March 13, 2014
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorites has issued a short report, Research Shows Housing Vouchers Reduce Hardship and Provide Platform for Long-Term Gains Among Children. Many housing policy researchers favor housing voucher programs over project-specific housing subsidies, although policymakers consistently favor the latter. So while this report isn’t really news, it is important to that its main points are frequently reiterated:
The Housing Choice Voucher program, the nation’s largest rental assistance program, helps more than 2 million low-income families rent modest units of their choice in the private market. Vouchers sharply reduce homelessness and other hardships, lift more than a million people out of poverty, and give families an opportunity to move to safer, less poor neighborhoods. These effects, in turn, are closely linked to educational, developmental, and health benefits that can improve children’s long-term life chances and reduce costs in other public programs. This analysis reviews research findings on vouchers’ impact on families with children, people with disabilities, and other poor and vulnerable households. (1, footnote omitted)
The report is not as precise as I would have liked. It describes a study of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families-eligible families as a study of “low-income” families. (compare text on page one with text in footnote ii). People eligible for Housing Choice Vouchers and TANF are “very low-income,” which is a meaningfully distinct subset of low-income families.Very low-income families have incomes that do not exceed 50% of the area median income whereas low-income families generally have incomes that do not exceed 80% of the area median income. I would guess that the findings about the very low-income subset would not directly apply to the bigger set of low-income families.
With that caveat in mind, here are the report’s main findings about Housing Choice Vouchers. They
- Reduced the share of families that lived in shelters or on the streets by three-fourths, from 13 percent to 3 percent.
- Reduced the share of families that lacked a home of their own — a broader group that includes those doubled up with friends and family in addition to those in shelters or on the streets — by close to 80 percent, from 45 percent to 9 percent.
- Reduced the share of families living in crowded conditions by more than half, from 46 percent to 22 percent.
- Reduced the number of times that families moved over a five-year period, on average, by close to 40 percent. (1)
These are big effects. Policymakers, pay attention!