Vouchers Bring Promise and Pitfalls

Decrease Homelessness But
Tenants Face Barriers Around Access

Vouchers Bring Promise and PitfallsFederal Housing Choice Voucher program has many important benefits. Vouchers can be helpful in reducing segregation and helping poor families move to higher opportunity neighborhoods.

A recent New York Times article, A Year After Ferguson, “Housing Segregation Defies Tools to Erase It,” outlines many of the struggles tenants have in using vouchers to move to better neighborhoods. And increased federal funding for vouchers would certainly help solve that program.

In many communities, vouchers pay too little in rent to all tenants to move to better neighborhoods. With additional funding, public housing authorities could more easily raise the maximum rent for their vouchers, also known as the payment standard, and help more families move to saver neighborhoods with better schools.

A blog post from Brookings Institution researchers Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes examines the use of Housing Choice Vouchers across the nation. Research shows that vouchers have contributed to a significant reduction in homelessness and overcrowding and that almost half (48%) of households utilizing vouchers in the 100 largest metro areas have found housing in the suburbs, allowing more voucher holders to live in lower poverty neighborhoods.

However, there are many barriers when it comes to increasing access to higher opportunity neighborhoods. Individuals face racial and economic segregation due to exclusionary zoning laws, non-acceptance of vouchers, rental practices and information gaps.

Using data from the American Community Survey and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, neighborhood level data was mapped for Housing Choice Vouchers in the nation’s major metro areas.

The mapping indicates that many households using vouchers remain in communities with poverty rates that are significantly higher that the region’s overall poverty rate, indicating more needs to be done to make housing choice a true option for voucher holders.

Kneebone and Holmes write,

“… Families with housing choice vouchers—a portable federal housing subsidy—often find that rather than gaining a toehold in safer communities with more jobs and better schools, their housing choices remain limited to racially segregated low-income neighborhoods that may not be much different than where they started.”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that the House non-defense appropriations bills if enacted would trigger the enforcement sequester and an across the board cut equal to $1.8 billion across all non-discretionary defense (NDD) programs. This would mean additional cuts to programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher that are already severely underfunded in the House bills due to the sequestered spending caps.

Click here for the NYT article.

Click here for the Brookings blog post.

Attention: please select an email list or enter a custom form code to show an email form here!