The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program was authorized by Congress in 1990 and is administered by the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
FSS helps low-income families get out of poverty by combining financial education and coaching with savings incentives.
Eligible residents include those associated with (1) vouchers; (2) public housing; and (3) Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA).
FSS allows participating households to save rent increases attributable to earnings growth in a special escrow account, the savings of which can be accessed for long-term financial goals, like homeownership or college. FSS turns the disincentive of getting a better job into a powerful incentive for employment and earnings. Despite this, less than five percent of eligible families nationwide are enrolled.
At its core, FSS is an asset-building tool and financial incentive. A key to success in the FSS program is high-quality, individualized financial coaching to help residents devise plans, set goals and work toward these goals.
PHAs and multifamily owners that want to operate an FSS program must submit an FSS Action Plan to the Regional HUD field office. The action plan must describe the PHA or owner’s policies and procedures for the FSS program, providing information on the number of families expected to participate, selection procedures, incentives to encourage participation, activities and supportive services, and a timetable for program implementation. When an individual enrolls in FSS, the program lasts five years with an option to extend. Participating residents can graduate early if they are employed and have been free of cash welfare assistance for 12-months.
Financial coaches assist with the project launch process, outreach to residents, enrollment, and coordination with property management in setting up escrow accounts. They also provide workshops on budgeting, credit/debt management and saving, as well as individualized coaching.
Participation in the FSS program is voluntary for owners of Section 8 housing. Those who are interested should contact their HUD Regional Office for detailed information.