Since the 1990s, U.S. housing policy has moved away from solely providing housing assistance to more comprehensive strategies using financial capability and asset building as vehicles for upward mobility for subsidized housing families. The Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program was developed to enhance financial independence and asset building among assisted housing families. However, few evaluations of FSS have utilized control groups or other statistical techniques that make it possible to reliably estimate program effects. Using longitudinal data from the Denver Housing Authority’s FSS program, this study assesses the impact of FSS on four asset building outcomes (1) earnings growth; (2) savings growth; (3) credit worthiness; and (4) debt reduction.
Administrative data from the Denver Housing Authority’s FSS Program are used to estimate the outcomes of the 2007-2012 cohorts of FSS program participants (N=424). Propensity score analysis using one-to-one nearest neighbor matching techniques was employed to match program compliers and non-compliers on a common set of program characteristics (start year, duration in program) and participant characteristics (age, ethnicity, educational attainment, marital status, family size, and earnings at time of program entry). The impact parameter used is the average treatment effect on the treated (ATET), estimated by a difference in means across matched samples.
FSS program compliers gained considerably in terms of income growth, credit repair and debt reduction compared to matched program non-compliers. Completing the FSS Program increased annual earnings by $7,240, increased credit scores by 37 points, and reduced derogatory accounts by 4.2 and derogatory debt by $3,252. All these impact parameters proved statistically greater than zero at the .01 significance level.
Conclusions and Implications
Well-conceived and executed FSS programs that operate within public housing authorities hold great promise as vehicles for promoting asset building among subsidized housing residents and their families.