Panel: Reforming the Housing Choice Voucher Program
(Housing and Community Development)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Wright (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, New York University
Panel Chairs:  Katherine O'Regan, New York University
Discussants:  Eva Rosen, Johns Hopkins University

Low-Income Families with Rental Subsidy Vouchers Are More Likely to Move to High-Opportunity Neighborhoods When Subsidies Vary with Neighborhood Rent Levels
Samuel Dastrup1, Ingrid Gould Ellen2 and Meryl Finkel1, (1)Abt Associates, Inc., (2)New York University

Voucher Rent Limits and Housing Choice Sets: The Case of Hud’s Small Area Fair Market Rent Program
Vincent Reina, University of Pennsylvania, Raphael Bostic, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Arthur Acolin, University of Washington

Pushing the Boundaries: Searching for Housing in the Most Segregated Metropolis in America
Peter Rosenblatt and Jennifer Cossyleon, Loyola University Chicago

This panel brings together four papers that assess the impact of recent reforms to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

The first two papers evaluate aspects of HUD’s Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) Demonstration Program, in which five housing authorities shifted from metropolitan area-based voucher rent caps to ZIP Code-level rent caps.  The first paper finds that the shift to SAFMRs increases the pool of units potentially available to housing choice voucher holders in high-opportunity neighborhoods and decreases the number of units potentially available in low-opportunity neighborhoods. The authors also find that the shift to SAFMRs encourages moves to more expensive neighborhoods.  In the areas where the SAFMRs have been implemented, the share of voucher households that move to ZIP Codes with relatively high rents within the metropolitan area increases by 10 percentage points.

The second paper focuses more on whether the introduction of SAFMRs increases the choice set of potentially available units and the quality of the neighborhood that voucher households access. The author finds little change in the number and types of neighborhoods that households access across the demonstration sites, but it finds a more even distribution of voucher households across neighborhoods where voucher households were already living.

The third paper examines the Security Deposit Assistance Program (SDAP), a newly introduced incentive in the voucher program in Milwaukee County. The program aims to improve locational outcomes of voucher holders by providing security deposit assistance to households who move to a suburban jurisdiction. Using in-depth interviews, the authors examine whether and how families adjust their housing searches in response. They find that that most families attempted to find housing in the suburbs, but only a handful were able to successfully lease-up there. The interviews reveal that access to informal housing search assistance and landlord persuasion are common strategies that help families secure a unit in the suburbs.

The last paper focuses on the various ways that public housing authorities (PHAs) allocate their scarce housing vouchers. Using quantitative from an extensive web-based survey of housing authorities and qualitative data from a series of interviews with officials at local housing authorities, the author finds that fewer than half of public housing authorities keep their waitlists open on an ongoing basis and nearly two-thirds of housing authorities maintain preferences for certain applicants such as people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, households displaced by public action, and families experiencing homelessness. The qualitative fieldwork reveals that the administrative burdens associated with verifying preferences create a substantial obstacle for housing authorities.

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