Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: How Do People-Based Housing Policies Affect People (and Place)?

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 8:50 AM
Foster I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ann Owens, University of Southern California
HUD provides assisted housing for low-income renters through multiple programs that can generally be distinguished as place-based—where immoveable subsidies are linked to particular units—or person-based—where subsidies move with tenants in the form of housing vouchers as they rent on the private market. Through these programs, HUD balances two strategies for improving the neighborhood contexts of low-income residents—either investing in the neighborhoods through place-based programs or allowing individuals to move out of low-quality neighborhoods through people-based programs. Both programs are aimed at improving low-income residents’ life chances and outcomes and mitigating the negative effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods. This paper reviews the existing evidence to answer the question: what is the impact of people-based assistance—housing vouchers—on individuals’ well-being?

I focus on four main types of outcomes: (1) neighborhood attainment; (2) education; (3) employment; and (4) health. Neighborhood attainment is the most fundamental outcome to examine—do voucher users live in lower-poverty neighborhoods than project-based assisted housing? Do vouchers allow individuals to move to more advantaged neighborhoods than they could otherwise afford? Education, primarily children’s education, may be affected by the use of housing vouchers through several paths. Vouchers may provide parents the opportunity to live closer to and enroll their children in higher-quality schools. Further, housing assistance may allow parents to divert more economic resources toward educational spending. Employment may be improved by participation in the voucher program if vouchers provide workers with access to areas with more or higher-quality jobs. Finally, health may be affected if vouchers provide opportunities to live in higher-quality neighborhoods with amenities that facilitate health, e.g., fewer stressors, more opportunity for outdoor exercise, or greater proximity to healthy grocery options. In addition to these main classes of outcomes, I also consider the more limited evidence on several other outcomes, including criminality.