Advancing Choice in the Housing Choice Voucher Program 

In May 2022, NYU researchers Ingrid Gould Ellen, Katherine O’Regan, and Katharine WH Harwood published “Advancing Choice in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: Source of Income Protections and Locational Outcomes”. This blog post summarizes the key findings from their paper, which explores how source of income (SOI) laws impact locational outcomes for housing choice voucher (HCV) holders.  

The HCV program aims to provide low-income, aging, and disabled individuals with opportunities to relocate to new neighborhoods by issuing rental assistance vouchers. However, landlord discrimination often keeps voucher holders from being able to move to households in low-poverty areas. To address this issue, many jurisdictions have adopted SOI laws, which prohibit discrimination against tenants based on their source of income.  

By evaluating the effectiveness of SOI laws in 31 jurisdictions between 2007 and 2017, Ellen et al. found that they greatly improved outcomes for voucher holders who chose to relocate. They also found that passing SOI laws allowed voucher holders to live in neighborhoods with reduced poverty rates and fewer voucher users. Additionally, the implementation of SOI laws often led voucher holders, “most of whom are Black or Hispanic,” to move to whiter neighborhoods. As a result, this increased racial diversity and likely reduced overall neighborhood segregation. Lastly, voucher holders from the highest poverty neighborhoods, as well as Black voucher holders and families, were the most likely to move to lower poverty neighborhoods after SOI laws were passed.  

The researchers note that since SOI laws do not provide additional information about neighborhood options, alter voucher program rules and regulations, or shift landlord perceptions of the program, their impact remains limited in certain areas. To enhance the impact of SOI laws on voucher tenants, Ellen et al. recommend implementing “counseling and mobility assistance” and landlord outreach programs in tandem with legal protections.  

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