CBPP Encourages Policy Changes to Help Families Move to Better Neighborhoods

A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds that the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, as now administered, does not deliver adequately on its potential to expand children’s access to good schools in safe neighborhoods that encourage upward mobility. In 2014, approximately 280,000 children in the HCV program live in extreme-poverty neighborhoods despite the better options that a voucher should make available to them.

Research shows that growing up in low-poverty areas improves children’s academic achievement and long-term chances of success, thus reducing the chances of intergeneration poverty. In addition, living in safer, low-poverty neighborhoods may have strong positive effects on adults’ mental and physical health.

According to the report, public housing agencies have flexibility under current Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program rules to implement strategies to improve location outcomes, and state and local governments could facilitate these efforts. But without changes in federal policy to encourage state and local agencies to take such steps and to modify counter-productive policies — and reliable funding to maintain the number of families receiving HCV assistance and to administer the program effectively — there is little reason to expect better results.

Federal, state, and local agencies can make four sets of interrelated policy changes to help families in the HCV program live in better locations:

  • Create strong incentives for state and local housing agencies to achieve better location outcomes;
  • Modify policies that discourage families from living in lower-poverty communities;
  • Minimize jurisdictional barriers to families’ ability to live in high-opportunity communities; and
  • Assist families in using vouchers to rent in high-opportunity areas.