We audited the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Public Housing Voucher Programs’ oversight of the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative (FYI). We audited the program early in its implementation to identify opportunities to improve the program’s design and effectiveness. Our audit objective was to determine the effectiveness of FYI.
Opportunities exist to enhance oversight of the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative to improve program effectiveness. Specifically, HUD did not (1) implement strategies or provide guidance to maximize voucher utilization, (2) have assurance that youths were informed of supportive services or that the services were available for the duration of their participation, (3) include FYI in its annual risk assessment and did not have FYI program-specific risk assessment or monitoring policies and procedures, or (4) establish specific and measurable objectives for FYI or collect data that would allow it to assess the program’s overall effectiveness. These conditions occurred because the program was new, and HUD focused on providing housing vouchers to public housing agencies (PHA). Also, HUD was focused on the monitoring and use of CARES Act funds and relied on the PHAs and public child welfare agencies (PCWA) for program oversight of participant eligibility and supportive services. As a result, HUD lacked assurance that the $46.7 million allocated for FYI vouchers would be fully utilized to reach the vulnerable population it is intended to serve, improve the program participants’ self-sufficiency, and that the program was effective.
We recommend that the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing Voucher Programs (1) develop and implement a plan to assist PHAs in improving voucher utilization, including providing additional guidance to PHAs to improve coordination between PHAs and PCWAs to improve voucher utilization and limit barriers to leasing; (2) require PHAs to document that they informed FYI participants at program entry of their eligibility for supportive services for the duration of the program; (3) For each youth referred, require PHAs to obtain PCWA certification that the PCWA will provide or secure access to supportive services.; (4) include FYI in its voucher risk assessment and develop and implement monitoring policies, procedures, and controls; and (5) establish and implement methods to regularly assess the effectiveness of the program in preventing and ending youth homelessness and improving participants self-sufficiency, which could include performance metrics and periodic studies performed by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R).