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  • Individual Author: Riccio, James A.; Bliss, Steven
    Reference Type: Report, Stakeholder Resource
    Year: 2002

    Residents of the nation's public housing developments have long suffered disproportionately from perverse disincentives to work. Under traditional public housing policies, their rents were automatically ratcheted up in lock step with any income increase they realized from earnings, even in a low-wage job. Work often promised them little financial gain. But a series of reforms over the past decade — in welfare and tax policies, as well as in housing policies — have tipped the financial balance more in favor of work, perhaps to a degree that is not fully appreciated by many public housing residents and administrators. Still, some important disincentives remain.

    This policy brief, one in a continuing series that presents emerging insights from the Jobs-Plus demonstration, discusses innovative attempts to bring public housing rent policies more fully into line with reforms in welfare and tax policies designed to “make work pay.” The rationale underlying the Jobs-Plus approach is reinforced by a growing body of research on welfare families showing that policies that allow low-...

    Residents of the nation's public housing developments have long suffered disproportionately from perverse disincentives to work. Under traditional public housing policies, their rents were automatically ratcheted up in lock step with any income increase they realized from earnings, even in a low-wage job. Work often promised them little financial gain. But a series of reforms over the past decade — in welfare and tax policies, as well as in housing policies — have tipped the financial balance more in favor of work, perhaps to a degree that is not fully appreciated by many public housing residents and administrators. Still, some important disincentives remain.

    This policy brief, one in a continuing series that presents emerging insights from the Jobs-Plus demonstration, discusses innovative attempts to bring public housing rent policies more fully into line with reforms in welfare and tax policies designed to “make work pay.” The rationale underlying the Jobs-Plus approach is reinforced by a growing body of research on welfare families showing that policies that allow low-wage workers to keep more of their benefits or receive earnings supplements can help raise employment and earnings, reduce poverty, and increase the well-being of young children. Jobs-Plus is an innovative “place-based” employment initiative for public housing residents that mixes new rent-based work incentives with employment and training services and “neighbor-to-neighbor” social supports for work. The Jobs-Plus rent reforms build on the non-housing reform policies of the 1990s and push further in this direction. They help to ensure that full-time work will leave a family with more net income than part-time work (which has not always been the case), and that a full-time job will raise income above what that same job would yield under the old rent policies.

    Jobs-Plus anticipated some of the key reforms of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act, passed by Congress in 1998. The strategies and experiences of the Jobs-Plus sites can thus offer guidance to other public housing authorities as they attempt to implement provisions of the new law. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Miller, Cynthia; Riccio, James A.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2002

    Public housing rules that set rents as a fixed percentage of residents' incomes have long been thought to discourage residents from working. The Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families, a national demonstration project operating in six cities, is testing ways to increase employment among public housing residents by combining changes in rent rules and other financial work incentives with employment and training services and social supports for work. With its reliance on rent-based work incentives, Jobs-Plus anticipated some of the key provisions of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998. This report describes the kinds of incentives being tested in each of the Job-Plus sites and explains how these strategies can increase residents' net incomes and influence their decisions about work.

    Key Findings:

    - Even without rent reform, changes in welfare rules and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have made work substantially more rewarding for public housing residents over the past decade. Jobs-Plus builds upon these work...

    Public housing rules that set rents as a fixed percentage of residents' incomes have long been thought to discourage residents from working. The Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families, a national demonstration project operating in six cities, is testing ways to increase employment among public housing residents by combining changes in rent rules and other financial work incentives with employment and training services and social supports for work. With its reliance on rent-based work incentives, Jobs-Plus anticipated some of the key provisions of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998. This report describes the kinds of incentives being tested in each of the Job-Plus sites and explains how these strategies can increase residents' net incomes and influence their decisions about work.

    Key Findings:

    - Even without rent reform, changes in welfare rules and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have made work substantially more rewarding for public housing residents over the past decade. Jobs-Plus builds upon these work incentives by introducing flat or fixed rent steps, rents based on a lower percentage of income, lower ceiling rents, rent credits, and escrow accounts. However, whether it pays for a resident to go to work depends not only on the rent rules but also on how much in welfare and Food Stamp benefits she stands to lose, whether she receives subsidized child care, and whether she receives the EITC. Thus, effectively communicating and marketing all available financial supports for work is an important feature of Jobs-Plus.

    - Across all housing developments and for a range of family circumstances, the Jobs-Plus rent rules give residents more incentive not only to accept employment, but also to choose full-time over part-time jobs and to advance into higher-wage jobs than they had under the traditional rules.   

    - Jobs-Plus rent rules may encourage some residents, particularly second earners in two-parent families, to reduce their work hours. And under some plans, residents' incomes may fall over time unless they can increase their earnings to match the higher rent steps.

    - Public housing authorities (PHAs) could gain or lose from Jobs-Plus rent reforms. Whether their total rent revenues increase or decrease will depend on the generosity of the rent reductions, the extent to which Jobs-Plus increases employment and earnings, and how many residents were working prior to the reforms.

    The Jobs-Plus demonstration was conceived by its two principal funders, the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development and The Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with MDRC, which is managing and evaluating it. It is also supported by the other funders listed at the front of this report. Future studies will investigate what effects these promising approaches have on residents' employment and PHA rent revenues. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Riccio, James A.; Bliss, Steven
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2001

    This policy brief is one in a continuing series that offers emerging insights from the Jobs-Plus demonstration. Sponsored by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Rockefeller Foundation, and other public and private funders listed at the end of this document, Jobs-Plus is an intensive, “place-based” initiative for increasing employment among public housing residents. MDRC is managing the demonstration and evaluating the program. This brief describes the people and places Jobs-Plus is trying to help, and it outlines the demonstration’s principal goals and evolving strategies.

    The problem of concentrated poverty and joblessness in U.S. cities has intensified in recent decades, with the number of high-poverty neighborhoods more than doubling between 1970 and 1990. Poverty and unemployment are especially acute in public housing developments, many of which are among the most economically disadvantaged communities in the nation. In the current environment of time-limited welfare, the need to boost employment among families in public housing — many of whom have...

    This policy brief is one in a continuing series that offers emerging insights from the Jobs-Plus demonstration. Sponsored by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Rockefeller Foundation, and other public and private funders listed at the end of this document, Jobs-Plus is an intensive, “place-based” initiative for increasing employment among public housing residents. MDRC is managing the demonstration and evaluating the program. This brief describes the people and places Jobs-Plus is trying to help, and it outlines the demonstration’s principal goals and evolving strategies.

    The problem of concentrated poverty and joblessness in U.S. cities has intensified in recent decades, with the number of high-poverty neighborhoods more than doubling between 1970 and 1990. Poverty and unemployment are especially acute in public housing developments, many of which are among the most economically disadvantaged communities in the nation. In the current environment of time-limited welfare, the need to boost employment among families in public housing — many of whom have long histories of welfare receipt — takes on special urgency. Yet in some cities welfare recipients living in public housing appear to be some of the hardest people to employ among welfare recipients and other low-income groups overall.

    Jobs-Plus is a national demonstration project designed to test a multifaceted approach to transforming low-work, high-welfare public housing developments into high-work, low-welfare communities. Initiated in 1996, Jobs-Plus aims to increase employment dramatically by integrating three components — extensive employment-related services, new financial work incentives, and a “community support for work” component — and targeting them toward all working-age residents of participating housing developments. By doing so, Jobs-Plus hopes to move large numbers of residents into steady employment and improve the quality of life in these developments. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Kato, Linda Yuriko; Riccio, James A.; Dodge, Jennifer
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2001

    To combat joblessness and poverty in low-income communities, multiple organizations must work together with local residents. But productive collaboration on such complex issues is notoriously difficult to create and sustain, partly because partners often have different priorities and agendas. Learning from real-world experiences is critical if this strategy is to work.

    This report provides a detailed look at a major current collaborative effort: the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families (or Jobs-Plus). It shows how the seven cities in this national demonstration have attempted to build inclusive and productive partnerships to design, fund, and operate an ambitious, place-based employment initiative for residents of selected public housing developments. The lessons drawn have important practical implications for a wide range of community-building and other initiatives.

    Jobs-Plus seeks to boost employment among all working-age residents through employment and training services, financial work...

    To combat joblessness and poverty in low-income communities, multiple organizations must work together with local residents. But productive collaboration on such complex issues is notoriously difficult to create and sustain, partly because partners often have different priorities and agendas. Learning from real-world experiences is critical if this strategy is to work.

    This report provides a detailed look at a major current collaborative effort: the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families (or Jobs-Plus). It shows how the seven cities in this national demonstration have attempted to build inclusive and productive partnerships to design, fund, and operate an ambitious, place-based employment initiative for residents of selected public housing developments. The lessons drawn have important practical implications for a wide range of community-building and other initiatives.

    Jobs-Plus seeks to boost employment among all working-age residents through employment and training services, financial work incentives (especially by limiting rent increases for employed residents), neighbor-to-neighbor outreach, and other efforts to promote and support work. In each of the participating cities, selected in 1997, the partners have included the public housing authority, the welfare department, local workforce development agencies, resident leaders, and other local organizations. The chosen cities were Baltimore, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Dayton, Los Angeles, St. Paul, and Seattle. Cleveland and Seattle are no longer in the demonstration, but Seattle is still operating its Jobs-Plus program.

    Among their key challenges and accomplishments to date are:

    Collaborative governance and management. The collaboratives' experiences point to the value of: vesting governing authority in a core group of active partners while keeping the larger group in the dialogue in other ways; establishing explicit lines of authority between the governing partners and program staff; devising better mechanisms for holding staff - and partners - accountable; and distinguishing funding and management of the collaborative from that of the program.

    Collaboration in service delivery. Some sites have made considerable progress in building an integrated network of services with close coordination among frontline staff. Such coordination is critical in order to serve and monitor residents effectively across a geographically dispersed network of providers. Toward this end, agencies have modified staff training procedures and expanded their interagency data-sharing efforts. Moreover, some sites have changed broader agency policies as a result of their participation in the collaboratives. Most welfare agencies, for instance, have allowed residents to meet their welfare-to-work obligations by participating in Jobs-Plus.

    Housing authority adaptations. Jobs-Plus challenged housing authorities' nearly exclusive focus on housing management and traditional isolation from the activities of welfare and workforce development agencies. Examples of important housing authority adaptations include efforts to: improve internal coordination (e.g., to implement the rent incentives or link employment assistance to efforts to head off evictions); "fast track" internal decisionmaking for Jobs-Plus; transfer Jobs-Plus funds to independent agencies to address procurement constraints; and permit other partners influence over key hiring decisions, even for staff on the housing authority's payroll.

    Residents' involvement. Residents have had a significant influence in shaping the Jobs-Plus programs, despite sometimes tense relationships between residents and housing authorities. Some sites have succeeded in reaching beyond traditional leaders in building the technical capacity of residents to assume specific leadership and staff roles in the program.  (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bloom, Susan Philipson; Blank, Susan
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2000

    The national Jobs-Plus demonstration represents an ambitious attempt to transform low-work, high-welfare public housing developments into high-work, low-welfare communities. Relying on three program components - employment-related activities and services, enhanced financial incentives to work, and community-based support for work - the program aims to create steady employment for a substantial majority of all working-age, nondisabled development residents. This report documents the nature and extent of program implementation in the seven cities initially included in the Jobs-Plus demonstration. It provides a "snapshot" of each site, detailing infrastructure (including staffing and facilities), program flow (including outreach, enrollment, orientation, assessment, job-related activities, and education-or-training-related initiatives), financial incentives for work, and community supports for work. It also raises three main questions for future implementation research: (1) How do sites implement and integrate financial incentives and community support for work? (2) How do residents...

    The national Jobs-Plus demonstration represents an ambitious attempt to transform low-work, high-welfare public housing developments into high-work, low-welfare communities. Relying on three program components - employment-related activities and services, enhanced financial incentives to work, and community-based support for work - the program aims to create steady employment for a substantial majority of all working-age, nondisabled development residents. This report documents the nature and extent of program implementation in the seven cities initially included in the Jobs-Plus demonstration. It provides a "snapshot" of each site, detailing infrastructure (including staffing and facilities), program flow (including outreach, enrollment, orientation, assessment, job-related activities, and education-or-training-related initiatives), financial incentives for work, and community supports for work. It also raises three main questions for future implementation research: (1) How do sites implement and integrate financial incentives and community support for work? (2) How do residents respond to what Jobs-Plus offers? (3) What are the most feasible implementation strategies and the best practices? (author abstract)

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