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The five sites have all made substantial progress in implementing the MTO demonstration. As of February 28, 1996, almost half (47.9 percent) of the MTO experimental families and over one fourth (28.9 percent) of the comparison group families had located and leased housing. The MTO non-profits are consistently achieving success rates that are as high or significantly higher than the 25 percent average success rates typical of the Gautreaux demonstration. And all five sites are expected to reach their lease-up targets by the end of 1996.

The families who apply to participate in MTO are very much like their public and assisted housing neighbors in terms of demographic and socio-economic attributes. The average MTO applicant is an African American or Hispanic woman, 37 years old, with two or three children. Almost one in five of these women work, and two thirds receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

The strongest factor motivating families to participate in the MTO demonstration appears to be fear of crime. Nearly half of MTO applicants (47.8 percent) reported being victims of crime within the last six months, compared to only 5.4 percent of all residents in the nation's largest public housing authorities. Moreover, when asked why they wanted to move away from the projects in which they live, more than half of MTO applicants (54.8 percent) listed crime as their primary reason, and another 30.8 percent listed it as their secondary reason. Better housing conditions and better schools are also important reasons why families choose to participate in the MTO demonstration, but only 6.5 percent of MTO applicants said that a job-related concern was their primary or secondary reason for moving.

The MTO demonstration has already begun to return benefits as a source of reliable data and policy insights on assisted housing mobility. During the next two years HUD expects to publish findings from ongoing research on the content and costs of MTO mobility counseling programs, on differences between successful and unsuccessful MTO recipients, and on the characteristics of neighborhoods in which MTO families locate. This ongoing research and information gathering will enable HUD to develop more sensible and effective mobility strategies for recipients of tenant-based housing assistance in metropolitan areas throughout the nation.

"Highly concentrated minority poverty is urban
America's toughest challenge...Our goal is to give
all public housing residents a genuine market
choice to stay where they are or to move to
private rental apartments throughout the region."

HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros1

Expanding access for low-income families to housing opportunities throughout the metropolis is a priority for federal housing policy under the leadership of Secretary Henry G. Cisneros. The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing demonstration (MTO) is just one of several federal initiatives aimed at "ensuring that people are not trapped and isolated in predominantly poor neighborhoods for lack of options."2

The Moving to Opportunity demonstration was authorized by Section 152 of the 1992 Housing and Community Development Act. Section 152 provides tenant-based rental assistance and supportive counseling services to test and evaluate the effectiveness of metropolitan area-wide efforts to:

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"assist very low-income families with children who reside in public housing or housing receiving projectbased assistance under Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1937 to move out of areas with high concentrations of persons living in poverty to areas with low concentrations of such persons. Section 8 rental assistance for the MTO demonstration was appropriated at $20 million for Fiscal Year 1992 and $50 million for Fiscal Year 1993.3 In addition, up to $1 million was allocated to non-profit counseling agencies to provide partial support for their housing search and mobility counseling efforts. These funds are assisting approximately 1,300 low-income families at five HUD-selected demonstration sites.

Section 152 (d) (2) requires the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make biennial reports to Congress, describing the progress and effectiveness of MTO. This report, therefore, is the first in a series of regular reports to Congress on the status of the MTO demonstration.'

The remainder of this report consists of five sections. The first section outlines the origins and design of the MTO demonstration, and the second describes the implementation process. The third section describes the characteristics of families who have applied to participate in MTO, and explores factors that motivated them to participate. The fourth section presents more detail on the progress of MTO implementation in each of the five demonstration sites, including the most recent data available on

the services provided and the costs of these services. the report concludes with perspectives on MTO as the demonstration enters its third year.




Recent social science evidence has shown that housing search assistance and counseling can be critically important for families who want to use their Section 8 tenant-based assistance to move to low poverty or non-minority neighborhoods. Moreover, evidence from the Gautreaux program in Chicago indicates that moving out of distressed inner-city neighborhoods can significantly improve employment and education outcomes for poor families and their children.

The Chicago Gautreaux program was established in the late 1970s as part of a court-imposed public housing desegregation remedy. Black families who are residents of public housing or eligible to move into public housing receive Section 8 certificates that must be used to move to predominantly white or racially mixed neighborhoods; families not willing to make such moves do not receive the assistance. Gautreaux families receive screening, training, counseling, and home referral services from the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, which has placed approximately 6,000 families throughout a six-county area around Chicago since 1980.

Professor James Rosenbaum of Northwestern University surveyed participants in the Gautreaux program and found notable improvements in the employment experience of adults who moved to suburban communities and large improvements in the prospects of their children, in comparison with a reference group. For example, children of families who moved to suburban neighborhoods were much more likely to complete high school, take college-track courses, attend college, and enter the work force than children from similar families who remained in the central city.

Although the evidence from Gautreaux is promising, Rosenbaum's results do not provide definitive evidence that mobility counseling makes sense for all eligible families, or that moving out of a distressed neighborhood consistently results in improved employment and education outcomes. For example, interest in the Gautreaux program among eligible families is difficult to disentangle from more general interest in Section 8 assistance, because Gautreaux offers families a short-cut around the Chicago Public Housing Authority's years-long Section 8 waiting list. In addition, Rosenbaum's research was limited to families who stayed in their new housing units, making it impossible to determine the number or characteristics of families who chose not to remain in the predominantly white neighborhoods to which they moved.

Finally, the comparison reference group for research on Gautreaux participants (families who used their Section 8 certificates within the city of Chicago) does not represent a true control group; families who moved to the suburbs may differ

systematically in motivation and capacity from those who remained in the city. Thus, the major short-coming of earlier studies of mobility programs is that they estimate program effects by comparing participant outcomes to outcomes for a self-selected comparison group. These estimates cannot definitively separate effects of the mobility program with pre-existing differences between those who joined the program and those who do not. Only by randomly assigning families from a common pool of applicants to different types of housing assistance is it possible to be confident that systematic differences are attributable to mobility counseling and housing assistance.

Despite these limitations, the encouraging evidence from the Gautreaux demonstration resulted in legislation authorizing HUD to test housing mobility strategies more systematically in the Moving to Opportunity demonstration. MTO differs from Gautreaux in that it focuses on the poverty rate of sending and destination neighborhoods rather than on their racial composition. The public and assisted housing projects from which participants are drawn must be located in neighborhoods where at least 40 percent of the population is poor, and recipients of MTO assistance must move to neighborhoods where no more than 10 percent of the population is poor. Despite this important difference, MTO has relied heavily upon the Gautreaux experience in designing a program that is intended to help families in search of better lives for themselves and their children. As in Gautreaux, nonprofit organizations recruit landlords throughout the metropolitan area to accept MTO families, and provide screening, counseling, search assistance, and follow-up support to participating families.

Section 152 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992 established three key parameters for the MTO demonstration:

The demonstration was restricted to no more than six very large cities with populations of at least 400,000 in metropolitan areas of at least 1.5 million people.

Eligibility was limited to very low-income families with children who live in public housing or Section 8 projectbased housing located in central city neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty.

HUD has entered into contracts with non-profit organizations to provide counseling and services in connection with the demonstration and with public housing agencies (PHAS) to administer the Section 8 rental assistance.

HUD has implemented a carefully controlled experimental design for MTO to definitively answer questions about the effectiveness of mobility counseling, and about the long-term impacts of moving to low-poverty communities.

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