Public Housing Programs Could Benefit from Greater Flexibility

Policy Brief
May 5, 2021
Monique King-Viehl, Elizabeth Champion, & Susan J. Popkin for URBAN INSTITUTE
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many public housing authorities (PHAs) to quickly adjust their operational procedures to protect their staff while providing emergency assistance to residents. Many PHAs had to close their offices and convert to remote operations almost overnight, while staff focused on supporting their tenants by delivering them food, doing wellness checks for vulnerable residents, and ensuring they had access to and in some cases providing the technology needed for children to attend school remotely and isolated residents to remain connected to friends, family, and service providers. Moreover, as the economic crisis caused by the pandemic worsened, PHAs were under pressure to rapidly adjust rents for tenants who had lost income and process housing choice voucher (HCV) applications so people could use their vouchers to find housing. This brief provides insights into how public housing authorities used additional flexibilities that became available through a series of HUD-issued regulatory and statutory waivers, and makes the case for the potential benefits for added flexibilities for the HCV and public housing programs going forward.
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