The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Monday announced it will publish a rule to implement changes to the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program. The changes include permanently expanding the definition of an eligible family to include tenants of privately owned multifamily properties subsidized with Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA).
“As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, we are excited to build upon the success of the program to positively impact families for years to come,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “The updates we are announcing today are critical to the Department’s work to ensure that the families we serve are connected to the support and opportunities needed to meet their financial goals and build assets.”
In addition to permanently expanding the Program to multifamily owners and allowing them to compete directly for services funding, the rule also expands eligibility for Program enrollment to include any adult member of the household—rather than only the Head of Household—to be more inclusive of households where the Head of Household is unable to work or increase work activity due to issues such as health conditions, disabilities, or family care taking responsibilities. The rule also expands the definition of “good cause” for a FSS client contract extension to include participants who are in active pursuit of a long-term goal that will help them get ahead, such as a college degree, as opposed to only reasons outside of the family’s control. Additionally, among other positive statutory and regulatory changes, the rule removes administratively burdensome requirements for enrollment and revises graduation requirements.
The Family Self-Sufficiency Program is the largest asset building program for families with low-incomes in the country. Earlier this year, HUD announced $101 million in awards to nearly 700 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to support efforts to help residents living in public housing and those participating in the Department’s Housing Choice Voucher Program to meet their financial goals. The Department expects to announce additional funding opportunities later this year for renewal programs and new applications, which—for the first time—will be open to owners of HUD-assisted multifamily properties.
This expansion is a key element in the Department’s strategy on asset and credit building for HUD-assisted families. In February, Secretary Fudge convened a meeting with current and former public housing and voucher residents to discuss their experience participating in asset building programs. The residents spoke directly with Secretary Fudge about concerns and barriers faced around financial growth and navigating the economic system. The residents, each of whom have utilized services provided through either FSS or HUD’s Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency – Service Coordinators Program, shared what has been most helpful in moving forward in their financial goals and what strategies they would like to see implemented to support more residents in their savings, debt reduction, homeownership, and asset building goals.
The goal of the FSS Program continues to be to enable participating low-income families to increase their earned income and meet their financial goals. Local FSS program coordinators create plans with participating families to achieve goals and connect them with services that will assist in making progress toward economic security. Families that meet program requirements and successfully complete the FSS program receive their accrued FSS escrow funds, plus interest. While no formal restrictions exist on the use of the escrowed funds, many families use the funds to help with the purchase of a home, debt reduction, post-secondary education, or to start a new business.