Good Policy, Bad Implementation: Evaluating HUD’s Shift Toward Voucherization in Low-Income Housing

This was a paper I wrote in my graduate-level Economics of Regulation class in December 2010. My interest in the subject was sparked by an article on New Orleans’ public housing reforms I had written earlier in the year for The Hullabaloo.

 

Good Policy, Bad Implementation:
Evaluating HUD’s Shift Toward Voucherization in Low-Income Housing

Abstract

Since the 1970s, the federal government’s approach to low-income housing has been undergoing a substantial change from supply-side to demand-side subsidies. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the cause of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s shift away from urban public housing high-rises toward current voucherization policies and the effectiveness of these newly adopted programs, regarding the extent to which they accomplish their goals of providing housing to the poor, deconcentrating poverty and allowing for voucher recipients’ choice and mobility. Past literature has exposed geographical unevenness in the results of voucher programs; while some cities have experienced favorable outcomes concerning voucher recipients’ abilities to move into areas of low poverty, other cities showed quite opposite phenomena. This variation among cities suggests that while HUD’s voucherization policies do have the potential to be successful in theory, they are poorly implemented by certain local public housing agencies, reflecting a structural failure within HUD to enact effective centralized oversight.

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