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Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

Health Factors: Housing & Transit
Decision Makers: Community Development Professionals Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Under Section 8, eligible low and very low income families are awarded vouchers to help cover the costs of rental housing. Residents pay 30-40% of their income on rent and a local public housing agency contracts with the landlord to pay the remainder (US HUD-Vouchers). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased neighborhood socio-economic diversity
Increased neighborhood choice
Reduced exposure to crime
Reduced poverty
Reduced homelessness
Increased food security
Increased housing stability

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that Housing Choice Voucher Programs (Section 8) improve the socio-economic diversity of neighborhoods (Lindberg 2010, Feins 2005, Deng 2007), assist families moving to higher quality neighborhoods (Eriksen 2013, Carlson 2012, US HUD-Patterson 2004, Wood 2008), and reduce exposure to crime (CG-Housing, Anderson 2003). Additional evidence is needed to confirm direct effects of Section 8 on youth and adult risky behaviors, housing hazards, and psychological and physical morbidity (CG-Housing).   

Household participation in Section 8 is associated with reductions in concentrated poverty measures, overcrowding, and incidence of homelessness; improved nutrition due to greater food security; and increased household stability after the first year (Lindberg 2010, Wood 2008, Carlson 2012). Comparisons of Section 8 and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) show that both programs can increase neighborhood socio-economic diversity (Deng 2007). Over the long-term, Section 8 recipients generally move to better neighborhoods than non-participating households; ‘better’ neighborhoods have fewer people living in poverty, fewer households receiving public assistance, lower unemployment rates, higher workforce participation, and higher education levels (Feins 2005, US HUD-Patterson 2004, Eriksen 2013).   

In general, researchers agree that Section 8 is likely to decrease residential segregation by race and income (Harvard JCHS-von Hoffman 2006). Intensive counseling and geographic relocation requirements may increase the effectiveness of vouchers helping recipients move to lower poverty neighborhoods (Varady 2010).

Neighborhood deprivation can have a direct effect on individual physical and mental health outcomes (Lavin 2006, Cubbin 2005). Declining neighborhoods often have limited services available and deteriorating physical environments, which can increase anxiety and social disorder and reduce physical activity (Lavin 2006, Anderson 2003). 

Cost-benefit analysis suggests that Section 8 is associated with positive net social benefits (Carlson 2011). 


United States

Section 8 is a federal program active in all 50 states (US HUD-Vouchers).


Section 8 is operated through Public Housing Authorities for most Wisconsin counties and municipalities (US HUD-WI rental). Counties in Wisconsin without Public Housing Authorities (37 counties) have Section 8 programs administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).  Wisconsin doesn’t subsidize the program with state funds, but housing authorities can apply for additional grants when offered by HUD (WHEDA-Section 8). 

Citations - Description

US HUD-Vouchers - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Accessed on November 20, 2015

Citations - Evidence

Anderson 2003* - Anderson LM, St. Charles J, Fullilove MT, et al. Providing affordable family housing and reducing residential segregation by income. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2003;24(3S):47–67. Accessed on November 24, 2015
Carlson 2011* - Carlson D, Haveman R, Kaplan T, Wolfe B. The benefits and costs of the Section 8 Housing Subsidy Program: A framework and estimates of first-year effects. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2011;30(2):233–55. Accessed on December 1, 2015
Carlson 2012* - Carlson D, Haveman R, Kaplan T, Wolfe B. Long-term effects of public low-income housing vouchers on neighborhood quality and household composition. Journal of Housing Economics. 2012;21(2):101–20. Accessed on December 1, 2015
CG-Housing - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Promoting health equity: Housing programs and policies. Accessed on December 10, 2015
Cubbin 2005 - Cubbin C, Winkleby MA. Protective and harmful effects of neighborhood-level deprivation on individual-level health knowledge, behavior changes, and risk of coronary heart disease. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2005;162 (6):559-68. Accessed on December 10, 2015
Deng 2007* - Deng L. Comparing the effects of housing vouchers and low-income housing tax credits on neighborhood integration and school quality. Journal of Planning Education and Research. 2007;27(1):20–35. Accessed on December 14, 2015
Eriksen 2013* - Eriksen MD, Ross A. The impact of housing vouchers on mobility and neighborhood attributes. Real Estate Economics. 2013;41(2):255-77. Accessed on March 6, 2015
Feins 2005 - Feins JD, Patterson R. Geographic mobility in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A study of families entering the program, 1995–2002. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. 2005;8(2):21-47. Accessed on March 6, 2015
Harvard JCHS-von Hoffman 2006 - von Hoffman A, Belsky ES, Lee K. The impact of housing on community: Review of scholarly theories and empirical research. Cambridge: Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), Harvard University; 2006. Accessed on May 20, 2015
Lavin 2006 - Lavin T, Higgins C, Metcalfe O, Jordan A. Health impacts of the built environment: A review. Dublin, IRL: Institute of Public Health in Ireland; 2006. Accessed on May 20, 2015
Lindberg 2010* - Lindberg RA, Shenassa ED, Acevedo-Garcia D, et al. Housing interventions at the neighborhood level and health: A review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health Management & Practice. 2010;16(5 Suppl):S44-S52. Accessed on October 29, 2015
US HUD-Patterson 2004 - Patterson R, Wood M, Lam K, et al. Evaluation of the welfare to work voucher program: Report to Congress. Washington, DC: US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD), Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R); 2004. Accessed on December 1, 2015
Varady 2010* - Varady D. What should housing vouchers do? A review of the recent literature. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment. 2010;25(4):391–407. Accessed on March 6, 2015
Wood 2008 - Wood M, Turnham J, Mills G. Housing affordability and family well-being: Results from the housing voucher evaluation. Housing Policy Debate. 2008;19(2):367–412. Accessed on November 23, 2015

Citations - Implementation

US HUD-Vouchers - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Accessed on November 20, 2015
US HUD-WI rental - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Rental help: Wisconsin. Accessed on November 9, 2015
WHEDA-Section 8 - Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). Section 8 voucher program. Accessed on November 9, 2015

Page Last Updated

March 1, 2013

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