Research Finds Source-of-Income Laws Increase Upwardly Mobile Moves for Existing Voucher Holders

New research from the NYU Furman Center and NYU Wagner School examines how source-of-income (SOI) protections impact where Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) holders live. The paper, “Advancing Choice in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: Source of Income Protections and Locational Outcomes,” compares outcomes in the three years preceding and three years following SOI law passage for both new voucher holders and existing voucher holders who moved. The paper finds that after SOI protections were enacted, existing voucher holders moved to neighborhoods with lower shares of poverty and lower shares of voucher holders. Existing voucher holders were also more likely to move to neighborhoods with higher shares of white residents. Because most voucher holders in the sample were Black or Latino, the authors suggest such moves may reduce racial segregation.

SOI protections prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to voucher recipients on the basis of recipients using vouchers as a source of income. The research presented in the paper uses data from the Poverty and Race Research Action Council to identify localities that passed SOI laws during the study period (2007-2017). The authors used HUD data on HCV recipients and American Community Survey data to assess locational outcomes for voucher recipients within 31 localities where SOI laws were enacted.

Three years after SOI laws were enacted, the decrease in neighborhood poverty rate for recent movers was .6 percentage points larger than for households that moved before SOI laws were enacted. Recent movers also experienced a modest reduction in the share of voucher holders within their new census tracts. A major goal of the HCV program is to increase the number and quality of locations where voucher recipients can live. The findings suggest that SOI laws may help facilitate this goal by opening-up lower poverty neighborhoods to voucher holders.

After SOI laws were enacted, voucher holders who relocated also experienced a 2.3 percentage point increase in the share of their census tract’s population that was white, compared to voucher holders who relocated before SOI protections were in place. The authors suggest that because voucher holders in their sample were disproportionately Black and Latino, these outcomes may lead to decreased segregation. These outcomes may also indicate increased neighborhood choice among voucher recipients, though, importantly, higher shares of white residents are not indicative of better neighborhoods.

After SOI protections were enacted, new voucher holders ended up in neighborhoods similar to those in which new voucher holders ended up before SOI protections were enacted. However, this finding is limited by the fact that the researchers did not have data about where voucher holders lived prior to receiving their vouchers. It is possible that over time, new voucher recipients lived in higher poverty neighborhoods to begin with, in which case the reduction in neighborhood poverty they experienced would be greater.

While the research highlights the ways SOI laws impact mobility for voucher holders who find housing, the research does not assess how SOI laws impact lease-up rates for new voucher holders. Future research should focus on whether SOI laws affect new voucher holders’ ability to use their vouchers at all.

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