How Moving To Opportunity Households Fared after Leaving Housing Assistance

Cityscape, a HUD policy development and research journal, recently published an article exploring how households in the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration fared after leaving housing assistance. The study found that participants who left housing assistance for positive reasons fared better in terms of income growth and neighborhood quality than those who remained assisted. However, those who left assistance for negative reasons fared worse than households who remained in public housing or used a voucher to move. Positive leavers were those who left assistance due to having too much income (“incoming out”) or becoming homeowners. Negative leavers were those who left for reasons such as lease violations, evictions, or an inability to lease up within the time limits of the voucher program. The study found that 52 percent of unassisted households were positive leavers and 48 percent were negative leavers.

The findings indicate markedly different outcomes for the positive and negative groups, especially with regard to income. Households that left for positive reasons reported a median income of $37,865 compared to just $13,950 for households leaving for negative reasons. Positive leavers were also more likely than negative leavers to have better physical and mental health and greater satisfaction with their housing and neighborhood.

The study found that almost half of negative leavers reported experiencing homelessness. Negative leavers were also less likely to utilize food stamps or Medicaid than still-assisted households, despite similar levels of income. In short, negative leavers were worse off than their counterparts who remained in public housing or the voucher program and at significantly greater risk for homelessness.