Few Affordable Rental Homes for Families with Children are Available in High Opportunity Neighborhoods

A new report by Nancy McArdle, Maura Baldiga, and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia issued by Brandies University’s School of Social Policy and Management, “Low-Income Families with Children Face Affordability/Unit Size/Neighborhood Opportunity Tradeoff in Housing Search,” examines the siting of lower-cost rental housing homes that can accommodate large families in relation to neighborhood opportunity. The paper finds that lower-cost, large units, defined as units with three or more bedrooms, are disproportionately located in low-opportunity neighborhoods, making it difficult for families to access high-opportunity areas.

Using American Community Survey (ACS) data, the researchers determined the size, cost, and location of rental homes. To measure neighborhood opportunity, the researchers used the Child Opportunity Index, which aggregates different metrics for educational, health, and economic opportunity. Across the 100 largest metros, 25.4% of large rentals are in the lowest opportunity neighborhoods and only 15.8% are in the highest opportunity neighborhoods. An even greater percentage of lower-cost, large units are in lower-opportunity neighborhoods. Forty-three percent of large units renting for less than $750 per month were located in the lowest opportunity neighborhoods, while only 7% were in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The siting patterns of large, lower-cost rentals vary significantly by metropolitan area. Northeastern metros are more likely to have lower shares of large units in higher-opportunity areas. 

Large, lower-cost rentals are more often located in lower opportunity neighborhoods for several reasons. First, the desirable amenities typically found in high-opportunity neighborhoods are often priced into rents, which makes them unaffordable to low income people. Second, lower-cost and subsidized housing tends to be concentrated in low-opportunity areas, potentially because of the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon. As a result, low income households face difficult tradeoffs between affordability, adequate space, and opportunity.

The authors recommend a few ways to address these challenging tradeoffs. Broadly speaking, policymakers should take steps to reduce housing costs and create economic opportunity where possible. Policymakers should also provide greater support for childhood-related programs in low-opportunity areas and expand access to such programs already available in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The authors specifically recommend adoption of Small Area Fair Market Rents to improve mobility for voucher holders and of zoning reforms that facilitate the production of large, lower-cost housing units in high-opportunity neighborhoods. 

Low-Income Families with Children Face Affordability/Unit Size/Neighborhood Opportunity Tradeoff in Housing Search is at: https://bit.ly/2Jq0RFe

The report includes an online database at: https://bit.ly/2r0iFPB