Neighborhood Crime Exposure Among Housing Choice Voucher Households

Journal Article by Michael C. Lens, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Katherine O'Regan
February 2011

Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy   (New York)

The federal government increasingly relies on housing vouchers to make housing more affordable and to enable low-income households to reach higher quality neighborhoods. We analyzed the efficacy of the voucher program at achieving this goal, focusing on neighborhood crime.  Using census tract-level crime and subsidized housing data from 91 large cities in 2000, the study compares neighborhood crime rates of voucher holders to those of public housing, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and unassisted poor renter households. Our paper finds that while voucher households resided in neighborhoods about as safe as that of poor renter households, and with much lower crime rates than those lived in by other subsidized households, the voucher households did not choose a lower poverty neighborhood.  In addition, the study finds differences by race, which suggest that housing vouchers may be more effective in helping black households reach safer neighborhoods than in helping white and Hispanic households.