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

Can individual families participate in MTW?

MTW is not a program for individuals seeking housing or employment assistance; it is a federal program for public housing authorities (PHAs) to design and test innovative ways to address local housing needs in communities across the country.  Individuals who reside in communities where an MTW agency is located may participate in the various MTW programs.

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 can use Federal funds flexibly from the public housing operating and modernization programs and Housing Choice Voucher program 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 MTW funding flexibility?

MTW agencies have MTW funding flexibilities, which allow MTW agencies to apply fungibility among public housing Operating Fund, public housing Capital Fund, and voucher funds.  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 its funds flexibly to replace distressed public housing with mixed-income communities, increase the percentage of project-based vouchers to bring more affordable housing to compact markets, serve more people experiencing chronic homelessness, and reach special needs populations by establishing a program that provides supportive services to these populations living in PH or Voucher assisted housing.

The caveat to this flexibility is that MTW agencies "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 using the MTW flexibility.

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 agencies have implemented, organized by statutory objective.

Cost Savings Self Sufficiency Housing Choices
  • Using MTW flexibility 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
  • Landlord incentives
  • Foreclosure prevention, mortgage assistance and homeownership programs
  • Increasing the percentage of project-based vouchers

Who is participating?

Congress has authorized 139 agencies to participate in the MTW Demonstration program. The 39 Initial agencies that joined MTW under the 1996 Appropriations Act, operate under a Standard MTW Agreement which outlines their participation in the MTW program and lists specific statutory provisions found in the 1937 Act and/or its implementing regulations that an MTW agency can waive as part of its MTW flexibility. The 100 Expansion agencies that joined under the 2016 Appropriations Act, operate under the MTW Operations Notice which details the implementation and continued operation of the MTW Demonstration program including the lists of waivers of the 1937 Act and/or its implementing regulations that an MTW agency can waive as part of its MTW flexibility.

Is the MTW Demonstration being evaluated? What are the results to date?

Yes. There have been several HUD-funded and third-party evaluations of the MTW Demonstration program and their results.  A compilation of these reports is listed on the MTW Research and Evaluation webpage.

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 or MTW Supplements to the Annual PHA Plan, to HUD, which includes outcome measures for all proposed activities and reports on the progress of all MTW activities. These are available on the pages for the individual agencies, which are linked through the Participating Agencies webpage. The purpose of the Annual MTW Plans and Reports, and MTW Supplements to the Annual PHA Plan, is to provide local stakeholders and HUD with a clear understanding of the Agency's activities. In addition to reporting in MTW Plans and Reports, or MTW Supplements to the Annual PHA Plan, MTW agencies are also required to report into most of the same HUD reporting systems as other agencies.

Standardized reporting requirements for all initial MTW agencies allows for better cross-site comparisons. For all activities, initial MTW agencies now outline baselines, benchmarks, and data collection methods to measure the progress of each activity in meeting the three MTW statutory objectives. Similarly, the MTW Supplement to the Annual PHA Plan standardized reporting for all Expansion MTW agencies and includes outcomes measures for evaluation.

How does HUD know if an MTW activity works, and what happens if it doesn't?

Because MTW agencies differ in terms of size and communities served, there is no one standard measure of success for all MTW activities. The Initial MTW agencies outline 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.  The Expansion MTW agencies activities will be evaluated through its respective cohort study evaluation.

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 Agencies selected?

Congress must authorize the addition of agencies in the MTW Demonstration program. In some cases, Congress has authorized specific agencies 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 agencies, HUD issues a Notice with criteria for admission and evaluates applications in a competitive process.  Most recently, Congress authorized HUD to expand the MTW Demonstration program by 100 additional agencies over seven years through Section 239 of the 2016 Appropriations Act. Visit the MTW Expansion webpage to read more about the expansion of the MTW Demonstration.

See the History of MTW webpage for more information.


Last updated October 11, 2022