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Interim Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Compass Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program

Samuel Dastrup, Lesley Freiman, Jeffrey Lubell, Micah Villarreal, Daniel Weiss


December 21, 2017

This report examines the costs and benefits of the Compass FSS program, an initiative to help households with Housing Choice Vouchers in Lynn and Cambridge, Massachusetts make progress toward economic security. The initiative is administered by the nonprofit Compass Working Capital in partnership with public housing authorities (PHAs) in each city.

Housing Choice Vouchers are a form of federal rental assistance funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Compass FSS represents a local implementation of a national HUD program called Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS). FSS is a voluntary program open to households participating in one of three HUD rental assistance programs who generally pay 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities. Households that enroll in the Compass FSS program participate in financial education workshops and receive financial coaching to help them identify and make progress toward personal goals in the areas of employment, credit, debt, budgeting and financial services. Participating households also benefit from an escrow account that grows as their earnings and required contribution to rent increase. The escrow account helps participants build assets and also functions as an incentive for them to increase their earnings.

This report builds on the findings of an earlier report we prepared (Geyer et al. 2017) that found that Compass FSS produced strong gains in annual household earnings, averaging $6,305 per participating household, as well as improvements in credit scores and reductions in credit card and derogatory debt.