Mar 25, 2021
In this Perspective, the authors review the impact of the housing choice voucher (HCV) program, explain shortcomings of today's HCV system, and examine the potential effects of reforms to stabilize access to affordable housing for the most-vulnerable Californians. These reforms include adopting a universal system, enhancing the system so housing leads to opportunity, and enforcing landlord participation so vouchers are as good as cash.
Over 600,000 people in 300,000 low-income households are currently leasing properties through the housing choice voucher (HCV) program in California. Yet Los Angeles County has a larger population of individuals experiencing homelessness than in any other U.S. county. The HCV program represents the largest single form of federal housing assistance in the state. However, demand for vouchers far exceeds supply.
In this Perspective, the authors review the impact of the HCV program, explain shortcomings of today's HCV system, and examine the potential effects of a reformed voucher system to stabilize access to housing for the most vulnerable Americans. The authors outline three potential pathways to transform the HCV system in California: (1) adopt a universal housing voucher system, (2) enhance the voucher system, and (3) enforce and encourage landlord participation. In support of these reforms, the authors address critiques of housing vouchers by providing relevant context and evidence. The authors also recommend steps at the local, state, and federal levels to begin this transformative work.
Past research has shown that stable housing is associated with health, educational and vocational benefits, and reduced criminal justice involvement. If implemented, these pathways have the potential to significantly reduce homelessness across California.