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Moving Outward

From “The Suburbanization of Housing Choice Voucher Recipients,” published by The Brookings Institution on October 11, 2011:

Just as the suburbanization of poverty has gathered momentum, Americans who use housing choice vouchers (HCV) to help pay for their housing have increasingly moved into suburban areas as well.

[...] Where HCV recipients can locate in suburban areas is critically important to their job prospects. During the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented several policy changes aimed at giving HCV recipients more choices, but we do not know a great deal about whether this is increasing the variety of housing opportunities for recipients when they move to the suburbs. [...]

This study analyzes the changing location of HCV recipients within the nation’s largest metro areas in the 2000s and finds: (1) Nearly half of all HCV recipients lived in suburban areas in 2008. However, HCV recipients remained less suburbanized than the total population, the poor population, and affordable housing units generally.

The study also finds that, in metro areas (such as DC), voucher recipients were moving further towards higher-income suburbs — which also tend to have a higher concentration of jobs. The shifts of HCV recipients to the suburbs also coincided with increases in suburban poverty in that same time period. The overall findings of the study “lead to recommendations that we provide greater incentives for multi-family housing, that we re-evaluate local zoning regulations, improve enforcement of fair housing laws, and facilitate the use of housing vouchers in higher-income suburban neighborhoods.” So is tenant-based rental assistance better tailored to urban areas? Moreover, were the improvement of fair housing laws and the facilitation of HCV use in suburban neighborhoods to increase economic diversity there, could that in turn improve unemployment numbers?


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