Ownership & Assets

Celebrating Success in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program

October 31, 2013
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program at the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Family Self-Sufficiency program is a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program designed to support public housing residents and Housing Choice Voucher holders with employment and savings goals. In honor of this important milestone, HOC has produced an engaging 15-minute video describing their program, participants, and the successes they've had over the past two decades. They've seen 800 of their participants work their way through the program and graduate (out of over a thousand enrollees). The video features interviews with program coordinators, case managers, volunteers, and participants themselves, all talking about the positive impact this program has in the lives of families receiving rental assistance.

One FSS program participant featured in the video describes her experience in the program (which supported her on the path to homeownership): "Being able to purchase my own home… you know, that’s a great lineage to leave to my children. Having their own home gives them roots and foundation to say, 'Hey, this is where I grew up – with a sense of stability, knowing that if things don’t work out there, I always have a place to come back to to call home.' So those are the things that I’ve learned in FSS that I can pass along to my children.”

The FSS program is one the Asset Building Program has supported for years - it's a unique model that couples participation in rental assistance programs with support for employment, holistic case management services, and an opportunity to build up a pool of assets. Over the past year, I've been working to gather information from FSS program coordinators in communities across the U.S. and looking at the research on how this program works. We're in the process of finalizing a comprehensive report on these findings that we're looking forward to releasing soon.

Half in Ten Campaign Releases Annual Report on Poverty Indicators

October 30, 2013
Publication Image The Half in Ten Campaign yesterday released its annual poverty indicator report for 2013. This is the third report since the Campaign “started the clock” toward the goal of cutting poverty in half between 2011 and 2020. Essentially based on three measures (the official poverty rate, the supplemental poverty measure, and income inequality), the Campaign’s annual reports provide a useful pulse check each year to assess the nation’s progress with regard to Americans’ economic situation. This year, Half in Ten’s metrics reveal a bleak picture of a stagnating economy and little progress toward cutting poverty in half by the beginning of the next decade.

Asset Building News Week, October 21-25

October 25, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include public assistance, asset limits, poverty, the achievement gap, and homelessness.

Young Adults Experienced Financial Side Effects from the Great Recession

October 24, 2013
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Mounting debt, diminishing net worth, insufficient savings, increasing foreclosures, rising unemployment—all painful financial side effects of what has been dubbed the worst economic recession in almost a century. These side effects have been relatively well-documented. Rates of bankruptcy rose 74% and home foreclosures soared as much as 358% in some areas. Unemployment rates peaked at a national average of about 10%, with much higher rates documented for African Americans and Latinos. High rates of unemployment meant potentially fewer wages for day-to-day household needs. With only small amounts of savings or net worth to tide them over, millions of households turned to public assistance programs to sustain themselves. These effects are likely to follow households—and the children who grew up in these households during the Great Recession—for years to come.

Pennsylvania to “Rethink” SNAP Asset Limit

October 23, 2013
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The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that the state’s new Secretary of Public Welfare, Beverly Mackereth, has indicated she is “rethinking” Pennsylvania’s controversial asset limit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps). Pennsylvania is one of only two states to have eliminated their SNAP asset limit and then brought it back.

Upcoming Webinar: How the Federal Tax Code is Driving Inequity And What You Can Do About It

October 21, 2013

The Asset Building Program is a co-sponsor for an upcoming webinar (coordinated by Asset Funders Network and PolicyLink) on November 7th regarding the relationship between inequity and current tax policy. Check out the description below and register to attend here. You can also check out our recent paper on this issue: Personal Savings and Tax Reform.

The primary purpose of the U.S. tax system is to generate public revenue, but it also serves as a vehicle to advance public policy goals. For example, the tax code includes provisions that incentivize taxpayers to take certain action – like buying a home, or saving for higher education or retirement – by providing them with tax credits, deductions, exclusions, and preferential rates. These tax benefits reduce government revenues, disproportionately benefit wealthier households, and provide limited benefits for low- and moderate-income families and households of color.

Deliberations about reforming the federal tax code – including discussions about the cost and benefits of various tax expenditures – are underway in Congress. These discussions provide a unique window of opportunity for advocates to call for a more inclusive, progressive, and equitable tax code – one that provides fair benefits to all U.S. households. 

Why Don't Americans Have Enough Skills? The Answer Is Inequality

October 21, 2013

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared at Forbes. Josh Freedman is a policy analyst with New America's Economic Growth Program.

Last week, the OECD released a mammoth new survey of the basic skills of the working-age population in advanced industrialized nations. As many articles have noted, the report shows that the United States ranks 16 out of 23 countries in basic literacy and 21 out of 23 in math. While commentators have used the report to lament the state of higher education in the United States, a deeper look reveals a different culprit.

The problem is an unequal system starting at the very bottom. At every step of the way, our education and labor market institutions solidify and expand, rather than redress, the inequality. We pay our highest-skilled and most-educated workers the highest premiums because they have the skills and education that are mostly available to those who already have higher skills and more education. At the same time, we have a huge share of the working-age population without important skills. As a result, inequality has become the defining feature not only of our social and political institutions but clearly of our skill base as well.

Read the rest of the piece at Forbes.

A Citizen's Guide to the Financial Security Credit

October 15, 2013

A proposal to create a Financial Security Credit was introduced as the Financial Security Credit Act of 2013 in the 113th Congress. The proposal is designed to help low- and moderate-income Americans build savings through a modest matched incentive on eligible savings. The Financial Security Credit uses the federal tax system to provide low- and middle-income families with the same kind of saving incentives that upper-income families enjoy. It makes the tax code fairer by democratizing supports for saving and including those families left out by current policy.

Asset Building News Week, October 7- 11

October 11, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include the impact of the shutdown, housing, education savings, poverty, and inequality.

The Takeaway: Smart Cities and the Quest for a New Utopia

October 10, 2013
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Editor's note: On October 8, 2013, New America's Open Technology Institute, Asset Building Program, and Markets, Enterprise and Resiliency Initiative hosted author Anthony Townsend for a conversation about his new book, Smart Cities. Watch a recording of the event here. Ariel Bogle, a program associate with Future Tense, authored the piece below, which appeared in this week's edition of the Weekly Wonk. Read it in full here.

Technology can simplify the problems of a modern metropolis — from snow plow trackers to city-wide free Wi-Fi — but in the wrong hands, our cities may become smart, but ultimately, unwise.

In 2001, India’s Karnataka state unveiled a new digital land title system. By collating their records into an online database, leaders thought they could better protect the poor and illiterate from being forced to pay bribes to village officials to secure property they had a right to. Instead, the smart system enabled a larger-scale and centralized form of corruption. Bribery continued, merely targeting officials at higher levels, and land information was suddenly available online so that investors as far away as New Jersey were able to speculate on ill-gotten land around the city of Bangalore.

To urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend, the author of the newly published book Smart Cities, this story demonstrates how the technological reshaping of our cities (think: urban areas saturated with sensors that gather data and harness it to streamline public transportation and catch criminals) could have unintended consequences. And it raises a question we should all be asking as our cities get more digitized: Who’s keeping all of that new data?

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