Family Self-Sufficiency

Background- In 1937 congress enacted Public Housing with the intent of creating housing for the “working poor.” Public Housing was originally intended as temporary housing for families in transition who were working towards economic independence. This concept was largely lost in the 30-year period from 1960 to 1990 due to political and philosophical considerations. In an attempt to reestablish the original missions, the Family Self-Sufficiency program was established in 1990 by section 544 of the National Affordable Housing Act. The program is voluntary and individual housing authorities chose whether or not to participate.

In 1995, ORHA began an FSS Program to begin addressing welfare reform by promoting economic self-sufficiency for participating families. Self-sufficiency is accomplished through a comprehensive needs assessment of participating residents resulting in the establishment of personalized goals and objectives and the coordination of public and private resources. The Program Coordinator position is competitively funded each year, in full, through a HUD grant. This position has been consecutively grant funded since 1997.

The FSS Program creates and maintains a framework of guidance and support services that moves Oak Ridge Housing Authority clients toward autonomy in their day-to-day lives. These services are provided through mentoring, outcomes monitoring, grant funded programs, and community partners. By coordinating these resources and managing their application, the FSS program creates a cohesive plan for each client. The plan (goals) can include education, increased employment and homeownership coupled with financial counseling and rehabilitation that includes planning, savings and incremental debt reduction.

Beyond the individual development services offered through the program, FSS participants are eligible for several other benefits; most attractive the escrow account. When a client’s rent in the FSS program increases due to an increase in earned income, they are able to save the difference in an escrow (savings account) each month for use toward their self-sufficiency efforts. The funds are obtained upon graduation, by completing their goals. Many of the FSS clients use these funds as a down payment for the purchase of their home.


ORHA implemented the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program in 2002 and as of May 2012, there have been 16 families who have become first time homeowners. Additionally, 6 more families are currently working in the program toward homeownership.

FSS clients are also eligible to enter the Homeownership program and use a Housing Choice Voucher to fund an up-front 2nd mortgage (2 mortgage model) through the Knox Housing Partnership (KHP) and a 1st mortgage through ORNL Credit Union or other available financial entity to help cover the cost of purchasing a home.

Working with the Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD), ORHA established a unique program that extended the possibility of homeownership to Public Housing Families participating in the FSS Program. Public Housing FSS clients have a special development at Wade Lane set aside for them as they prepare for homeownership. Working with grants, capital and operating funds, ORHA extensively remodeled the 8 Public Housing apartments at 173 to 182 Wade Lane. The remodel provided non-traditional amenities and on site security. ORHA houses an Oak Ridge Police Department officer at a below market rate in exchange for the increased security. The site competes with the private rental housing market and helps successful clients resist the temptation of abandoning their homeownership goal and moving into more expensive rental units rather than purchasing a home. With waivers granted from HUD, ORHA was able to establish more stringent eligibility criteria for residency at Wade Lane to attract families who participate in the FSS Program to pay a fixed “flat rent” to encourage savings. Wade Lane residents who become fully purchase ready are immediately issued a Housing Choice Voucher expressly for the purpose of Home Ownership.