November 1, 2014

SAVE THEM FROM CITIES:

How small changes to federal housing policy could make a big difference for poor kids (Emily Badger October 15, 2014, Washington Post)

Children are shaped in profound ways by the neighborhoods where they grow up. Perhaps this sounds like common sense (why else do we fret over where to raise them?). But it's borne out by research, too. High-poverty neighborhoods can be bad for children's health, school performance and even cognitive development. Low-poverty ones, meanwhile, often mean they have access to better schools and do better academically as a result.

It makes sense, then, that when we subsidize housing for poor families, we should try to help them into homes in the kind of neighborhoods that have lower poverty, less crime and higher-quality schools. Most government rental assistance, however, barely does this at all. [...]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has three main programs (often run locally) that offer housing assistance to the poor. About a million households live in traditional public housing. Section 8 rental assistance subsidizes housing for another million families in designated but privately owned buildings. Then about 2 million households use Housing Choice Vouchers that they can spend on the private market. [...]

The above chart, from the CBPP report, suggests that Housing Choice Vouchers are much more effective than the other two programs at helping families live in census tracts where many of their neighbors aren't poor, too. This isn't surprising, since vouchers are the most flexible form of assistance. The government can't very well pick up public housing projects and move them to better neighborhoods.

Housing vouchers, by CBPP's count, also make a significant difference in the ability of poor black and Hispanic families to raise their kids in low-poverty neighborhoods (this is less true for whites). Only about 7 percent of poor black children nationwide live in low-poverty neighborhoods. But the same is true of nearly 17 percent of poor black children in families using vouchers:

This data suggests we should be doing a lot more to leverage the power of the one housing program -- also the largest housing program -- that seems to help families get into better neighborhoods.

The vouchers should be universal and generous enough to pay the mortgages on suburban/rural homes.




Posted by at November 1, 2014 7:01 AM
  

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