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Rebuilding the Research Capacity at HUD
voucher program; the physical and financial condition of multifamily housing insured by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), and the actuarial position of FHA’s home mortgage insurance program; the measurement of housing discrimination; technology research for innovations in housing; and the activities of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) to help guide the regulation of the secondary mortgage market. It has managed major housing data sets, particularly the American Housing Survey, and has helped to create administrative data sets that provide information on HUD housing subsidy recipients. It has brought its research results and staff expertise to the policy development process at HUD, contributing to major initiatives in virtually all programs and regulatory responsibilities, often in critical situations.
Despite its important accomplishments, PD&R’s resources have significantly eroded over the past decade, and its capacity to perform effectively is deteriorating. Funding for data collection and research has been particularly curtailed over the last several years. Current budget levels make it infeasible to launch large-scale research initiatives or rigorous program evaluations and often severely limit the methodologies PD&R can use.
Staffing levels have declined steadily for more than a decade, cutting into PD&R’s capacity and effectiveness. One-half of the current staff are at least 52 years old, and one-third are currently eligible to retire with full benefits.
With limited financial and human resources, PD&R cannot achieve its potential, leaving policy makers and the public uninformed—or misinformed—about such critical policy questions as the impact of time limits, work requirements, and alternative subsidy formulas on public housing residents; the effects of “empowerment zone” investments on inner-city communities; and the effectiveness of supportive housing in stabilizing the lives of vulnerable individuals and families.
Of all HUD’s programs, only the housing voucher program has been recently, and repeatedly, evaluated across the full range of intended outcomes. No outside studies have rigorously evaluated the effects or cost-effectiveness of the billions of dollars spent on public housing, community development block grants, housing alternatives for homeless individuals and families, or fair housing enforcement. The recent budget reductions may affect the staff’s ability to conduct internal research projects. And PD&R has repeatedly cut back on the scale and frequency of the American Housing Survey and other major surveys, compromising their usefulness for understanding market conditions and trends.
Finally, PD&R’s engagement with the broader housing and urban policy and research communities falls disappointingly short. The funded research agenda is developed with limited input from outside the department. Its website does not begin to take full advantage of Internet capabilities for dis-