Panel Paper: Neighborhood Opportunity and Housing Choice Vouchers: A Study of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Coolidge - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Alicia Mazzara, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and Brian Knudsen, Poverty and Race Research Action Council

This research project will analyze the concentration of Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipients in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. While the HCV program has the potential to deconcentrate poverty and facilitate residential integration, voucher families are frequently clustered in segregated, high poverty neighborhoods. Housing mobility programs address the social consequences of voucher over-concentration in segregated and poor locations by helping low-income families reach neighborhoods offering access to opportunity and other locational advantages. The exploratory and descriptive analysis undertaken here contextualizes the need for such mobility programming, and makes a case for federal, state, and local efforts to increase access to opportunity areas. We use neighborhood-level summaries of HUD HCV administrative data and American Community Survey data to answer the following questions: (1) How over- or under- concentrated are Housing Choice Voucher households in different types of neighborhoods, relative to affordable rental units in the 50 largest U. S metropolitan areas? That is, does the location of HCV households reflect the location of affordable units? (2) How similarly (or dissimilarly) are vouchers and affordable units distributed across metro areas? Do some metros better place voucher holders in neighborhoods of greater opportunity? (3) To what extent do quantitative differences in distributions depend on the neighborhood measure used? That is, are HCV households more concentrated along certain measures of neighborhood quality and less so among other measures, or do all neighborhood measures align with one another? (4) Finally, can we identify possible drivers of differences in voucher concentration among metro areas? For example, could regional variations, like differences in the rental vacancy rate, explain why some metros have more HCV households concentrated in better or worse neighborhoods? Or, are there effective Public Housing Authority practices that permit some places to overcome the hand they are dealt in terms of placing HCVs in opportunity areas?