Document date: August 17, 2010
Released online: August 17, 2010
HUD's proposal for transforming federal rental assistance expands subsidy recipients' freedom to choose where to live. This essay summarizes research evidence showing that: 1) project-based housing programs limit families' choices about where to live; 2) families benefit when they move with vouchers; 3) assisted mobility programs further expand families' options; and 4) "opportunity moves" can improve families' life chances. Although many families living in federally subsidized housing projects will choose to stay (especially if new investments improve the quality and safety of these communities), expanding opportunities for families to move strengthens federal housing policy by improving the well-being of assisted households.
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HUD's proposal for transforming federal rental assistance program expands subsidy recipients' freedom to choose where to live. Today, low-income households living in public housing and in federally assisted projects lose their subsidies if they move. These programs tie rental assistance to particular housing units, and qualifying families must remain in place or forgo the housing assistance.1 Typically, the waiting lists for these projects are long, so households have a very strong incentive to stay once they've gained admission.
The proposed Preservation, Enhancement, and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act of 2010 (PETRA) would allow residents of subsidized projects to move—with a portable housing voucher—after living in the project for at least two years. The vacated housing unit would still be subsidized, opening up an opportunity for another low-income family from the waiting list. And the voucher for the departing household would be drawn from the locality's available pool of "turn over" vouchers.2 So the administration's proposal leaves the total number of subsidized housing units and the number of assisted households unchanged. What's new is that all households receiving assistance would have more choices about where to use their assistance. Allowing all federally subsidized renters the freedom to choose where to live can contribute to better outcomes for families.
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