How Does Moving Affect Outcomes in the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

How Does Moving Affect Outcomes in the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Ruoniu Wang, Rebecca J. Walter
Housing Studies
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The housing choice voucher (HCV) program intends to expand housing opportunities to low-income families, providing freedom in the housing search process and allowing as many moves as participants want while they are in the program. Unlike older studies that focus on neighborhood conditions where voucher holders live at a particular time, this study tracks participant mobility throughout their tenure in the program. It uses an administrative dataset that spans 11 years in Florida to determine how often voucher households move and which factors—including race and ethnicity—are associated with mobility outcomes. Can HCV program participants find housing in desirable neighborhoods, and do they meet the program’s objectives?

Key findings

  • Housing choice voucher households moved often beginning in the early years they participated in the program. By their fifth year in the program, more than half of households had moved at least once.
  • Generally, voucher households moved to low-poverty rather than high-poverty neighborhoods. Between 2007 and 2013, there was a decreased voucher presence in high-poverty areas.
  • White households and high-income households were more likely to move to low-poverty neighborhoods.
  • Families with children and African American and interracial households moved more often than any other housing type and race.
  • The authors recommend that housing authorities collect data on why participants move, to reduce the number of forced moves low-income participants make during their tenure in the program. If moves are necessary, renters should have access to help so they can make informed decisions. Any policies to improve mobility should take those most at risk for housing instability into special consideration.