Family Self-Sufficiency Program History
The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program was established in 1990 by Section 554 of the National Affordable Housing Act which amended Title I of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 by adding Section 23 for the FSS Program. The FSS Program is a successor to Project Self-Sufficiency and Operation Bootstrap. It was modified by the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (QHRWA) of 1998.
The FSS Program enables HUD-assisted families to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on welfare assistance and rental subsidies. The FSS Program is available to Public Housing (PH) residents, Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) participants, residents of NAHASDA-assisted housing as well as Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA).
Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) work in collaboration with a Program Coordinating Committee (PCC) to secure commitments of public and private resources for the operation of the FSS program, to develop the PHA’s FSS Action Plan (the policies and procedures necessary to operate an FSS Program), and to implement the program.
The Lowell Housing Authority will screen prospective candidates for interest and motivation to participate in the FSS Program. The Lowell Housing Authority will not screen prospective candidates based upon the following factors: education, employment history, credit rating, marital status or number of children nor will it employ discriminatory practices or treatment toward individuals with disabilities or minority or non-minority groups.
Once an eligible family is selected to participate in the program, the PHA, and the head of each participating family execute an FSS Contract of Participation that specifies the rights and responsibilities of both parties. The term of the FSS contract is generally 5 years and may be extended for another 2 years by the PHA for good cause, such as serious illness or involuntary loss of employment. Participants may also successfully graduate in less than five years.
The FSS contract also incorporates the family’s Individual Training and Services Plan (ITSP), the document which specifies the goals (intermediate and long-term) that the family has established to achieve during the FSS Contract period. Inclusive of such are the steps necessary to fulfill the desired goals as well as the resources and service provisions the family may need to achieve success.
The FSS Program Director is responsible for assisting the family in the development of the ITSP, assuring that program participants are connected to the supportive services they require to achieve economic self-sufficiency as well as proper maintenance of the Managed Savings Account/Escrow Account.
Many of the services coordinated via the FSS Program include: employment counseling, job training, education, financial literacy and credit building, childcare, transportation and homeownership counseling.
Managed Savings Account/Escrow Account
In general, as a family’s earned income increases, the amount the family must pay for rent increases. When this happens, the Housing Authority takes a portion of the rent subsidy that is saved and places it in an interest-bearing Managed Savings Account/Escrow Account. The account is held for the family until they have completed all goals set in the Self-Sufficiency Plan. Once the family has met its goals and become independent of Public Assistance, they may receive the funds in their Managed Savings Account/Escrow Account. This program component has allowed hundreds of HUD-assisted families nationwide to transition from subsidized housing to homeownership.
At the discretion of the Housing Authority, it may make a portion of the Managed Savings Account/Escrow Account available to the family during the term of the FSS Contract if it determines that the family has fulfilled certain interim goals established in the contract and requires a portion of the funds for purposes consistent with the Contract of Participation.
The FSS family will be subject to forfeiture of its Managed Savings Account/Escrow Account if the Contract of Participation is terminated in accordance with regulations, the family is still receiving welfare at the expiration of the contract term or the contract was not completed at the end of the contract term.
The FSS Contract of Participation requires that the family comply with the lease, that all family members are welfare-free for the 12 consecutive months before the FSS Contract is completed and that the head of the household seek and maintain suitable employment.
Non-compliance with the FSS Contract without good cause may result in termination from the FSS Program or withholding or termination of supportive services. Termination (or Exit) from the FSS Program may not result in termination of the family’s rental assistance.