SERIES: Metropolitan Opportunity Series | Number 24 of 59 « Previous | Next »

The Suburbanization of Housing Choice Voucher Recipients

Just as the suburbanization of poverty has gathered momentum, Americans who use housing choice vouchers (HCV) to help pay for their housing have increasingly moved into suburban areas as well.

Where HCV recipients can locate in suburban areas is critically important to their job prospects. During the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented several policy changes aimed at giving HCV recipients more choices, but little is know about whether this is increasing the variety of housing opportunities for recipients in the suburbs, or whether suburban vouchers recipients are locating in higher-income, jobs-rich areas.

Where HCV recipients can locate in suburban areas is critically important to their job prospects.  During the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented several policy changes aimed at giving HCV recipients more choices, but we do not know a great deal about whether this is increasing the variety of housing opportunities for recipients when they move to the suburbs, particularly housing opportunities that connect well with employment opportunities.  

This study analyzes the changing location of HCV recipients within the nation’s largest metro areas in the 2000s and finds:

  • Nearly half of all HCV recipients lived in suburban areas in 2008. However, HCV recipients remained less suburbanized than the total population, the poor population, and affordable housing units generally.
  • Black HCV recipients suburbanized fastest over the 2000 to 2008 period, though white HCV recipients were still more suburbanized than their black or Latino counterparts by 2008.  Black HCV recipients' suburbanization rate increased by nearly 5 percent over this period, while that for Latinos increased by about 1 percent.  The suburbanization rate for white HCV recipients declined slightly. 
  • Within metro areas, HCV recipients moved further toward higher-income, jobs-rich suburbs between 2000 and 2008.  However, the poor and affordable housing units shifted more rapidly toward similar kinds of suburbs over that period.  By 2008 about half of suburban HCV recipients still lived in low-income suburbs.
  • Between 2000 and 2008, metro areas in the West and those experiencing large increases in suburban poverty exhibited the biggest shifts in HCV recipients to the suburbs.  Western metro areas like Stockton, Boise, and Phoenix experienced increases of 10 percentage points or more in the suburbanization rate of HCV recipients.
These findings lead to recommendations that we provide greater incentives for multi-family housing, that we re-evaluate local zoning regulations, improve enforcement of fair housing laws, and facilitate the use of housing vouchers in higher-income suburban neighborhoods.

SERIES: Metropolitan Opportunity Series | Number 24