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How Family Self-Sufficiency Can Empower Your Tenants

January 29, 2019

By Darryl Hicks, Tax Credit Advisor

For the past three years, Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH), a Boston-based, nonprofit affordable housing developer and property owner, has improved the lives of its tenants through a federal program called Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS).

Authorized by Congress in 1990 and administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, FSS helps struggling families pull themselves out of poverty by combining financial education and coaching with savings incentives.

Eligibility was initially limited to households that received Housing Choice Vouchers or lived in public housing. Then in late 2014, Congress extended eligibility to recipients of Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance, a move made permanent in 2018.

Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance pays the difference between the cost of rent and what a household can afford, and so as earnings grow, housing assistance shrinks. FSS allows participating households to save rent increases attributable to earnings growth in a special escrow account, the savings from which can be accessed for long-term financial goals, like homeownership or college. In this way, FSS turns a disincentive into a powerful incentive for employment and earnings.

Despite FSS’ advantages, less than five percent of eligible families nationwide are enrolled. POAH, on the other hand, has a 30 percent participation rate, having enrolled more than 240 households at seven properties, and is looking to further expand access. As POAH’s director of community impact, Julianna Stuart is a key figure in these efforts.

Tax Credit Advisor sat down with Stuart to learn more about FSS, how it was implemented, who its key partners are and why other property owners should embrace it.

Read the interview in Tax Credit Advisor's February 2019 issue.