A new paper released in September 2010 by the Urban Institute reviews the efficacy of housing mobility assistance programs that assist people in overcoming barriers to using housing choice vouchers, particularly in low poverty neighborhoods. Such programs provide enhanced support and counseling services during the housing search process.
Based on a review of the literature and interviews with mobility assistance program staff, the paper’s authors conclude that housing mobility programs provide much needed support to voucher recipients seeking housing in high opportunity neighborhoods, but more research is needed on what constitutes a successful mobility program prior to the development of a large scale nationwide housing mobility initiative.
Improving neighborhood outcomes for families in terms of exposure to crime and poverty is a central goal in HUD’s recently released strategic plan, but, as the authors note, housing choice voucher program participants continue to live predominantly in economically and racially segregated neighborhoods. Factors such as housing discrimination and a lack of regional cooperation between public housing agencies have made it persistently difficult for voucher holders to use vouchers outside of high poverty areas, according to prior research cited in the paper. Similarly, the paper argues, barriers such as a lack of funding for voucher deconcentration and a lack of political will to prioritize active diversification measures at the neighborhood level have thwarted efforts to move voucher holders into low poverty neighborhoods.
In order to determine the characteristics of successful housing mobility programs, the researchers conducted interviews with eleven organizations operating such programs. The researchers found that most of the mobility assistance programs offer pre-move counseling, financial assistance, and housing search assistance to participants. Landlord outreach is much less common due to the resources and time involved. The researchers also found that covering the operating costs of mobility programs is often difficult because the services associated with housing mobility programs do not fall into the typical operational categories that housing agencies use.
Overall, the authors find that there is insufficient information on what makes a successful mobility assistance program and recommend implementing a pilot housing mobility program that would identify criteria for high opportunity neighborhoods; develop consistent performance measurement tools; and implement program evaluations to assess outcomes and cost efficiency.
The 2010 report, Improving Neighborhood Location Outcomes in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, by Mary K. Cunningham, Molly M. Scott, Chris Narducci, Sam Hall, Alexandra Stanczyk, is available at: www.urban.org/publications/412230.html