Work on the Research Roadmap Nears Completion
Todd M. Richardson, Associate Deputy Assistant SecretaryAs readers know from previous editions of the Edge, former Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research (PD&R) Raphael Bostic and Acting Assistant Secretary Erika Poethig have led the development of a 5-year plan for research and demonstration projects at HUD. I am proud to report that this process, called the Research Roadmap, will be published on the HUD USER website after President Obama releases the fiscal year 2014 budget request. This Research Roadmap will be the driving force behind HUD’s investment in timely, policy-relevant research projects over the next 5 years. More than a list of projects, the Roadmap is a practical guide for achieving PD&R’s goal: to be the preeminent source for research on housing, cities, and communities in the United States.
The process that led to the Research Roadmap began in October 2011 with an unprecedented effort to listen to partners and stakeholders inside and outside of HUD and have them identify the most critical, timely, and relevant questions within the fields of housing and community development.
The initial focus on research questions rather than actual research projects helped us understand our partners’ current research needs without the influence of HUD’s past research activities or those of its partners. Moreover, this focus allowed meaningful participation from a range of HUD’s stakeholders. All of our partners and stakeholders have important questions they want answered, even if they do not always have the research background to put them in the form of a research project.
HUD staff recorded more than 950 distinct questions and comments from dozens of meetings and written responses, consolidated the responses, and winnowed them down to 85 priority research questions based on four criteria:
- They are policy relevant, providing insights that can shape HUD programs and interests;
- They are forward looking, focusing on the future needs of the department and its partners;
- They provide HUD with opportunities to partner with federal agencies and others to effectively magnify the scope and the impact of the research; and
- They are questions where HUD’s data and other assets provide a comparative advantage.
Teams of PD&R and HUD program staff then developed research project proposals in response to the 85 priority questions, which were conceived without explicit consideration of HUD’s research budget to avoid stifling good ideas or raising budget expectations.
As a result, these “priority” projects range in cost from thousands to tens of millions of dollars and could take just a few months to more than a decade to complete. Moreover, they span the breadth of HUD’s strategic goals. For example, in the area of rental housing, the Roadmap foresees the continuation of a comprehensive Rental Assistance Demonstration, which would require a significant amount of resources and extend beyond 5 years. But the Roadmap also includes many modest in-house projects that likely will take only a few months of effort, such as a study of the inflation measures used by HUD assistance programs.
Similarly, under the Housing as a Platform category, the Roadmap suggests a number of significant program evaluations, including a multiyear evaluation of the various approaches to the rapid rehousing of the homeless. Alongside this endeavor are more modest, basic investigations and typologies of federal and local homelessness policies.
Another major proposal in the Roadmap, falling under the Homeownership and Housing Finance category, is to assess the effectiveness of mortgage modifications protocols. Under Sustainable and Inclusive Communities is a multiyear project for improving HUD’s utility allowances.
The Roadmap also contains projects that encompass multiple research questions and address many of HUD’s strategic goals. For example, one project proposal is to investigate effective means of rapid recovery from major storms such as Hurricane Sandy. You will also see a significant data infrastructure project that establishes a truly integrated, master data management system that could generate a complete picture of HUD’s total investment and activity in projects, buildings, units, households, and neighborhoods across the country.
The Roadmap is not the last word on HUD’s research. In the future, as it has in the past, HUD’s research agenda will be shaped by external events and the machinations of the budget and policy process. The Roadmap, however, will serve as a touchstone for HUD in this environment and help guide PD&R in its mission to become a leading source for housing and community development research. HUD is already using the Roadmap to inform the proposed research projects in President Obama’s funding request for fiscal year 2014. We recognize that many of you participated and provided us with questions and ideas to show us the way. Thank you.