Panel Paper: Job Access to Federally Subsidized Affordable Housing

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 9:10 AM
Salon B (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michael Lens, University of California, Los Angeles

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as the Section 8 Voucher Program) is the largest rental housing subsidy in the U.S., helping over 2 million households secure housing each year. Of particular interest to policymakers (and participants) is the extent to which such vouchers allow access to higher opportunity neighborhoods.  We know from prior research that voucher households occupy relatively high poverty neighborhoods, but that crime levels where the typical voucher household lives, while higher than average, are considerably lower than in neighborhoods with public housing and other supply-side housing subsidies, specifically Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties. This study seeks to identify the extent to which housing voucher households live near jobs, or whether there exists a spatial mismatch between voucher households and employment. Using tract-level data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the housing voucher population and zip code-level employment files from the US Census Annual Economic Surveys, this paper estimates the number of jobs located within five and ten miles of the average voucher household, and compares these job concentration levels to those for all households and poor renter, LIHTC, and public housing households in U.S. metropolitan areas. In select cities, the analysis examines the number of jobs within 30 and 60 minute commutes of voucher and comparison households, using spatial data on commuting times. Given recent attempts by HUD and cities such as New York City to increase work among households receiving housing subsidies, and the ongoing efforts by HUD and housing authorities to increase mobility among the voucher population, it is vital that we know more about the proximity of voucher household locations to employment opportunities.