A Relational Analysis of Mobility Within Illinois’ Housing Choice Voucher Program
Greenlee, Andrew J.
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The Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program represents the nation’s predominant low-income housing strategy. The program maintains two goals; first to reduce barriers for low-income households to find and lease safe, decent, and affordable housing, and second, to support the location decisions of assisted households with the hope that the subsidy will open up better quality communities to low-income renters. A hallmark of the program is voucher portability- the ability for assisted households to search and move nationally with their voucher. This dissertation examines the dynamics of residential mobility for all voucher-assisted households in Illinois between 2000 and 2007, with the goal of understanding not only when and where such mobility resulted in positive outcomes, but also understanding the types of institutional and interpersonal relationships that create barriers and supports to successful mobility. This dissertation combines administrative data on individual voucher households in Illinois (2000-2007) with in-depth interviews with heads of household who have made portability moves with vouchers, landlords who rent to porting tenants, and housing authority administrators in order to understand in more depth the ways in which the motivations for moving on the part of assisted households are shaped into outcomes when examined in relationship to the actions of landlord and housing authority staff. Results indicate that contrary to program goals, porting households on average, move to communities that are demographically similar to the communities from which they left. Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data suggest that these “parallel” moves can be attributed both to supply-side factors such as the availability of landlords willing to rent to voucher households, and the availability of housing units which meet movers’ needs. These results suggest that in order to achieve HUD’s goal of promoting opportunity moves through voucher mobility, program design, regulation, and research must pay more attention to the ways in which local administrative practices and landlord actions shape program outcomes.