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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.

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  • Small Area Fair Market Rents
  • Volume 21 Number 3
  • Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
  • Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga

A Tweak to Housing Assistance Allows Low-Income Renters Access to High-Income Neighborhoods

Alexander Casey
Zillow Group Economic Research

In this article, I use Zillow Group’s proprietary rental listing data to measure the proportion of rental units advertised at prices at or below both the units’ corresponding metro-wide Fair Market Rent (FMR) and Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR). I find that, within the 24 metropolitan areas affected by recent SAFMR litigation, calculating voucher payments based on SAFMRs will increase the proportion of units listed at prices affordable to voucher holders in low-poverty neighborhoods. In most areas, SAFMRs also decrease the proportion of affordable listings in high-poverty neighborhoods. Findings from pilot programs suggest that, although more options became available in high-rental cost ZIP Codes, decreased options in low-rent ZIP Codes could lead to an overall decline in the number of affordable rental units for voucher holders within a metropolitan area. This analysis shows that, according to Zillow’s online listings, that is not the case. In all 24 areas analyzed, the overall share of listings suitable for voucher recipients increased under the new SAFMR rule relative to the share suitable under metro-wide Fair Market Rent calculations.

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