Housing Voucher Recipients Moving to America’s Suburbs, According to Luskin Researchers Stoll and Covington in UCLA/Brookings Report

Housing Voucher Recipients Moving to America’s Suburbs, According to Luskin Researchers Stoll and Covington in UCLA/Brookings Report

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Tue, 10/11/2011 - 7:48am

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Americans who use housing choice vouchers are increasingly choosing to live in the suburbs, and as that trend proceeds, metropolitan areas across the country need to work to make sure housing opportunities connect with employment, according to a new report co-authored by UCLA researchers and published by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.

The new report, The Suburbanization of Housing Choice Voucher Recipients, analyzes data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the American Community Survey to show how this trend is proceeding and describe some of its implications. 

The housing choice voucher program assists very low-income families, the disabled, and the elderly with paying for housing.  The program provides payments to landlords to make up the difference between rents and what the renters can afford.  In certain circumstances, vouchers can be used to purchase a home.

“Jobs moved to the suburbs, and people followed,” said Michael Stoll, a non-resident Senior Fellow at Brookings and chair of UCLA’s Department of Public Policy and one of the authors of the report.  “Some of those people are poor. Some rely on vouchers to secure affordable housing.  We found that, while vouchers are giving people the chance to move where the opportunities are, voucher recipients are not moving into high-opportunity neighborhoods as often as they might.

“While HUD has made the voucher program more flexible, there is more to do,” Stoll said. “The idea was to help get people out of urban poverty pockets, but we don’t want to simply plunk them down into new poverty pockets in the suburbs.”

The report notes lower-income suburbs saw faster population growth, but slower employment growth over the last decade. Voucher recipients, according to the report, did not drive the rapid growth of suburban poverty over the decade, but were part of it.

“We need diversity of opportunity in suburban areas as the population becomes more racially and economically diverse,” said Kenya Covington, Visiting Faculty at the UCLA,  Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at California State University, Northridge, and a co-author.  “The old lines that distinguished cities and suburbs are blurring, which presents us with a new geography that will require changes in planning and policy.”

 Among the report’s findings: 

  • 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.
     
  • Black HCV recipients suburbanized fastest over the 2000 to 2008 period, though white HCV recipients were still more suburbanized than their black or Latino counterparts by 2008.  Black HCV recipients' suburbanization rate increased by nearly 5 percent over this period, while that for Latinos increased by about 1 percent.  The suburbanization rate for white HCV recipients declined slightly.  
     
  • Within metro areas, HCV recipients moved further toward higher-income, jobs-rich suburbs between 2000 and 2008.  However, the poor and affordable housing units shifted more rapidly toward similar kinds of suburbs over that period.  By 2008 about half of suburban HCV recipients still lived in low-income suburbs.
     
  • Between 2000 and 2008, metro areas in the West and those experiencing large increases in suburban poverty exhibited the biggest shifts in HCV recipients to the suburbs.  Western metro areas like Stockton, Boise, and Phoenix experienced increases of 10 percentage points or more in the suburbanization rate of HCV recipients.

The report recommends providing greater incentives for multi-family housing, re-evaluating local zoning regulations, improving enforcement of fair housing laws, and facilitating the use of housing vouchers in higher-income suburban neighborhoods.

“Just as federal officials need to fine-tune the voucher program, local leaders need to understand how this trend is playing out in their regions, so they can make better land-use and economic planning decisions,” said Lance Freeman, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, and a co-author.  “Where are people going to live?   Where are the jobs going to grow?  How do we connect the two?  Those are fundamental issues to community viability.”

This report is part of Brookings’ Metropolitan Opportunity Series, which documents the changing geography of poverty and opportunity in metropolitan America, analyzes its drivers and implications, and offers policy recommendations to enhance the well-being of lower-income families and communities in both cities and suburbs.  For more research in this series, you may visit: http://www.brookings.edu/metro/Metropolitan-Opportunity.aspx.

Read the full Brookings report

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, founded in 1994, incorporates best practices in scholarship, research and teaching in the fields of social welfare, urban planning and public policy. The unique intersection of these disciplines within one school allows for academic cross-collaboration and a graduate education that values perspectives at the macro- and micro- organizational levels. Graduates of the master's and doctoral programs are well prepared to take leadership roles and effect change as practitioners, researchers and policymakers in the public, private and non-governmental sectors. Faculty are actively engaged in research that addresses pressing national and regional issues, including immigration, drug policy, prison reform, health care financing, transportation, the environment, national security, economic development and an aging U.S. and world population.

The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings provides decision-makers with cutting-edge research and policy ideas for improving the health and prosperity of metropolitan areas, including their component cities, suburbs, and rural areas. To learn more, please visit: www.brookings.edu/metro.  Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brookingsmetro.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Americans who use housing choice vouchers are increasingly choosing to live in the suburbs, and as that trend proceeds, metropolitan areas across the country need to work to make sure housing opportunities connect with employment, according to a new report co-authored by UCLA researchers and published by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.