Encouraging Residential Moves to Opportunity Neighborhoods

An Experiment Testing Incentives Offered to Housing Voucher Recipients

Published in: Housing Policy Debate, v. 27, no. 2, p. 230-260. doi:10.1080/10511482.2016.1212247

Posted on RAND.org on January 24, 2017

by Heather L. Schwartz, Kata Mihaly, Breann Gala

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Substantial benefits can accrue from living in low-poverty neighborhoods, yet approximately 80% of the 2.2 million Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipients rent homes in moderate- or high-poverty census tracts. The Chicago Regional Housing Choice Initiative tested several ways to promote opportunity moves. It included the first experiment that tests whether two types of light-touch incentives induce opportunity moves for HCV recipients who had requested a moving voucher. Based on the 2,005 HCV recipients in the study, we found that neither the offer of a {dollar}500 grant nor the offer of a {dollar}500 grant coupled with free mobility counseling induced opportunity moves. The receipt of mobility counseling also did not boost opportunity moves. Regardless of the type of offer, 11%–12% of participants moved to opportunity neighborhoods. Despite requesting a moving voucher, half of the study participants remained in place, indicating significant barriers to moving. We offer potential reasons for the results and conclude with two recommended pilots to increase opportunity moves.

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