Urban Research Monitor
The Role of Relocation Counseling

According to Rubinowitz and Rosenbaum, relocation counseling is fundamental to making tenant-based mobility programs effective. The authors argue that lower income families and minorities do not have access to the formal and informal information networks about suburban housing opportunities that middle-class whites have. People crossing racial and class lines also need to know the kind of reception they can expect in their new neighborhoods and schools.

Varady and Walker support Rubinowitz and Rosenbaum's conclusion. Even though Varady and Walker's research was inconclusive about how much (if at all) relocation counseling contributed to the participants' improvements in housing and neighborhood conditions, they argue it "is probably unreasonable to expect many voucher recipients—particularly those relying on public transportation—to relocate to new or unfamiliar neighborhoods without support or without intensive counseling encouraging them to do so." For Varady and Walker, optimal counseling would include active involvement by counselors in the housing search, mandatory counseling sessions, and case management.

Of course, there are costs associated with providing more intensive counseling. In their analysis, Varady and Walker cite research suggesting that counseling of the kind they recommend would cost more than $1,700 per family, four times the amount spent per family at their four case study sites. However, Rubinowitz and Rosenbaum report that Gautreaux placements cost less—approximately $1,000 per family. This may mean that program administrators will need to seek out supplemental funding sources or leverage community partnerships to develop supportive counseling programs.

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