Academic journal article Cityscape

Comparing Public Housing and Housing Voucher Tenants with Bayesian Propensity Scores

Academic journal article Cityscape

Comparing Public Housing and Housing Voucher Tenants with Bayesian Propensity Scores

Article excerpt

Abstract

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) currently has no administrative data to compare housing quality of public housing units with that of Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) units. The American Housing Survey (AHS) provides the only data available to compare subjective housing and neighborhood quality assessments in HUD's largest rental assistance programs.

Quality comparisons based on AHS data are problematic because the AHS overrepresents public housing and underrepresents the HCVP.

HUD administrative data, however, are an excellent source of prior information for the expected proportion of households in public housing. In this study, I explore Bayesian methods using prior information on variables such as income and rents to estimate propensity scores for program participation. I then use the Bayesian propensity scores to improve the reliability of AHS-based quality comparisons. Results indicate that, after adjusting for program participation propensities, little difference exists in AHS household and neighborhood quality ratings between public housing and voucher households.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides rental assistance to about 1 million households in public housing (PH) projects and about 2.1 million households through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). *·2 PH units are owned and operated by public housing agencies (PHAs). In sharp contrast, the HCVP provides subsidizes to low-income households to seek safe and sanitary privately owned rental units.

Numerous arguments are made for providing rental assistance in privately owned buildings instead of providing PH. The primary motivation for increasing private-sector housing choices has been expanding social and economic opportunities for low-income households receiving rental assistance. Another argument is that private owners might have better incentives for operational efficiency, thus lowering program costs.

An argument against private-sector choices is that private landlords may have more incentive to control costs by reducing housing quality. To ensure all HCVP units meet a minimum-quality threshold, HUD requires compliance with Housing Quality Standards regulations. PHAs must preinspect units before tenants occupy a unit and PHAs enter into assistance contracts. Annual reinspections are also required for all units. Samples of units must be selected for quality control inspections, and PHAs and landlords must ensure that housing- quality problems are promptly rectified.

Measuring living conditions of assisted households is integral to evaluating the performance of HUD rental assistance programs. Currently, HUD has no administrative data to compare the housing quality of PH units with that of HCVP units.

In addition to providing quality housing, HUD rental assistance programs are also intended to promote access to good neighborhoods. Geocoding of HUD administrative records allows for comparison of census measures of neighborhood quality such as median income, poverty rates, and minority concentration. Buron and Pantrabansh (2007), however, report that census measures do not correlate well with HCVP households' subjective opinions of their neighborhoods.

The American Housing Survey (AHS) data are the only data available for comparing both subjective housing quality assessments and subjective neighborhood quality assessments in HUD's largest rental assistance programs. Quality comparisons based on AHS data are problematic because the AHS overrepresents PH and underrepresents the HCVP. The 2009 sum of weights was about 1.65 million households for either program. Apparently, many AHS HCVP tenants respond that they are PH tenants (Casey, 1992; HUD, 2008; Rucinski and Athey, 1995; Shroder, 2002).

In 2011, the Census Bureau began using HUD administrative data to sample renters known to receive rental assistance through various HUD programs. …

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