Housing Vouchers: Performance and Potential

Bruce Katz
Bruce Katz Founding Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab - Drexel University

June 17, 2003

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the performance and potential of housing vouchers. I have been involved in developing and evaluating federal housing policy for the past 15 years—first as a staff member of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs under Senator Alan Cranston, next as Chief of Staff to HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and now as director of the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.

During this period I have come to believe that housing vouchers represent the most effective and efficient way of making housing affordable for low-income renters—the most critical housing challenge in our country.

I will make four basic points today.

First, housing vouchers are a critical and generally successful component of federal housing policy. Compared to traditional HUD production programs, they offer a quicker and more efficient ticket to affordability, they give families greater choice in metropolitan rental markets, and, by so doing, they enable families to move to areas of growing employment and quality schools.

Second, the voucher program is not perfect and does need some improvement if it is going to realize its full potential. Administration of the program remains highly parochial and fragmented, diluting the mobility potential of the program.