federal AFIA
(Assets for Independence Act), and the NH Charitable Foundation.
The International Chamber for Economic Development (INTERCED),
a local non-profit focused on improving economic conditions for
low-income people through the use of technology, was starting
a computer refurbishing and distribution program. The program's
goal was to provide computer equipment to low-income households
for home use. Since INTERCED did not have a client base, NHHFA's
FSS program formed a partnership with them. Responsibilities of
each partner were discussed and are outlined in a Memorandum of
Classroom. NHHFA discovered that local colleges and Universities
were offering online education through a server host called Blackboard.com.
Blackboard allows short-term enrichment courses to be created
and hosted on their site free of charge. The FSS Coordinator developed
a plan for offering workshops through Blackboard's online service
to FSS participants who had access to computers and the Internet.
NHHFA then collaborated with other agencies and local businesses
to develop curriculums relevant to the needs of FSS participants.
& Grant Program. Incorporated
into the Housing Authority's operating budget, NHHFA set aside
$40,000 for the FSS Loan & Grant Program. The funds are available
through application with the FSS case managers. NHHFA also established
a Loan & Grant Review Committee to review the applications
and make determinations of eligibility based on established guidelines.
These guidelines include a client's standing in the program based
on the Contract of Participation, case manager recommendation,
household budget, current employment and history, need, and proposed
use of funds in relation to the goals of the Individual Training
and Service Plan. Past credit problems are not a prohibiting factor
in receiving funds, although willingness to participate in credit
counseling is often required. Grants are limited to $750 per request
with a lifetime limit of $1,500 and do not need to be repaid.
Loans are limited to $4,000 and are offered at a one-percent rate
to Work Collaboration.
Wheels to Work, a non-profit program operated through a local
community action program, established a vehicle donation and distribution
program and worked with various referring agencies who serve low-income
people entering the workforce. Financing of the vehicles was supported
through a local bank with stringent credit requirements and market
interest rates. Since a large number of FSS participants have
past credit issues, participation in this program was limited.
Wheels to Work and NHHFA's FSS Program collaborated to allow financing
for FSS participants through NHHFA's Loan & Grant Program.
FSS participants now have access to low-mileage, reliable vehicles,
that are priced well-below book value, and financed with a one-percent
interest rate. The credit requirements must meet the established
guidelines of our Loan & Grant Program as stated above.
offering programs tailored to the needs of voucher holders, participation
in the FSS Program has increased 60 percent. A waiting list has
been established with new applications arriving every month. Results
of specific programs are as follows:
Account.Since October 2001, 32
FSS participants have used the SMART Account. These participants
are depositing $25.00 - $100.00 a month and receive $3.00 in match
money for every dollar deposited. They are each saving for one
of three goals, as established by the program: homeownership,
post-secondary education, or small business development. Several
participants also deposited up to $500.00 of their income tax
refund and received a $3.00 match for each of those dollars deposited.
Program. Since February 2002, 14 computers have been distributed
to FSS households through the Computer-Lease Program. Some participants
are using the computers to improve their skills in MS Office and
the Internet, while others are enjoying the convenience of having
a computer at home for homework assigned in their college courses.
Classroom. Since February 2002, 26 registrations have
been received for classes in the Virtual Classroom. From the convenience
of home, participants are learning at their own pace while enrolled
in workshops for computer skills, banking basics, employment skills,
remedial academics, and career specific training.
& Grant Program.
Participants have received $40,000 in loan and grant funds this
fiscal year. These funds were used for such things as auto repairs
and purchases, dental work, computer lease fees, education expenses,
and debt consolidation.
to Work Collaboration. Since March 2002, five FSS participants
have financed Wheels to Work vehicles through the FSS Loan Program.
All of these participants were denied conventional bank financing
because of problem credit or a lack of established credit history.
The vehicles distributed were all 1997 or newer with less than
60,000 miles. The average loan payment is less than $100/month
and carries a term of 2.5 years.
Recommendations and More Information
other FSS programs are interested in establishing programs similar
to those offered by NHHFA, NHHFA staff recommends using the following
staff can contact Chris Lebrun, IDA Program Manager at the NH
Community Loan Fund (603.224.6669) or access the following Web
sites for general information about Assets for Independence Demonstration
NH Community Loan Fund's website: http://www.nhclf.org/
Program. Contact local colleges and Universities that
have IT (Information Technology Programs) to find out about computer
donation, refurbishing, and distribution programs. Many post-secondary
schools provide refurbishing of equipment as part of student internships
for credit. Local businesses often donate used equipment to these
school programs. Also contact large, local businesses for potential
donations of equipment when they replace existing equipment. If
you have localized participants and do not want to develop a home
distribution program, consider setting up a computer lab using
equipment from these resources.
Classroom. Visit http://www.Blackboard.com
for information on how to create online training and education
courses. The coursework can be set up to be self-correcting, so
the time investment is mostly in the development of the curriculum.
Call on local agencies that offer free workshops to low-income
families to see if they would be willing to work with you to adapt
their curriculum to an online learning format.
and Grant Program.
Try approaching area banks and large corporations for support
in establishing a financial assistance program similar to NHHFA's
Loan and Grant Program. Provide much publicity to the donating
companies and follow-up with personal success stories to continue
or increase donations.
to Work Collaboration.
If there is a similar vehicle donation program in your area, contact
them to establish a partnership. If there is no such program in
your area, contact local auto dealers to see if they might be
interested in donating vehicles for your participants. Start small
scale & provide much publicity and personal success stories
to increase interest in such a partnership.
Contact: Torey Kortz, New Hampshire
Housing Finance Authority, (603) 310-9296, Tkortz@nhhfa.org
Source: NHHFA staff