Do Vouchers Help Low-Income Households Live in Safer Neighborhoods? Evidence on the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Ellen, Ingrid, Michael C. Lens, and Katherine O’Regan
Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 13(3) 135-159.

This article examines an important potential justification for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, namely, whether participants are able to access safer neighborhoods. Using neighborhood crime and subsidized housing data for 91 large cities, we examined whether voucher holders are able to reach communities with lower levels of crime. We found that, in 2000, voucher households occupied neighborhoods that were about as safe as those housing the average poor renter household and were significantly safer than those in which households assisted through place-based programs lived. Notably, Black voucher holders lived in significantly lower crime neighborhoods than poor households of the same race, but Hispanic and White voucher holders did not. In a separate analysis of seven cities, we found that voucher holders lived in considerably safer neighborhoods in 2008 than they did in 1998, largely because crime rates fell more in the neighborhoods where voucher holders live than in other neighborhoods.

Wagner Faculty