November 18, 2015
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has posted Realizing the Housing Voucher Program’s Potential to Enable Families to Move to Better Neighborhoods. It opens,
Housing Choice Vouchers help families afford decent, stable housing, avoid homelessness, and make ends meet. They also enable children to grow up in better neighborhoods and thereby enhance their chances of long-term health and success. When African American and Hispanic families use housing vouchers, for example, their children are nearly twice as likely as other poor minority children to grow up in low-poverty neighborhoods and somewhat less likely to grow up in extremely poor areas. Still, 280,000 children in families using vouchers lived in extremely poor neighborhoods in 2014. Vouchers could do much more to help these and other children grow up in safer, low-poverty neighborhoods with good schools.
Public housing agencies have flexibility under current Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program rules to implement strategies to improve location outcomes, and state and local governments could facilitate these efforts. But without changes in federal policy to encourage state and local agencies to take such steps and to modify counter-productive policies — and reliable funding to maintain the number of families receiving HCV assistance and to administer the program effectively — there is little reason to expect better results.
Federal, state, and local agencies can make four sets of interrelated policy changes to help families in the HCV program live in better locations:
- Create strong incentives for state and local housing agencies to achieve better location outcomes;
- Modify policies that discourage families from living in lower-poverty communities;
- Minimize jurisdictional barriers to families’ ability to live in high-opportunity communities; and
- Assist families in using vouchers to rent in high-opportunity areas. (1)
This paper poses a number of concrete policy proposals for HUD to increase choices for voucher recipients. They include giving weight to location outcomes for recipients in measuring local housing agency performance; aligning these goals with the new fair housing rules; and providing incentive payments to local agencies that help voucher recipients move to higher-opportunity areas. (8) There are more concrete proposals in the paper that I leave to the reader to review.
What I like about these proposals is that many of them can be implemented administratively by HUD, just like the fair housing rules were. I hope HUD is giving this paper its full attention — there is a lot of good stuff in it that can help people move to opportunities that they cannot currently access.| Permalink