Report Recommends Ways to Increase Voucher Mobility
A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) examines the extent to which the Housing Choice Voucher program helps families with children move to low-poverty neighborhoods. According to the report, nearly 4 million children live in families that receive federal rental assistance. In 2010, it found that only 15 percent of the children in families that received rent subsidies through HUD’s three major assistance programs—the Housing Choice Voucher program, public housing, and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance—lived in low-poverty neighborhoods, where fewer than 10 percent of the residents had incomes below the poverty line. A greater share of such children (18 percent) lived in extreme-poverty neighborhoods, where at least 40 percent of the residents are poor.
Based on an analysis of existing literature, CBPP asserts that the voucher program can do far more to provide low-income families with greater opportunities to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods. The report focuses on findings from HUD’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration project, which found minimal economic or educational gains among families that moved to lower-poverty areas after receiving a voucher.
CBPP also discusses research conducted by the RAND Corporation, which found that low-income students attending schools in low-poverty neighborhoods made significant gains in reading and math over long periods of time. Based on the RAND and other studies, CBPP asserts that outcomes among voucher holders are likely to improve if households are able to move to, and live longer in, low-poverty neighborhoods.
In order to make it easier for voucher holders to move to and live long-term in low-poverty areas, CBPP makes four policy recommendations:
- Create incentives for local and state housing agencies to achieve better location outcomes. CBPP recommends that HUD add weights to location outcomes in measuring agency performance and reward agencies that help families move to high-opportunity areas by paying these agencies additional administrative fees.
- Modify policies that discourage families from living in lower-poverty communities. CBPP recommends that HUD set its caps on rental subsidy amounts for smaller geographic areas than it now does and require agencies to identify available units in these lower-poverty communities and extend the search period for families seeking to make such moves.
- Minimize jurisdictional barriers to families’ ability to choose to live in high-opportunity communities. To make it easier to use a voucher across PHA boundaries, CBPP recommends that HUD modify its “portability” policies, and enact policies to encourage PHAs to form a consortium.
- Assist families in using vouchers to live in high-opportunity areas. CBBP recommends that state and local governments and housing agencies adopt policies—such as tax incentives and laws prohibiting discrimination against voucher holders—to expand participation by owners in these neighborhoods in the HCV program and to encourage interested families to use their vouchers in these areas. Such assistance for families could include financial incentives to offset the additional costs of moving to high-opportunity areas, mobility counseling, and programs to expand access to cars and other transportation to and from these areas.