Moving to Work (MTW) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can individual families participate in MTW?
No. Only Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) can participate in MTW.

What are MTW agencies permitted to do under MTW?
PHAs selected for the demonstration are permitted to seek exemption from many existing Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher program rules found in the United States Housing Act of 1937 in pursuit of the three MTW statutory objectives:

  • Reduce cost and achieve greater costs effectiveness in Federal expenditures;
  • Give incentives to families with children where the head of household is working, is seeking work, or is preparing for work by participating in job training, educational programs, or programs that assist people to obtain employment and become economically self-sufficient; and
  • Increase housing choices for low-income families.

PHAs in the MTW Demonstration also have the flexibility to combine Federal funds from the public housing operating and modernization programs and Housing Choice Voucher program into a "block grant" to help them better meet the purposes of the demonstration and the needs of their communities.

While MTW agencies have considerable flexibility, they must still abide by all other federal rules and regulations, including the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act, labor standards, environmental rules, procurement guidelines, demolition and disposition procedures and relocation regulations. For all activities that affect their residents' rent payments, PHAs must also conduct an impact analysis that recognizes the unforeseen circumstances that may affect their residents and develop an appropriate hardship policy. These safeguards help minimize any potentially negative impact of MTW on residents and communities.

What is the MTW "Block Grant" approach?
MTW PHAs are permitted to combine their Public Housing Operating and Capital funds and Housing Choice Voucher funds and use these funds interchangeably. For example, an MTW agency could use public housing capital funds to issue additional vouchers or use voucher funds to develop more public housing to better fit the needs of its community.

MTW agencies also have the authority to use their funds to implement innovative policies that go beyond these two traditional forms of housing assistance to serve more low-income families. For instance, an MTW Agency can use funds from its block grant to replace decaying public housing with mixed-income communities, increase the percentage of project-based vouchers to bring more affordable housing to compact markets, and reach special needs populations through the use of provider-based vouchers paired with supportive services.

The caveat to this flexibility is that MTW PHAs "assist substantially the same total number of eligible low-income families as would have been served had the funding amounts not been combined." This provision helps ensure accountability of MTW agencies to HUD and their communities. In most cases, more families are served when an MTW Agency shifts funds between programs through the use of the MTW block grant.

Do PHAs in the MTW Demonstration receive additional funding?
No. Under the MTW Demonstration, PHAs receive funding that is equivalent to what they would have received had they not participated in MTW.

What kinds of activities have MTW Agencies implemented?
MTW Agencies can only use MTW flexibility in pursuit of the three MTW statutory objectives. Below is a list of the kinds of activities that MTW PHAs have implemented, organized by statutory objective.

Cost Savings Self Sufficiency Housing Choices
  • Using the MTW block grant to leverage funds
  • Streamlining HUD processes
  • Redesigning HUD forms
  • Risk-based inspections
  • Rent simplification
  • Linking rental assistance with supportive services
  • Escrow accounts
  • Earned income exclusions
  • Increased case management services
  • Self sufficiency requirements
  • Developing mixed-income and tax credit properties
  • Foreclosure prevention, mortgage assistance and homeownership programs
  • Increasing the percentage of project-based vouchers

Who is Participating?
There are currently 39 PHAs participating as MTW demonstration sites. The last four PHAs that were selected was in 2012 pursuant to PIH Notice 2012-16. These are: the Housing Authority of Columbus, Georgia; the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority; the Holyoke Housing Authority; and the Reno Housing Authority.

*Note: Two of the original MTW PHAs are no longer participating.

Is the MTW Demonstration being evaluated? What are the results to date?
Yes. HUD recently submitted a report to Congress titled, Moving to Work: Interim Policy Applications and the Future of the Demonstration. The report finds that MTW status provides Public Housing Agencies the flexibility to fund and design unique strategies to address local needs. This has produced significant successes such as allowing MTW Housing Agencies to serve additional families, improve residents' quality of life and preserve public housing.

A Congressionally-mandated evaluation by the Urban Institute of the MTW Demonstration, covering the earliest MTW agencies, was delivered to Congress in January 2004.

The Promising Practices Reports for each PHA also offer a snapshot of the successes of each MTW Agency.

How do MTW Agencies measure and report on their activities?
Recognizing that MTW Agencies operate differently from other PHAs, MTW Agencies have different reporting requirements that allow HUD to learn from their activities. Unlike other PHAs, MTW PHAs are required to submit a comprehensive framework for their MTW program in their Annual MTW Plans and Reports to HUD, which includes outcome measures for all proposed activities and reports on the progress of all MTW activities. The purpose of the Annual MTW Plans and Reports is to provide local stakeholders and HUD with a clear understanding of the Agency's activities. In addition to MTW Plans and Reports, MTW Agencies are also required to report into most of the same HUD reporting systems as other PHAs.

Though HUD approves MTW Plans and Reports, HUD approval does not supersede any of the terms of an agency's Moving to Work Agreement, and the approval does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of any particular policies described in an agency's Plan.

The Standard MTW Agreement (also known as the Amended and Restated MTW Agreement), executed in 2008, standardized reporting requirements for all MTW Agencies and allowed for better cross-site comparisons. For all activities, MTW PHAs now outline baselines, benchmarks, and data collection methods to measure the progress of each activity in meeting the three MTW statutory objectives.

In 2009, HUD developed an internal database designed to capture information from Annual MTW Plans and Reports that will eventually allow HUD to analyze the types of activities implemented by MTW agencies and to track reporting metrics within and across agencies. At this time the database has not been fully developed due to a lack of resources. A full-time staff is dedicated to monitoring MTW agencies, working with them to measure the impacts of their activities and providing them with technical assistance.

How does HUD know if an MTW activity works, and what happens if it doesn't?
Because MTW PHAs differ in terms of size and communities served, there is no one standard measure of success for all MTW activities. Each MTW Agency outlines its own measures of success, based on local and community standards, in its Annual MTW Plans and reports on their progress in their Annual MTW Report.

Because the purpose of a demonstration is to replicate successes and learn from failures, punishing agencies for unsuccessful practices would prevent agencies from implementing untested, innovative activities. MTW agencies are, however, expected to explain discrepancies between intended and actual outcomes, change or eliminate an activity if necessary, and report on challenges faced so that HUD can learn from their experience.

How are MTW PHAs selected?
Only Congress has the power to authorize the addition of new slots in the MTW demonstration. In some cases, Congress has authorized specific PHAs to become part of MTW, and in others, Congress has authorized HUD to select the agencies through its own processes. When HUD is responsible for the selection of new MTW PHAs, HUD issues a Notice with criteria for admission and evaluates applications in a competitive process.

See the History of MTW page for more information.