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Cityscape: Volume 19 Number 3 | Family Options Study: How Homeless Families Use Housing Choice Vouchers


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Family Options Study

Volume 19, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Family Options Study: How Homeless Families Use Housing Choice Vouchers

Claudia D. Solari
Jill Khadduri
Abt Associates

This article uses nonexperimental analysis from the Family Options Study, a rigorously designed experimental study of interventions for families experiencing homelessness, to describe the ways in which families who had spent at least 7 days in emergency shelters used long-term rent assistance provided through the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. A long-term rent subsidy was one of the study’s interventions, with some families randomly assigned to receive priority access to a housing voucher. A few other families in the study also used HCV assistance at some point during the 20-month period following their stay in an emergency shelter despite not receiving priority access to vouchers. This article shows that families given priority access to voucher subsidies leased up at very high rates, 82 percent. The only household characteristics associated with lower rates of lease up were recent, self-reported substance abuse and an adult family member with a felony conviction. Even families with those characteristics usually were able to use vouchers. For families without priority access to a voucher, those with a prior history of doubling up were more likely to gain access to and use a voucher, perhaps because they were already on waiting lists at the time of their shelter stay. Local policies of the homeless services system and public housing agencies appear to have affected patterns of voucher use, but no consistent patterns were related to housing market conditions.

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