The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, which is federally funded and run by more than 2,100 state and local housing agencies, helps about 2.2 million low-income households — nearly half of which have minor children in the home — pay for modestly priced housing they find in the private market. Housing Choice Vouchers enable families to afford decent, stable housing, avoid homelessness, and make ends meet. They also can enable children to grow up in better neighborhoods, enhancing their chances of long-term health and success. When black families use housing vouchers, for example, their children are twice as likely as other poor black children to grow up in low-poverty neighborhoods and are less likely to grow up in extremely poor areas. Still, 315,000 children in families using vouchers lived in extremely poor neighborhoods in 2017. Many families with vouchers would like to move to safer, higher-opportunity areas with good schools, and vouchers could do much more to help them do so.
Public housing agencies have flexibility under current HCV program rules to implement strategies to help more low-income families live in better neighborhoods. But without changes in federal policy to encourage agencies to take such steps and to modify counter-productive policies — and without reliable funding to maintain the number of families receiving HCV assistance and to administer the program effectively — there’s little reason to expect significantly better results.