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Cityscape: Volume 21 Number 3 | Small Area Fair Market Rents


Small Area Fair Market Rents

Volume 21 Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Impact of Expanded Choice on Attrition in the Housing Voucher Program

Judy Geyer
Samuel Dastrup
Meryl Finkel
Abt Associates Inc.

This paper examines whether expanding neighborhood choice by adding a more localized approach to setting the rental payment standard affects length-of-stay in the U.S. Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Payment standards are typically constant within a metropolitan area, rather than small geographic areas such as ZIP Codes. Using data from the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) Demonstration by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we observed changes in program exit rates over time in housing agencies adopting ZIP-Code-based payment standards and compare these with changes in exit rates in programs that continued under metropolitan area-based standards. We expand the analysis by looking at subgroups, specifically households with children, seniors, adults with disabilities, and residents in lower, average, or higher rent neighborhoods. We find that the introduction of SAFMRs increased program attrition, with exit rates that imply about a 2-year reduction in the median length of program participation (from a base of about 11 years). Effects are largest among working-age adults and in households living in lower- and moderate-rent areas at the time of program introduction. We conclude with a discussion of how our findings on program attrition and housing independence inform recent proposals to adopt more flexible payment standards or increase public housing agencies (PHAs) authority to change payment standards under Moving to Work (MTW) authority.

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