Choosing your First Activities

When choosing MTW activities, always start with your goals and a clear vision of what you want to achieve.

Current MTW agencies have shared three approaches to beginning activity selection that you might like to try.   

Approach 1: Start by Streamlining

Some agencies have started by streamlining in order to accomplish more within existing resources.

They have chosen activities that:

  • Seek administrative efficiencies;
  • Free up staff time to plan and launch other MTW activities or initiatives; and/or
  • Reduce costs, allowing funds to support other MTW activities.

Implementing administrative efficiencies first can generate savings that help pay for new initiatives and activities. Maria Razo (Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino) and David A. Northern, Sr. (Housing Authority of Champaign County) describe their experiences.

This approach can be a great place to start. But use caution: it seems that agencies never save as much as they expect to. For example, reducing re-exams to once every three years does not cut re-exam time by two thirds once you factor in time for things like discussing status changes with residents, implementing hardship policies, and simply due to the rising costs of doing business.

Examples of Activities

  • Less frequent inspections
  • Using self-certifications in lieu of verifications of income

Approach 2: Focus on Self-Sufficiency

Other agencies have chosen to start by focusing on self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency can involve getting a job, getting a higher-paying job, getting more hours, learning a trade (engaging in training, apprenticeships, etc.)…anything that increases earnings. It also can involve creating incentives to work or removing disincentives to increased income.

In many cases, rent reform activities work best in conjunction with self-sufficiency efforts. Note that self-sufficiency activities are not usually “quick fixes” and need time to mature before you start to see the benefits.

Examples of Activities

  • Self-sufficiency coaching
  • Workforce readiness specialists
  • Community employer programs (retail, hotel) with training and jobs
  • Lower percentage of increases in earnings going to rent

Approach 3: Focus on Expanding Housing Opportunities

As resources become available, some agencies chose to implement activities that expand housing opportunities. Focus on the local issues in your community – once you clearly identify the needs, customize your MTW activities or initiatives accordingly. Every community is different, but the examples here address some common challenges.

Examples of Activities

  • Landlord incentive program
  • Constructing more affordable housing
  • Supporting mixed-use development