Housing Voucher Utilization
The cornerstone of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is the ability of voucher families to move from one unit to another while continuing to receive rental assistance. Families can move with continued assistance both inside and outside the jurisdiction of the public housing agency (PHA) that issued the family’s voucher (renting a unit outside of the issuing PHA’s jurisdiction is referred to as “portability”). Recent studies have highlighted the importance of the voucher program’s mobility feature by demonstrating that where we live has a lasting impact on our health and future economic mobility. For example, children who move to higher opportunity neighborhoods with high-performing schools, reliable public transportation, and quality jobs, tend to have higher adult earnings and educational attainment, among other positive outcomes.
And yet, an increasing number of poor families live in areas of highly concentrated poverty where over 40% of residents are low-income. While vouchers have the potential to help deconcentrate poverty and improve the lives of low income families, there is evidence that the program has failed to meet its housing choice and mobility goals.
Families face significant barriers that prevent them from using their vouchers, which undermines the effectiveness of the program. The materials below provide information and policy solutions to address barriers to voucher utilization.
In September 2016, NHLP testified before the Housing Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance at a Congressional hearing entitled, “The Future of Public Housing in America: A Better Way to Increase Efficiencies for Housing Vouchers and Create Upward Economic Mobility.” You can read NHLP’s written testimony here: NHLP Congressional Testimony on Mobility
Manuals, Guidebooks, and Reports
- The Urban Institute and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council published a manual in 2013, Expanding Choice: Practical Strategies for building a Successful Housing Mobility Program that creates a toolkit for local communities to implement a housing mobility program.
- In 2003, HUD released a report on voucher utilization: Costs and Utilization in the Housing Choice voucher Program.
- Creating Opportunity for Children: How Housing Location Can Make a Difference includes compelling research and data on the impact of neighborhoods on children’s well-being and presents policy solutions to help poor families moves to low poverty areas.