The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a policy paper, Federal Policy Changes Can Help More Families with Housing Vouchers Live in Higher-Opportunity Areas. The paper offers four sets of policy changes to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program that could provide voucher households with greater access to low-poverty neighborhoods. CBPP notes that 315,000 children in households using vouchers live in extreme-poverty neighborhoods, suggesting the program is not adequately delivering on its potential to expand children’s access to good schools in safe neighborhoods, which research demonstrates encourages upward economic mobility.
The HCV program enables low income households to afford housing in the private market. Voucher recipients contribute 30% of their adjusted income toward housing costs and the voucher program pays the remaining costs up to a payment standard set by public housing agencies (PHAs).
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill to establish a Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration (see Memo, 7/16). If passed by the Senate, the demonstration would provide $30 million to PHAs for mobility support services such as landlord outreach, housing search assistance, and post-move support to help low income families use their vouchers in low-poverty, higher-opportunity neighborhoods. The bill would also provide $20 million for new vouchers for families with children.
Assuming eventual passage by the Senate, the first set of policy recommendations urges HUD to share preliminary findings of the demonstration before the final report is issued five years after the start of the demonstration. Preliminary findings could encourage PHAs involved in the demonstration to implement promising practices. CBPP also recommends that Congress fund 500,000 new vouchers combined with mobility services for households with young children.
The second set of recommendations is to provide incentives to encourage PHAs to engage in mobility efforts. One incentive would be a new administrative fee structure that would provide location-based payments, as outlined in a 2016 proposed rule. This would compensate PHAs that incur additional costs providing services to help families use their vouchers in high-opportunity areas, while risking lower fee-payments from HUD if it takes families longer to find a willing landlord in a high-opportunity area. Another incentive would give greater weight to the types of neighborhoods in which voucher households live when assessing PHA performance through the Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP).
While not an incentive, this section of the paper urges HUD to effectively implement Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requirements, nudging PHAs to consider whether their HCV-related actions reduce segregation by assisting protected-class households live in less segregated neighborhoods.
The third set of policy recommendations includes effectively monitoring implementation of the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) rule that currently applies to PHAs in 24 metro areas (see Memo, 11/21/16) while also encouraging PHAs in other areas to use SAFMRs. Based on rents in a ZIP Code rather than throughout a metro area, SAFMRs can increase the value of a voucher in a high-rent area, making it more feasible for a household to use a voucher there.
CBPP recommends that HUD monitor and enforce a 2015 rule change that requires PHAs to ensure that lists of landlords willing to accept vouchers include areas that do not have a high concentration of poverty or minority households. Another recommendation calls on HUD to encourage PHAs to establish a minimum time limit greater than 60 days for a voucher household to search for and secure an apartment, and then to provide additional time beyond the minimum if necessary.
The fourth set of recommendations addresses jurisdictional barriers to households’ ability to live in higher-opportunity areas. CBPP encourages HUD to facilitate PHAs within the same region to form a consortium or to consolidate so that households with a voucher can more seamlessly move between PHA jurisdictions, giving them easier access to lower-poverty and higher-opportunity areas. Such a move would also reduce the amount of paperwork for families seeking to change jurisdictions as well as for the PHAs that could have a single funding contract with HUD and provide voucher utilization data and other measures to HUD as a single entity.
Finally, CBPP urges HUD to revise its administrative fee policy regarding moving with a voucher from one PHA to another, known as “porting” a voucher. Currently, both the “initial” PHA and the “receiving” PHA have to split the administrative fee payment, thereby receiving lower payments when a household chooses to move with a voucher. To remove this barrier, CBPP suggests HUD provide greater funding to both the initial and receiving PHAs.
Federal Policy Changes Can Help More Families with Housing Vouchers Live In Higher-Opportunity Areas is available at: https://bit.ly/2wJt2uO
More information about vouchers is on page 4-39 of NLIHC’s 2018 Advocates’ Guide.