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Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

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

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Description

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV), also known as Section 8, provides eligible low and very low income families with vouchers to help cover the costs of rental housing. Residents pay 30-40% of their income toward rent and a local public housing agency contracts with the landlord to pay the remainder, up to a specified maximum amount. Eligible households can use vouchers to move to dwellings and neighborhoods of their choice or to pay rent in their current location; households must recertify income annually and can receive vouchers as long as income eligibility is demonstrated (McClure 2015, Collinson 2014, US HUD-Vouchers). The US Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD) provides Section 8 funds to state or municipal housing agencies which administer local programs.

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 some evidence that the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) improves the socio-economic diversity of neighborhoods (Houston 2013, Lindberg 2010, Deng 2007), helps families move to higher quality neighborhoods (Eriksen 2013, Carlson 2012, Wood 2008), and reduces exposure to crime (US-HUD Lens 2011, CG-Housing, Anderson 2003). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Participation in Section 8 is associated with reductions in concentrated poverty, overcrowding, and homelessness as well as improved nutrition, greater food security, and increased household stability after one year (Lindberg 2010, Wood 2008, Carlson 2012, CBPP-Fischer 2015). Over the longer-term, Section 8 recipients generally move to better neighborhoods than non-participating households. A ‘better’ neighborhood has fewer people living in poverty, fewer households receiving public assistance, lower unemployment rates, higher education levels (Urban-Pendall 2014, Eriksen 2013), and often, higher quality schools (Basolo 2013, Darrah 2014).

A study of ten large cities indicates that the arrival of voucher recipients in low poverty neighborhoods does not increase crime rates (CBPP-Fischer 2015). Several studies suggest that black and Hispanic households are less likely to use vouchers to move to lower poverty neighborhoods than white households (Graves 2016) and black households are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high crime rates than white or Hispanic voucher recipients (US-HUD Lens 2011).

Long-term studies of Moving to Opportunity, a demonstration project active from 1994-1998, indicate that, overall, moving from high to low poverty neighborhoods with Section 8 receipt benefits parents and girls, but has negative effects for boys and older children. Adults who move demonstrate greater improvements in mental and physical health (e.g., reduced psychological distress, obesity, and diabetes rates) and well-being (NBER-Ludwig 2013, US HUD-Sanbonmatsu 2012), but have similar economic outcomes to peers who do not move (NBER-Chetty 2015, NBER-Ludwig 2013, US HUD-Sanbonmatsu 2012). Girls have better physical and mental health (NBER-Ludwig 2013, Gennetian 2012, Osypuk 2012), including less depression (Kessler 2014), fewer behavioral issues (Kessler 2014, Gennetian 2012, Graif 2015), and less exposure to drugs (Zuberi 2012). Boys who move to low poverty neighborhoods have poorer mental health, including elevated depression and PTSD (Kessler 2014, NBER-Ludwig 2013, Osypuk 2012), and are more likely to be delinquent or have behavioral issues than peers whose families do not move (Gennetian 2012, Kessler 2014). Overall, moving to low poverty neighborhoods increases the likelihood of attending college and living in better neighborhoods as adults, and reduces the likelihood of becoming single parents for children who are under age 13; however, children who move after age 13 do not realize these benefits (NBER-Chetty 2015).

Higher housing costs (Collinson 2014), a limited number of landlords that accept vouchers (Van Zandt 2013), and discrimination based on voucher status (Park 2013, Dawkins 2015) or race may be barriers for voucher-eligible families who wish to move to ‘better’ neighborhoods (Graves 2016). Lack of public transit systems in better neighborhoods can limit access to employment, schools, food, and existing social support networks for families that move (Collinson 2014, Urban-Pendall 2014) or act as a deterrent to moving (Graves 2016). Counseling pre- and post-move may help voucher recipients overcome these barriers (Rinzler 2015, Varady 2010) and successfully adjust to a new neighborhood (Darrah 2014).

Cost-benefit analysis suggests that Section 8 is associated with positive net social benefits (Carlson 2011). Housing vouchers for low income families may decrease costs to emergency shelters, the child welfare system, and the health care system, and reduce use of institutional care facilities for elderly individuals or those with disabilities (CBPP-Fischer 2015). 

Implementation

United States

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD) provides Section 8 funds to each state; state or municipal housing agencies administer local programs and allocate funds (US HUD-Vouchers). The Baltimore Mobility Program’s (BMP's) implementation of Section 8 includes a higher payment standard, an intensive counseling process, security deposit assistance, and requires participants to relocate to low poverty, mixed race neighborhoods for at least a year (Darrah 2014).

Wisconsin

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 (41 counties) have Section 8 programs administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) and local agents (WHEDA-Section 8). 

Implementation Resources

ChangeLab-Housing toolkit 2015 - ChangeLab Solutions. Preserving, protecting, and expanding affordable housing: A policy toolkit for public health. 2015. Accessed on January 12, 2016
Housing Works-HCV - Housing Works. Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program: resources, informational videos, forms, and FAQs. Redmond, OR. Accessed on April 6, 2016
US HUD-Vouchers - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Accessed on March 14, 2016

Citations - Description

Collinson 2014* - Collinson RA. Assessing the allocation of CDBG to community development need. Housing Policy Debate. 2014;24(1):91-118. Accessed on March 26, 2016
McClure 2015* - McClure K, Schwartz AF, Taghavi LB. Housing Choice Voucher location patterns a decade later. Housing Policy Debate. 2015;25(2):215-233. Accessed on April 6, 2016
US HUD-Vouchers - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Accessed on March 14, 2016

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
Basolo 2013* - Basolo V. Explaining mobility outcomes in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: Neighborhood poverty, employment, and public school quality. Cityscape. 2013;15(2):135-153. Accessed on April 6, 2016
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
CBPP-Fischer 2015 - Fischer W. Research shows housing vouchers reduce hardship and provide platform for long-term gains among children. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; 2015. Accessed on April 7, 2016
CG-Housing - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Promoting health equity: Housing programs and policies. Accessed on December 10, 2015
Collinson 2014* - Collinson RA. Assessing the allocation of CDBG to community development need. Housing Policy Debate. 2014;24(1):91-118. Accessed on March 26, 2016
Darrah 2014* - Darrah J, DeLuca S. "Living here has changed my whole perspective": How escaping inner-city poverty shapes neighborhood and housing choice. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2014;33(2):350-384. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Dawkins 2015* - Dawkins C, Jeon JS, Pendall R. Transportation access, rental vouchers, and neighborhood satisfaction: Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity experiment. Housing Policy Debate. 2015;25(3):497-530. Accessed on April 6, 2016
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 February 4, 2016
Gennetian 2012* - Gennetian LA, Sanbonmatsu L, Katz LF, et al. The long-term effects of Moving to Opportunity on youth outcomes. 2012;14(2):137-167. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Graif 2015* - Graif C. Delinquency and gender moderation in the Moving to Opportunity intervention: The role of extended neighborhoods. Criminology. 2015;53(3):366-398. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Graves 2016* - Graves E. Rooms for improvement: A qualitative metasynthesis of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Housing Policy Debate. 2016;26(2):346-361. Accessed on April 7, 2016
Houston 2013 - Houston D, Basolo V, Yang D. Walkability, transit access, and traffic exposure for low-income residents with subsidized housing. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(4):673-678. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Kessler 2014 - Kessler RC, Duncan GJ, Gennetian LA, et al. Associations of housing mobility interventions for children in high poverty neighborhoods with subsequent mental disorders during adolescence. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014;311(9):937-948. Accessed on April 6, 2016
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 March 14, 2016
NBER-Chetty 2015 - Chetty R, Hendren N, Katz LF. The effects of exposure to better neighborhoods on children: New evidence from the Moving to Opportunity experiment. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2015: Working Paper No. 21156. Accessed on April 6, 2016
NBER-Ludwig 2013 - Ludwig J, Duncan GJ, Gennetian LA, et al. Long-term neighborhood effects on low-income families: Evidence from Moving to Opportunity. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2013: Working Paper No. 18772. Accessed on April 7, 2016
Osypuk 2012 - Osypuk TL, Tchetgen ET, Acevedo-Garcia D, et al. Differential mental health effects of neighborhood relocation among youth in vulnerable families: Results from a randomized trial. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2012;69(12):1284-1294. Accessed on April 7, 2016
Park 2013* - Park M. Housing vouchers as a means of poverty deconcentration and race desegregation: Patterns and factors of voucher recipients' spatial concentration in Cleveland. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment. 2013;28(3):451-468. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Rinzler 2015 - Rinzler D, Tegeler P, Cunningham M, Pollack C. Leveraging the power of place: Using pay for success to support housing mobility. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. 2015: Working Paper 2015-04. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Urban-Pendall 2014 - Pendall R, George T, McDade ZJ, et al. Driving to opportunity: Understanding the links among transportation access, residential outcomes, and economic opportunity for housing voucher recipients. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2014. Accessed on April 7, 2016
US HUD-Sanbonmatsu 2012* - Sanbonmatsu L, Potter NA, Adam E, et al. The long-term effects of Moving to Opportunity on adult health and economic self-sufficiency. 2012;14(2):109-136. Accessed on April 6, 2016
US-HUD Lens 2011 - Lens MC, Ellen IG, O'Regan K. Neighborhood crime exposure among Housing Choice Voucher households. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Policy Development and Research; 2011. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Van Zandt 2013* - Van Zandt SS, Mhatre PC. The effect of Housing Choice Voucher households on neighborhood crime: Longitudinal evidence from Dallas. Poverty & Public Policy. 2013;5(3):229-249. Accessed on April 6, 2016
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 February 5, 2016
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
Zuberi 2012* - Zuberi A. Neighborhood poverty and children's exposure to danger: Examining gender differences in impacts of the Moving to Opportunity experiment. Social Science Research. 2012;41(4):788-801. Accessed on April 6, 2016

Citations - Implementation

Darrah 2014* - Darrah J, DeLuca S. "Living here has changed my whole perspective": How escaping inner-city poverty shapes neighborhood and housing choice. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2014;33(2):350-384. Accessed on April 6, 2016
US HUD-Vouchers - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Housing choice vouchers fact sheet. Accessed on March 14, 2016
US HUD-WI rental - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Rental help: Wisconsin. Accessed on May 24, 2016
WHEDA-Section 8 - Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). Section 8 voucher program. Accessed on March 14, 2016

Page Last Updated

April 6, 2016

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