Reviewing and Ranking Projects in the FY 2015 CoC NOFA

This post is the sixth in a series examining the Department of Housing and Urban Development's recently released Notice of Funding Availability for the Fiscal Year 2015 Continuum of Care Competition. You can find the full series here: FY 2015 CoC NOFA.

This post was adapted from "Preparing for the Upcoming CoC NOFA? Here’s What You Need to Know about Tiering Projects" by Cynthia Nagendra. Readers with questions can contact her at

If you’re working on your application to the FY 2015 Continuum of Care competition, chances are you’re already well into your ranking and scoring process. This year’s CoC Program competition is extremely competitive. HUD will be awarding points to communities that have established a strong performance-based process.That’s why it’s essential that you have an excellent ranking and scoring process.

Last week we held a webinar featuring tips and strategies for designing a ranking process, reviewing project performance and reallocating resources to high-performing projects. Kelly King Horne of Homeward in Richmond, Va. shared her organization’s process and tools, as well as advice for navigating the sometimes fraught process of reallocation. Check out the recording of the webinar below. Below that, you’ll find even more information on designing a great performance-based ranking process.

Why is this so important?

Ranking projects based on performance encourages CoCs to right-size their systems so that precious community resources are used in the most strategic way possible. Reviewing project performance achieves this by allocating funds to projects that effectively reduce homelessness and create more permanent housing capacity.

One of HUD’s top policy priorities is strategic resource allocation, which includes “the comprehensive review of projects” and reallocation of funds to projects that reduce homelessness. This is why it’s critical that your CoC develop an objective and performance-based ranking process.

How should your CoC develop an objective and performance-based ranking process?

Task the development of a fair and transparent review and rank process to a group that understands the CoC’s overall strategic priorities and is primarily made up of members who do not receive CoC funding to ensure that the process is unbiased, such as:

  • The CoC Governance Board;
  • A CoC committee; or
  • A neutral entity that is familiar with the evaluation and monitoring of homeless services.

When CoCs don’t have an objective ranking process, stakeholders in existing projects can influence which projects get funded, and there is little opportunity to shift resources to more effective projects.

  • Develop scoring criteria, related tools, and a local application that aligns with the CoC’s strategic spending priorities and the goals in Opening Doors.
  • Solicit input from stakeholders from the beginning; once the scoring criteria and application process is finalized, CoCs should inform CoC-funded projects and potential new applicants so they can start collecting the data they need for the application.
  • Establish a panel of non-conflicted and knowledgeable stakeholders that will review, score, and rank projects.
  • Prepare to engage in an appeals process.

Which scoring criteria do we use?

In the past, many CoCs have renewed projects without reviewing their performance in a meaningful way or given money to new projects without analyzing if they are responding to the CoC’s needs. Now, because funding is not always guaranteed for all projects, CoCs should be prioritizing projects that help them reduce homelessness by quickly and cost-effectively permanently housing people.

Understandably, this can be challenging for a CoC, which may be concerned about protecting existing projects. When making cuts, a CoC should assess what the impact will be and then determine whether there are other ways to fund these existing projects with other community dollars.

Here are some scoring criteria you might consider using to evaluate projects:

Does the project prioritize the most vulnerable populations?

  • To achieve better outcomes in the future, CoCs will have to focus on helping homeless households who are the most likely to remain homeless if they don’t receive assistance, particularly those who lack incomes and who have experienced longer or more frequent episodes of homelessness.

How well is the project performing in achieving outcomes?

  • Rate of exits to permanent housing: For Permanent Housing and Transitional Housing, projects should at least meet the HUD goal of 80 percent housed at exit
  • Increasing/maintaining income or connecting clients to educational opportunities
  • Connecting clients to mainstream benefits
  • Housing stability
  • Reducing average length of stay/homelessness

Does the project use a Housing First approach?

· Eligibility criteria

· Policies and procedures

Has the project improved its services in the past year?

  • Inclusion of consumer feedback
  • Resolution past monitoring findings

Does the project have strong HMIS participation and data quality?

Does the project have a budget that makes sense?

  • Cost-effectiveness: Appropriate based on difficulty of population served, capacity, and number of permanent housing exits

Does the project fully participate in the CoC’s Coordinated Entry System?

Does the project coordinate effectively?

  • Participation in CoC meetings and workgroups
  • Coordination with other entities in the community

Does the project contribute towards goals and activities in the CoC’s strategic plan or 10 year plan?

If it is a new project, is it proposing a project that aligns with the CoC’s needs, fills a gap in services, or shows good past performance in other projects?

What Not to Do

Don’t apply across-the-board cuts to all your projects. Although this is sometimes easiest to do, there are several problems with this method.

In the past, HUD has expressed great concern over communities that applied an even percentage cut to all programs. Consequently, CoCs who do go with this option are likely to lose points for not having an objective ranking and selection process. The Alliance also strongly discourages CoCs from doing this because it’s not a strategic or performance-based way to prioritize funds, and CoCs will miss out on the opportunity to achieve an improvement to the CoC’s system-wide performance that will help in future applications.

Don’t implement a secretive or unclear evaluation or selection process. Involve your CoC members and stakeholders and train recipients on what they should expect when it comes to the evaluation of the performance of projects.

Don’t leave it to your CoC-funded projects to decide the scoring criteria. They can be involved in providing input, but shouldn’t be making decisions on how their own projects will be scored. (I mentioned this earlier in the blog post, but it bears repeating.)