A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) examines the extent to which the Housing Choice Voucher program helps families with children move to low-poverty neighborhoods. Based on an analysis of existing literature, CBPP asserts that the voucher program can do far more to provide low income families with greater opportunities to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods.
The report focuses on findings from HUD’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration project, which found minimal economic or educational gains among families that moved to lower-poverty areas after receiving a voucher. However, CBPP presents a new perspective on the MTO findings by highlighting the fact that few families in the MTO experimental group lived in truly low-poverty neighborhoods long-term. Thus the question remains, might not economic or educational gains be greater if families are able to remain in low-poverty communities longer?
CBPP also discusses research conducted by the RAND Corporation, which found that low income students attending schools in low-poverty neighborhoods made significant gains in reading and math over long periods of time. Based on the RAND and other studies, CBPP asserts that outcomes among voucher holders are likely to improve if households are able to move to, and live longer in low-poverty neighborhoods.
In order to make it easier for voucher holders to move to and live long-term in low-poverty areas, CBPP makes a number of policy recommendations. To make it easier to use a voucher across PHA boundaries, HUD should modifying its “portability” policies, and enact policies to encourage PHAs to form a consortium. HUD should also implement Small Area Fair Market Rents, which would more accurately adjust payment standards to more localized housing costs. And, more should be done to better support families using vouchers in higher opportunity areas, such as provide more extensive mobility counseling and moving assistance.
The report, Creating Opportunities for Children: How Housing Location Can Make a Difference, is at http://www.cbpp.org/files/10-15-14hous.pdf