Gaining a quick, thorough understanding of assisted housing needs

HUD research adds quality of life to low-income lives with help from SAS®

The Office of Policy Development and Research in the Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for providing objective housing research for the US government. And, it is using SAS Business Analytics to help government officials make more informed assisted-housing policy decisions, as well as report on performance to help improve the quality of life for low-income citizens benefiting from housing subsidy programs.

"The real advantage of SAS for me is the strength and depth of the statistical analysis – you can go from simple to extremely complex analysis all in the same framework. And for the work we do, we need that.”

David Chase
Director, Program Monitoring and Research

According to David Chase, Director of Program Monitoring and Research, his division is using SAS to analyze and report on the impact of assisted housing programs on millions of lower-income citizens. For example, SAS helps the department determine whether its social programs are helping provide a better quality of life in the areas of education, health and employment.

"We know a lot about the people in the program because we collect a fair amount of information on them routinely to make sure they're still eligible for the program," explains Chase. "In terms of outcomes, we know their source of income and whether they have jobs. We track whether they're getting more money from work than they are from the assistance programs. What we want to do with SAS is track quality of life outcomes, education attainment for children and health outcomes for everyone."

Chase says the department uses SAS to analyze and report on data for its American Housing Survey.

"And that's a survey conducted by the Census Bureau on our behalf," he says. "It collects very detailed information about houses over time to track their quality. We publish national and metropolitan results every two years and it's built in SAS. It's a major indicator of the state of housing in America."

Chase and his team perform housing policy research in three primary areas. The first area low-income public housing, which provides rental units through local housing authorities to approximately 1 million of the country's lowest-income individuals and families. The second area of focus is the department's Housing Choice Voucher program, which helps more than 2 million low-income individuals and families find subsidized housing in private rental markets and below a HUD –determined fair-market price. The third program offers low-cost loans to private building owners to construct mixed-income, multifamily buildings, as well as subsidies based on the amount of units owners make available for low-income individuals and families.

In the near future, the Office of Policy Development and Research is planning a joint data effort with the Department of Health and Human Services to better understand the health experience of assisted households. It will do the same with the Department of Education to link tenants to schools and look for ways of improving education opportunities for kids that are in public housing. "We're going to collect data and work collaboratively on analyzing statistical outcomes for assisted households to better determine whether our programs are having the intended effect.

"The whole process of collecting data and measuring performance can tell us how our programs are doing in terms of meeting our goals for better health, better education and better jobs. The new administration has established a plan and specific performance goals in those areas and SAS will play a role in collecting, analyzing and tracking those performance measures," explains Chase. "It's our job to know how we are doing and how we could do better, and put the information in the hands of the leadership."

Chase says that SAS has made a significant contribution to his department's ability to meet the current government administration's ever-increasing demand for information, and that the tools are enabling shorter cycles for getting information to key government decision makers.

With the SAS environment, Chase says the department is moving away from paper-based and e-mailed report documents to a Web-enabled reporting platform.

"We also provide data sources on the website," he adds. "If people don't really want the report but just want the data – and there are no issues with privacy – then we post data for researchers or other policy analysts to ask their own questions.

“We now have the capability of responding to a wide range of questions very quickly and getting the answers to clients much quicker than before,” he says. “We certainly have a much higher percentage of answers that are delivered in days instead of weeks, or hours instead of days, than we did five years ago. The real advantage of SAS for me is the strength and depth of the statistical analysis – you can go from simple to extremely complex analysis all in the same framework. And for the work we do, we need that.”

Challenge

Government researchers needed to help government officials make more informed policy decisions, as well as report on performance to help improve the impact of assisted housing subsidy programs.

Solution

SAS® Business Analytics

Benefits

  • Shorter cycle times for getting data to key government decision makers.
  • Provides insight into the state of assisted housing in the US.
  • Allows researchers to monitor program goals related to better health, education and jobs.
  • Provides simple to complex statistical analysis in the same framework.
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