A study published in Housing Policy Debate, entitled “Housing Programs Fail to Deliver on Neighborhood Quality, Reexamined” by Kirk McClure and Bonnie Johnson at the University of Kansas, examines the extent to which rental housing assistance recipients are able to move into lower poverty areas. The researchers revisited a 1997 study in Housing Policy Debate by S. J. Newman and A. B. Schnare that found that project-based rental assistance programs did little to improve neighborhood quality for recipients. The McClure and Johnson reexamination focused on two affordable housing programs that have expanded since the 1997 study, Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs). The authors found that while these programs have moved households into lower-poverty, less-distressed areas, gains in neighborhood quality remain modest.
The researchers conducted a spatial analysis of housing units to determine where recipients of rental assistance were clustered. This analysis used 2010 HUD data, including LIHTC data reported by state housing finance agencies and HCV data reported by public housing agencies. The researchers found that nearly 50% of all LIHTC units examined and 52% of HCV- holder units were in central cities. The authors expected the HCV program to outperform the LIHTC program in entering suburban markets due to the mobility of the vouchers, but observed that HCV performed similarly to LIHTC in this regard. In total, 36% of LIHTC units and 34% of units occupied by HCV recipients were located in suburban locations.
Largely replicating the previous analysis, the researchers used the five-year 2009 American Community Survey data to examine a number of indicators of neighborhood quality: income level, poverty rate, unemployment, racial concentration, rent, and the concentration of assisted housing. In 2009, 23% of LIHTC units and 22% of HCVs were located in low poverty census tracts (those with a poverty rate of 10% or less) and were therefore more successful at moving people out of high poverty census tracts (those with a poverty rate of 40% or more) than public housing or other federally assisted programs. However, both the HCV and LIHTC programs seem to be locating more units in census tracts with high minority concentrations, contributing to continued racial segregation. In the 1997 rental assistance portfolio, 41% of LIHTC and 45% of HCV units were located in areas with a minority concentration rate that exceeded 40%. These rates increased to 50% for LIHTC units and 52% for HCVs in 2009.
The 1997 analysis found that the HCV program moved recipients out of low income, low opportunity areas, but recipients tended to relocate to areas that were just slightly better off. Few recipients moved to middle or high income census tracts. This updated analysis of rental assistance units shows that the shift from public housing to HCVs and LIHTC units has resulted in some additional improvements in the quality of neighborhoods where rental assistance recipients live, but progress remains uneven.
Housing Programs Fail to Deliver on Neighborhood Quality, Reexamined, is available at http://sites/default/files/McClure-Johnson_Housing-Policy-Debate_2014.pdf.
This is an original manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Housing Policy Debate on 22/08/2014, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10511482.2014.944201