It’s been proven time and again the housing vouchers, which provide permanent subsidies for poor families, work. They can help families move to areas with better job opportunities, better schools, and less crime. And as my colleague Alana Semuels has written, they’re also one of the more promising methods for permanently curbing homelessness. That can make a voucher seem like a golden ticket. But the ability to make good on the promises inherent in the voucher system can be heavily dependent on where a family is located.
When you look at the nationwide statistics, it’s clear that voucher recipients are able to live in areas of less-concentrated poverty, and that they live in less-segregated neighborhoods than poor families who have no choice but to live in shelters, transitional housing, or traditional public-housing units. (Vouchers are a rent subsidy that people can use to live in privately owned housing.) A typical voucher-holder lives in a neighborhood where poverty is 11 percentage points lower than those living in public housing and 3 percentage points lower than poor families who rent traditionally. Such promising results are part of the reason why the voucher waiting list is so long in many parts of the country. But even so, getting a voucher is only part of the battle for many families, and finding better neighborhoods with landlords who will accept vouchers can be nearly impossible in some areas.