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Low-Income Families Are Moving to Better Neighborhoods with Help from Chicago's Housing Mobility Program

Document date: March 07, 2005
Released online: March 07, 2005

Abstract

Families with housing vouchers are 52 percent more likely to move to low-poverty neighborhoods if they receive housing search assistance, a new study from the nonpartisan Urban Institute shows. The study, which looked at Chicago's Housing Opportunity Program (HOP), provides the first evidence that mobility-counseling programs can help families move out of high-poverty neighborhoods. [View the corresponding research report]


Contact: Latricia Good, (202) 261-5709, lgood@ui.urban.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 7, 2005—Families with housing vouchers are 52 percent more likely to move to low-poverty neighborhoods if they receive housing search assistance, a new study from the nonpartisan Urban Institute shows.

The study, which looked at Chicago's Housing Opportunity Program (HOP), provides the first evidence that mobility-counseling programs can help families move out of high-poverty neighborhoods.

Researchers Mary Cunningham and Noah Sawyer, co-authors of "Moving to Better Neighborhoods with Mobility Counseling," found that

  • Black households are 62 percent less likely to move to "opportunity neighborhoods," where less than 23.5 percent of the residents live below the federal poverty level, than white and Hispanic voucher holders.
  • Voucher holders receiving welfare assistance are 21 percent less likely to move to an "opportunity neighborhood" than those not receiving welfare.
  • Public housing families are 18 percent less likely to move to low-poverty neighborhoods than other voucher holders.
  • Households with wage earners are 13 percent more likely than their unemployed counterparts to move to "opportunity neighborhoods."
  • As household size increases by one bedroom, the probability that a family will move to a low-poverty area declines by 11 percent.

While HOP has been effective, Cunningham and Sawyer caution that "many participants in mobility programs may find it difficult to adjust to new neighborhoods and choose to return to their former communities."

HOP and similar efforts can help more families make successful transitions, the researchers suggest, by targeting economically stable households, offering intensive housing-search assistance to families who have more difficulty moving, focusing on follow-up services for those who have moved, and providing services that help participants gain access to jobs and education opportunities.

"Spending a little today to help families move to better neighborhoods," Cunningham notes, "could save thousands of dollars in the future by improving health, education, and employment."

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, a federal-local effort begun in 1974, serves almost 2.1 million households and ranks as the largest program providing affordable housing to America's poor families. Voucher holders pay 30 to 40 percent of their monthly income on private-market rental units and utilities. The federal government makes up the difference. Since HOP's 1999 creation by CHAC Inc., the private contractor managing Chicago's voucher program, approximately 10,000 voucher holders have enrolled, making it one of the largest mobility-counseling programs in the country.

To help families move to "opportunity neighborhoods," HOP provides housing search counseling and unit referrals, free credit reports and budget counseling, transportation to view units, expedited housing inspections, workshops on landlord-tenant law, and post-move support and house visits. It also manages a loan fund for making security deposits.

"Moving to Better Neighborhoods with Mobility Counseling," by Mary Cunningham and Noah Sawyer, is available at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?id=311146. The study, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is part of the Urban Institute's ongoing research on public housing issues. For more on this subject, go to http://urban.org/r/housing.cfm.

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation.



Topics/Tags: | Race/Ethnicity/Gender


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