A BETTER NEIGHBORHOOD FOR HOUSING VOUCHER HOUSEHOLDS: OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES

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2017

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Abstract

Since the 1970s, the emphasis of federal housing policy has shifted from place-based subsidies to tenant-based subsidies that are provided directly to low-income households for the purpose of renting in the private market. Although many hoped that the Housing Choice Voucher, a tenant-based housing assistance program, would be a new tool in the fight against concentrated poverty and its associated problems, housing voucher recipients still face obstacles when trying to secure housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods over the long-term. The growing body of evidence linking neighborhood conditions to household outcomes points to the need for a better understanding of how housing vouchers improve access to opportunities. While previous studies have explored neighborhood outcomes of housing voucher recipients, it still remains unclear what factors play a significant role in their residential location choices.

My dissertation examines the constraints that housing voucher households face in neighborhood choices. Drawing upon data from the Moving to Opportunity experiment, it specifically analyzes trends in affordable housing inequality, estimates the effect of vehicle access on locational attainment, and explores social networks as a determinant of mobility behavior. The results of these analyses show that obstacles such as affordable housing inequality across the metropolitan area, strong social networks in the initial, poor neighborhood, and a lack of access to vehicles negatively affect the likelihood of moving to neighborhoods in which opportunities are expanded for low-income households.

My findings shed light on the dynamics of residential mobility and neighborhood improvements for low-income households. The expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program, supported by localized payment standard, connection to automobile subsidies, and extensive housing search services that provide information about the opportunities available in across all geographic units, may have a significant impact on poverty de-concentration and access to opportunity over time. These findings are also expected to bridge the gap between research and policy with regard to how housing voucher program could be improved in the context of the federal government’s charge to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH).

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