HUD Study Highlights Housing Choice Vouchers' Effectiveness Against Homelessness
HUD recently released a study concluding that housing vouchers are the most effective method for reducing homelessness. In HUD’s Family Options Study: Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families, the agency looked at 2,282 homeless families in emergency shelters from 12 metropolitan areas in California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Missouri, Kentucky, Minnesota, Arizona, and Utah. The families, which included more than 5,000 children, were tracked for a year and a half, from September 2010 through January 2012.
According to HUD, the findings “offer striking evidence that offering homeless families a voucher yields measurably better outcomes at similar or even lower costs than the other interventions.” In the HUD study, families were randomly assigned to one of four assistance methods, or interventions: housing vouchers, a federal program to help find and pay for housing; rapid re-housing to help pay rent for short-term housing for up to 18 months; transitional housing at temporary housing locations for up to two years with agency support services; and usual care, offering families basic support services, which often meant continuing their stays at emergency shelters.
Under the voucher option, families saw improvement beyond long-term stability. The report found reductions in a return to homelessness, childhood separation from parents, psychological distress, domestic violence, school instability, and food insecurity.
Looking at the different costs of each housing method, the voucher program was one of the more affordable. Housing subsidies cost about $1,160 per month per family compared to $4,800 for usual care through an emergency shelter program. The most cost-effective program was rapid re-housing at $880 per month.
HUD is continuing the housing study for another 18 months, which should give a clearer picture of the long-term stability of these homeless families after three years. The next part of the study is expected to be released in 2017.