A Modest Proposal for Improving Federal Housing Aid

Although the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher is one of the federal government's most effective housing programs, its administration by local public housing agencies limit its ability to de-concentrate poverty. A new report proposes a solution.

As the Urban Institute's Margery Turner and Brookings' Bruce Katz argue in a new report [PDF], the most effective may to improve the balkanized Choice Voucher program is to consolidate its administration to better reflect how metropolitan areas actually work. 

"Instead of having Section 8 run at the local level, they proposed setting up metro area-level housing authorities to run it," explains Dylan Matthews. "So instead of Alexandra, Fairfax, Arlington, Montgomery, P.G., and D.C. all having their own housing authorities administering Section 8, there'd be a D.C. metro authority. Once you got your voucher there, you could move to wherever in the area is most affordable, safe, and has the best schools for you and your family, without regard to municipal or state boundaries."

"The biggest effect of this is on program outcomes. Letting them make rational choices about how do you get closer to work, to quality schools," Katz tells Matthews. "I think more families would use them to go to neighborhoods that are safe and where things work already," Turner says. "We've got a growing body of evidence that escaping from distressed neighborhoods pays off for families in ways that pay off for all of us."

Full Story: Housing aid is maddeningly complex. It doesn’t have to be.

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