Urban Wire Expanding Housing Choice for Voucher Holders? A New Toolkit Guides the Way
Jennifer Biess
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Photo by Flicker user City of Edmonton used under Creative Common license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Housing choice vouchers are intended to give low-income households more options in picking where they want to live, but research shows that significant shares of recipients still live in distressed, high poverty neighborhoods. Housing mobility programs can help voucher households access housing in better neighborhoods.

From research, we know that living in poor, segregated neighborhoods such as these has negative consequences for many outcomes, including health and safety. Improving these neighborhoods to make them more livable places is certainly important; however, those who want to move may need help fully realizing their housing choices. We can enable low-income households by providing them with quality information about neighborhood and housing options and equipping them with tools to help them overcome barriers to leasing an apartment in the private rental market. Housing mobility programs—offered by public housing agencies, community-based not-for-profit groups, fair housing advocacy and enforcement organizations, government agencies, private for-profit companies, and various combinations of these groups—help fulfill this critical role.

To help foster the development of housing mobility programs, the Urban Institute, with the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Quadel Consulting, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has recently published Expanding Choice: Practical Strategies for Building a Successful Housing Mobility Program, a toolkit to guide local organizations through the process of designing and implementing a housing mobility program.

This toolkit grew out of an all-day knowledge-sharing session that started last year’s Fifth National Conference on Assisted Housing Mobility. Intended for a range of organizations, this toolkit draws on the best available research and model programs across the country to walk the reader through a series of considerations.

For example, the toolkit outlines how to adjust the local area’s current housing choice voucher program to better promote housing mobility, how to think about key design questions like defining target populations and identifying target neighborhoods, how the program will serve clients, and how the program will measure its success. Further, the toolkit takes into account the current fiscal climate by highlighting strategies that can be implemented at low cost to the organization and recommends potential ways to fund a housing mobility program.

By synthesizing these core elements into a single guide, this toolkit can serve as an instrumental resource for local organizations as they advance housing choice for families in their communities.


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Research Areas Housing
Tags Housing vouchers and mobility Transportation Public and assisted housing
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center