The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program is an employment and savings incentive program for low-income families that have Housing Choice Vouchers.
The FSS program is aimed at empowering volunteer families to leave the welfare system or low paying jobs so that they may become financially self-sufficient. The FSS program links SCHA's rental assistance program with various support services to assist participating families in meeting their planned goals over a five year period.
FSS was established in 1990 by section 554 of the National Affordable Housing Act. It consists both of case management services that help participants pursue employment and other goals, and of escrow accounts into which the public housing agency (PHA) deposits the increased rental charges that a family pays as its earnings rise. Families that complete the program may withdraw funds from these accounts for any purpose after five years.
The FSS program provides a unique opportunity for PHAs to implement a program that directly benefits both themselves and Housing Choice Voucher participants at little or no cost to the PHA, as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development covers most program costs.
How Does FSS Work?
Families selected to participate in the FSS program must meet the general eligibility criteria of the Housing Choice Voucher Rental Assistance program. They are assigned a Family Self Sufficiency Coordinator who helps them target specific goals for success and plan strategies to reach them, FSS participants are linked to essential services including but not limited to child care, education, job training, transportation, parenting skills and health care.
How Do Families Apply for the FSS Program?
Families that who are currently receiving assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher program should discuss participation in the FSS program with their housing analyst, or the FSS Coordinator at (712) 279-6275. The Housing Assistance Center currently has a waiting list for FSS participation. Names are placed on the list by date of interest in the program.
Participation of families is voluntary and cannot be a condition of receiving assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher program.
Money in the Bank!
During each family's period of FSS participation SCHA sets up escrow accounts for them. As each family's earning power and wages grow the family's share of the rent under the Housing Choice Voucher program goes up. SCHA credits the family's increased portion of rent to their escrow account every month. The money in these escrow accounts is presented to each participating family when they complete their period of FSS participation. A family does not have to give up its rental assistance after the family completes its FSS contract, however, it is hoped that families will not longer need housing assistance upon the completion of the FSS Program. Some families that complete the program will still need assistance for housing. The law provides that a family may complete its FSS contract and receive its escrow while continuing to receive housing assistance under the voucher program.
Since SCHA began its FSS program in 1998, we have dispersed over $225,000 to our FSS graduates from their escrow accounts. This money can be used to by the graduates any way they choose, but many have made down payments on their first homes.