By 2008, nearly half (49.4%) of all Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipients lived in suburban areas, according to a new study conducted by the Brookings Institution. Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of HCV recipients residing in the suburbs increased by 2.1 percentage points. However, HCV recipients are less likely to live in the suburbs than both the poor population and the metropolitan population as a whole, the authors found. Furthermore, half of all suburban HCV recipients remain in low income suburbs.
The Brookings study aims to evaluate the impact of HUD policy changes that have eased the way for more HCV recipients to move out of racially segregated and predominantly poor neighborhoods. The researchers analyze the rate of suburbanization among HCV recipients in the one hundred largest metropolitan areas by race and by region between 2000 and 2008. In addition, they assess the link between suburbanization and access to opportunity among HCV recipients.
The researchers establish a clear suburbanization trend among HCV recipients. However, the proportion of HCV recipients moving to the suburbs varied by race. During the study period, the percentage of black HCV recipients living in the suburbs increased by 5 percentage points, from 39% to 44%. In contrast, the proportion of white HCV recipients living in the suburbs fell by 1 percentage point during the same time period, from 70% to 69%, but white HCV recipients were still much more likely to live in suburban areas.
By region, HCV recipients in the West moved to the suburbs with the greatest frequency. Five out of the fifteen metropolitan areas that saw the largest shift of HCV recipients to the suburbs are located in the West, including San Francisco and Honolulu.
Although the number of HCV recipients in high income suburbs rose between 2000 and 2008, a disproportionately small percentage of recipients (14%) live in high income suburbs. Among the general suburban population, 46% live in areas characterized as high income. However, 45% of HCV recipients live in suburbs with moderate access to jobs, a proportion that is in line with the general population (41%).
In order to improve the access of HCV recipients to high opportunity neighborhoods, Brookings researchers recommend several policy strategies. First, they recommend expanding mobility counseling to ensure that HCV households are more fully informed of housing options in higher income communities. Second, they support the development of small area FMRs, as this would enable voucher recipients to choose housing in areas where actual market rents far exceed the current FMRs for that region. Lastly, they support a federal law to end discrimination by landlords on the source of income (e.g., a voucher) used to pay rent.
The study combined data from HUD’s 2008 Picture of Subsidized Households database with Census 2000 and American Community Survey 2005-2009 data.
The report, The Suburbanization of Housing Choice Voucher Recipients, can be found on the Brookings Institution webpage at http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2011/1011_housing_suburbs_covington_freeman_stoll.aspx