Evaluating “Choice” in the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8, is the largest federal housing program with a deconcentration dimension is. The HCVP is a passive form of deconcentration because it relies on the recipient to choose neighborhoods with better conditions.

Under the HCVP, voucher holders locate a suitable rental unit in the private market and the local public housing authority (PHA) administering the program provides a subsidy that is the difference between 30 percent of the tenant’s income and the fair market rent (FMR) for the area. PHAs typically operate at the city or county level, and the households receiving rental assistance tend to live within the jurisdiction of the administering HA. However, voucher holders may exercise locational choice and move among jurisdictions. Although the HCVP does not require the recipient to live in a particular type of neighborhood or city, it implicitly assumes that voucher holders will exercise their mobility option to find housing in higher-quality neighborhoods. However, whether this assumption holds in practice remains an unanswered question that is explored in this research.


2005 Basolo, Victoria and Mai Thi Nguyen. “Does Mobility Matter? An Analysis of Housing Voucher Holders’ Neighborhood Conditions by Race and Ethnicity.”  Housing Policy Debate 16(3/4): 297-324. (Featured Article) https://doi.org/10.1080/10511482.2005.9521546


2009 Basolo, Victoria and Mai Thi Nguyen. “A Comparative Analysis of Immigrants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: Residential Choices and Outcomes in a Suburban Environment.” Cityscape 11(3):99-126.