What Do We Know About Housing Choice Vouchers?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides assistance to approximately 2.2 million households each year, making it the largest low-income housing subsidy program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This paper reviews what we know about the program. In brief, experimental research shows that vouchers help to reduce the rent burdens of low-income households, allow them to live in less crowded homes, and minimize the risk of homelessness. Research also shows, however, that the program has been far less successful in getting recipients to better neighborhoods and schools. And perhaps the greatest disappointment of the program is its limited reach. Families typically wait for years to receive a voucher, and only one in four households eligible for a voucher nationally receives any federal rental housing assistance. Another issue is that a significant share of households who receive vouchers never use them, in part because of the difficulty of finding willing landlords with acceptable units. Thus, as effective as the program is, there is still room for improvement.
How Do Small Area FMRs Affect the Location and Number of Units Affordable to Voucher Holders?
This brief explores how the location and number of homes affordable to voucher holders will change in the 24 metro areas mandated by HUD to adopt Small Area Fair Market Rents (“Small Area FMRs”). The change to Small Area FMR—a more localized rent measures as a determinant of subsidy standards—is designed to allow housing choice voucher holders to rent homes in a wider variety of areas. The analysis finds that switching to Small Area FMRs would open up options for voucher holders in high-rent ZIP Codes while reducing them in low-rent ZIP Codes. In addition, the aggregate number of units affordable to voucher holders in these 24 metros would increase with the use of Small Area FMRs.
Why Don’t Housing Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Big Data
This paper by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Keren Mertens Horn, and Amy Ellen Schwartz, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, uses administrative data to explore why voucher households do not live near to better schools, as measured by school-level proficiency rates. It seeks to shed light on whether voucher households are more likely to move toward better schools when schools are most relevant, and how market conditions shape that response. The authors find that families with vouchers are more likely to move toward a better school in the year before their oldest child meets the eligibility cutoff for kindergarten. Further, the magnitude of the effect is larger in metropolitan areas with a relatively high share of affordable rental units located near high-performing schools and in neighborhoods in close proximity to higher-performing schools. Results suggest that, if given the appropriate information and opportunities, more voucher families would move to better schools when their children reach school age.
Housing, Neighborhoods, and Opportunity: The Location of New York City’s Subsidized Affordable Housing
This report examines changes in the location and neighborhood characteristics of subsidized rental housing in New York City. The study shows that the distribution of subsidized rental units across New York City’s neighborhoods changed significantly between 2002 and 2011, not just as a result of new development, but also because of differential opt-out rates across neighborhoods. As a result, the city is losing affordable housing in the neighborhoods with the highest quality schools, lowest crime rates, and greatest access to jobs. Released in conjuction with the report, the Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP) is an online, searchable database of privately-owned, subsidized rental housing in New York City. View the press release or view the NYU Furman Center's infographic, New York City's Opt-Out Outlook.
Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools?
The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low-income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. This study explores whether low-income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. "Do Housing Choice Voucher holders live near good schools?" was published in the Journal of Housing Economics in March 2014.
NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #8: Priority for Homeless Families
In 2013, the homeless population in New York City had reached its highest level since the Great Depression. While the city and state adopted a variety of strategies to house the homeless, the growth of the population shows that much more needed to be done to assist homeless households seeking to move from shelter to permanent housing. The incoming NYC mayor would need to address the growing homeless census and consider whether to allow homeless families to move to the top of the waiting list for housing vouchers or public housing. This brief outlines the tradoffs of such a policy to address homelessness.
The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.
Investigating the Relationship Between Housing Voucher Use and Crime
This policy brief debunks the long-held myth that the influx of households with vouchers causes crime in a neighborhood to increase. Rather, the report finds that housing voucher recipients tend to move into neighborhoods with high existing levels of crime. These findings should reassure communities worried about entry of voucher holders, but also raise questions about whether the Housing Choice Voucher program is reaching its stated goal of helping recipients reach “better” neighborhoods.
Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Schools?
This study describes the elementary schools closest to families receiving four different forms of housing assistance, and finds that families in Project-based Section 8 developments and Public Housing and recipients of Housing Choice Vouchers tend to live near schools with lower test scores than the schools near the typical poor household. Only families in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) housing have access to schools that are slightly better than the schools available to other poor families. The report also finds that, despite the flexibility provided by vouchers, families with Housing Choice Vouchers, on average, live near lower performing schools than families in Project-based Section 8 or LIHTC developments. The report provides results for the 100 largest metropolitan areas, which show that assisted households tend to live near relatively higher performing schools in metropolitan areas with certain characteristics, including smaller size and less racial segregation. The analysis relies on a variety of different large data sources that have been brought together for the first time, including a national file of subsidized housing tenants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD’s publicly available LIHTC dataset, and data from the U.S. Department of Education on proficiency rates in math and English and additional school characteristics. In addition to the report below, the complete findings may be found in Appendix A (state-by-state tables), Appendix B (metropolitan area tables), Appendix C (national distributions of family units by school performance), and Appendix D (top 100 MSAs – percentile rankings for each housing program).
American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?
Critics of Housing Choice Vouchers have alleged that an increased presence of voucher holders leads to increased crime in some neighborhoods. Systematically and empirically studying the question for the first time, this paper finds that while neighborhoods with a higher proportion of voucher holding residents tend to see higher crime rates, there was not a causal relationship. The research reveals that other neighborhood characteristics are much more significant in determining crime. Instead, it appears that voucher holders tend to move in after a neighborhood experiences a rise in crime, suggesting that the intended role of vouchers to enhance holders’ neighborhood choice may be limited.
Subsidized Housing: A Cross-City Comparison
The analysis from the 2011 State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report compares federally-subsidized housing programs across the nation’s five most populous cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. New York City has the largest share of subsidized rental housing of the five cities, due mostly to its large stock of public housing. Over five percent of the city’s housing units in 2008 (almost 180,000 units) were in public housing. In addition to subsidies, more than one million units—nearly half of the rental housing stock—are rent stabilized in New York City.