From 2013 to 2015, Econometrica conducted an evaluation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rural Innovation Fund (RIF), funded on a contractual basis with HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research. This evaluation examined how rural housing and economic development organizations have used the RIF to benefit their communities. The RIF was a competitive grant program funded by HUD; its intent was to improve the quality of housing and promote economic development in rural communities with high rates of unemployment and poverty. The evaluation described RIF relative to its predecessor program, Rural Housing and Economic development (RHED), and examined RIF leveraging and grant impacts. Both the RIF and the RHED programs gave special attention to rural and underserved, high-needs areas such as Native American communities, the lower Mississippi Delta, Appalachian Regional Commission distressed counties, and the colonias and farmworker communities.
The study team performed an evaluation of the RIF program that incorporated a wide variety of data collection efforts, including stakeholder meetings, semi-structured interviews with grantees, 15 site visits to RIF programs across the nation (including on tribal lands), administrative file review, and focus groups with rural development professionals. Three main questions guided the study:
1. What types of projects did the RIF fund?
2. How successful were grantees at leveraging additional funding?
3. What were the impacts of the larger RIF grants?
The data show that relative to RHED, the RIF favored tribal applicants more, which contributed to a lower rate of leveraging private funds. There is little evidence that the larger grants available through the RIF produced economies of scale for increased impact. Full findings and methodology information are available in the published report available at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/publications/Evaluation-of-RIF-Vol1.html.
Full findings and methodology information are available in the published report.
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