Academic journal article Urban Studies Research

From the City to the Suburbs: Characteristics of Suburban Neighborhoods Where Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Households Relocated

Academic journal article Urban Studies Research

From the City to the Suburbs: Characteristics of Suburban Neighborhoods Where Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Households Relocated

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

HCV is a federally funded demand-side housing subsidy. Income eligible families who receive vouchers can use the subsidy to secure housing in neighborhoods across the country. Many HCV households often choose to lease-in-place, consequently remaining in the same or similar urban neighborhoods [1]. However, public housing and community revitalization efforts that decrease housing units can restrict lease-in-place opportunities. HCV households therefore may consider suburban communities as a source for affordable rental housing.

This study examines HCV mobility within a Geography of Opportunity framework to assess the result of choices made by HCV households in selecting a suburban community in which to live. The Geography of Opportunity framework contends that housing location influences one's life outcomes. For instance, houses located in communities that have low poverty and crime rates are racially and ethnically diverse and are more likely to offer residents access to high performing schools and better employment opportunities.

Examining HCV relocation from a local context, Chicago is the focus of this study. Its experience managing various relocation programs using HCV resulted in numerous studies investigating programmatic success or failure related to intracity relocation. However, research on Chicago HCV relocation from the urban center to suburban spaces is limited. Therefore, the focus of this research is to determine whether the supply of affordable rental housing located in suburban communities, that are complete with characteristics that support positive life achievements, are the location to which Chicago HCV households move. To answer associated research questions through the Geography of Opportunity framework, this cross-sectional study statistically and descriptively compares census tracts within six counties located in the Chicago metropolitan area where Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) HCV households (the sample in this study does not include households under tenant protection vouchers or who are participating in special mobility programs.) relocated between 2000 and 2007. The study involves an assessment of the racial and ethnic composition, household composition, income, and proximity to employment centers of destination communities of HCV households.

2. Housing Choice Voucher Program

With the passage of the US Housing Act in 1949, the federal government assumed the responsibility of ensuring that affordable rental housing was made available to low-income persons throughout the US. Subsequently, several federal programs were developed towards this end, including the public housing development program and the programs that gave rise to the HCV program.

In 1974, President Gerald R. Ford signed into law the Housing and Community Development Act. Among other initiatives, the Act created the Section 8 certificate program (Certificate). The Certificate program, managed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provided rental-housing subsidies awarded by local, state, and regional housing agencies to eligible low-income households that earned between 30% and 80% of area median income. These households, in turn, used the vouchers to secure rental housing in the private market (CBPP, 2009). Certificate holders were required to commit 30% of their income towards the monthly rental cost of a unit as well as assume responsibility for payment of all utilities. The Public Housing Authority (PHA) that administered the voucher paid the balance of the rent, typically 70% to 110% of fair market rent (CBPP, 2009). By design, this program relied upon the private sector to provide affordable and adequate housing. The appeal of the Certificate program is that the subsidy is not place-based; instead, it travels with the client, thereby increasing the likelihood of certificate holders being able to secure housing in mixed income neighborhoods. …

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