Panel Paper: Informing Choice: Housing Mobility and Residential Preferences

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 3:30 PM
DuPont Ballroom H (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Stefanie DeLuca and Philip Garboden, Johns Hopkins University
In this paper we offer a qualitative analysis of a residential mobility program in Baltimore, the Thompson program.  Since 2003, Thompson has assisted over 2,000 low-income African American families to move from high-poverty, highly-segregated neighborhoods in Baltimore City to low-poverty, racially-mixed neighborhoods throughout the Baltimore region.  Data from over 110 interviews suggests that experience in the program shifted respondents’ “residential choice frameworks”—sets of preferences related to housing and place of residence.   The magnitude of change in the neighborhood quality experienced through Thompson prompted respondents to broaden, re-scale and re-order their residential choice frameworks.   Overall, respondents revealed raised expectations for what social contexts such as schools and neighborhoods can contribute to the well being of their children and families.  This is significant in light of past research that shows that low-income renters often discount the importance of neighborhood context and instead make residential choices based on the characteristics of housing units.  Respondents also described expanding their “comfort zones,” indicating new willingness to live in locations they had not considered in the past.  We illustrate how Thompson shifted participants’ residential choice frameworks along three dimensions: school quality, neighborhood safety or what respondents termed “quiet,” and racial diversity.   We contend that shifts in residential choice frameworks are distinct second-order policy benefits that ultimately promoted longer duration in high opportunity neighborhoods for families and children.