Discrimination against Housing Choice Voucher Holders

The Housing Choice Voucher program is the federal government’s largest rental housing assistance program. Vouchers are designed to help low-income families afford decent, safe homes and have the opportunity to move out of low-income neighborhoods.

In theory, voucher holders can move anywhere they can find an affordable home, but in practice, their housing choices are severely constrained and significantly dependent on landlords.

To better understand landlords’ behavior and perception of the voucher program, we conducted the largest and most comprehensive test to date of housing voucher discrimination. This pilot study, sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, tested voucher acceptance among landlords and differential treatment of paired testers, matched on all characteristics except voucher use. We conducted nearly 4,000 tests over 16 months in five neighborhoods and gleaned lessons for housing policy and future testing studies.

Our findings show that landlords are not passive actors in the Housing Choice Voucher program. They have incredible power in deciding whether voucher holders can use housing benefits and, ultimately, where voucher holders can live.

Publications

A Pilot Study of Landlord Acceptance of Housing Choice Vouchers
Mary K. Cunningham, Martha M. Galvez, Claudia Aranda, Robert Santos, Douglas A. Wissoker, Alyse D. Oneto, Rob Pitingolo, and James Crawford

Fact sheets

Do Landlords Accept Housing Choice Vouchers? Findings from Fort Worth, Texas

Do Landlords Accept Housing Choice Vouchers? Findings from Los Angeles, California

Do Landlords Accept Housing Choice Vouchers? Findings from Newark, New Jersey

Do Landlords Accept Housing Choice Vouchers? Findings from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Do Landlords Accept Housing Choice Vouchers? Findings from Washington, DC

Blog posts

Despite the law, landlords still reject voucher holders in DC
Alyse Oneto, Emily Peiffer, Claudia L. Aranda, and Martha M. Galvez
September 20, 2018

Landlords limit voucher holders’ choice in where they can live
Mary K. Cunningham, Martha M. Galvez, and Emily Peiffer
August 20, 2018